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Continued: Sid Hartman: Tolliver says Wolves can be great if healthy

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 15, 2012 - 10:53 PM

Anthony Tolliver has been one of the big reasons that the Timberwolves have been playing well this season, filling a big leadership role while averaging 5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game despite playing with an injured wrist.

That injury limited Tolliver somewhat in the Wolves' weekend road trip, where they beat New Orleans on Friday and should have scored a big upset at Atlanta on Saturday, had the officials made the right call at the end of the game.

Tolliver said the recent performance of the Wolves, including the two games on the road this past week, is a true indication that the team has the tools to compete in the NBA this year. The 6-8, fourth-year forward also believes the Wolves can only reach their true potential once they get all of their players healthy, including veteran center Brad Miller, who has been taking part in practice recently and might be ready to play sooner than anybody expected.

Tolliver said that his wrist is hurting his shooting, but he should be back to normal soon.

"We definitely have all the players, the ability to do big things," he said. "Coming into this season, I wasn't sure how it was going to shape up, but once we get healthy, get J.J. [Barea] back, get Mike [Beasley] back, get Brad and Martell [Webster] and we have all of our pieces and be able to go forward, and Malcolm [Lee] as well.

"I really feel like we have the ability to make it to the playoffs. That's the type of confidence we have in each other and in our team and in our coach, as well. I'm really excited. Hopefully we can get on a roll here and get in the mix."

Tolliver, who has played with nine professional teams and 10 different coaches since graduating from Creighton in 2007, can't say enough good things about new coach Rick Adelman.

"He brings so much respect, just internal respect, everybody on the team automatically just listens to what he says and just does what he says," said Tolliver, in his second season with the Wolves. "Because they know that if they don't do what he says, A, he won't play you, and B, you're going to have your chance to win games if you listen to what he says.

"He definitely is a huge part of the turnaround, but I think everybody, as far as individual players, came in thinking that we're going to have a chance to turn things around. Everybody this summer worked really hard and came into this season really focused and ready to turn this thing around."

Fan of Rubio

Tolliver, who has played with and against a lot of point guards, is a big fan of Wolves rookie Ricky Rubio.

"He's been great for us," Tolliver said. "He's been very consistent, just doing a lot of great things for our team. He's still learning a lot of different things. Obviously, he's a rookie and he's going to make some rookie mistakes, but as far as control of the game, he controls the game and controls the tempo. He just does a great job out there and distributes the ball really well and puts people in the right places and is definitely doing a great job out there."

And of course, Tolliver couldn't say enough good things about the performance of Kevin Love, whom Hall of Famer Charles Barkley recently called the best power forward in the NBA.

Yes, right now Love has been more effective than Kevin Garnett was here, even in his prime. Love is averaging 25.0 points and 14.6 rebounds per game during his fourth professional season. Garnett averaged 20.8 and 10.4 at the same time in his career.

Praise for Coleman

Gary Williams, who coached the Maryland men's basketball team for 22 years before becoming a commentator on the Big Ten Network, described the Gophers' Joe Coleman as "an amazing freshman" during their 80-66 victory at Penn State on Sunday.

If you want to know why the Gophers aren't slipping in the final minutes of games like they did at Illinois, where they lost in triple overtime, and at Michigan, where they blew a lead in the final minutes, it is because of Coleman, who has really sparked the team in the road victories over Indiana and Penn State.

Sunday, Coleman had 12 points at halftime to help the Gophers lead 33-31. The Hopkins High product wound up making 13 of 14 free throws and finished with 23 points, nine more than his previous career high.

"His future is bright," coach Tubby Smith said of Coleman. "He's getting better every day. He's understanding our offense better. Obviously he's a freshman, and he's been making that transition. But one thing, you don't have to worry about Joe Coleman, you know he's going to give you everything he has on and off the court. He's just a great young man to coach. He learned from his brother just what hard work can do for you."

The Gophers hadn't won back-to-back Big Ten games on the road since 2005, when they ended the regular season with victories at Purdue and Penn State. Coleman's older brother Dan was a freshman on that team.

Now, after a very tough schedule with little time for rest and practice, the Gophers don't play again until Sunday when they face Northwestern, victors over Michigan State on Saturday.

Jottings

• Some people at Winter Park wouldn't be surprised if Vikings coach Leslie Frazier moved defensive coordinator Fred Pagac to the linebackers coach job he previously had and made linebackers coach Mike Singletary the defensive coordinator. On the other hand, NFL.com is reporting that Todd Bowles, who served as Dolphins interim coach at the end of the season, could be a candidate for the Vikings defensive coordinator job.

• Two former Gophers assistant football coaches, John Butler and Ted Roof, will be on the Penn State coaching staff. Roof will be the defensive coordinator and Butler will coach the secondary under Bill O'Brien.

• Chaska's Ross Travis scored four points on 1-for-4 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds for the Nittany Lions in their loss to the Gophers. The 6-6 freshman forward averages 4.6 points and 4.4 rebounds in 17.1 minutes per game for Penn State.

Francisco Liriano continues to struggle in the Dominican Winter League. Saturday, the Twins lefthander gave up four hits, two walks and three runs in two-thirds of an inning. That outing raised his ERA to 12.60 through three games.

• Dick Such, the Twins pitching coach under Tom Kelly, is ice fishing this week at the Lake of the Woods for the 16th year in a row. Such is the pitching coach for Class A Greenville, a Red Sox affiliate.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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