Point-guard play will be critical as Rubio, Love heal

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 31, 2012 - 7:34 AM
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Tayshaun Prince drives to the basket against theTimberwolves' Nikola Pekovic (14) and Luke Ridnour (13).

Photo: John Woods, Associated Press

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With Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love out for the start of the Timberwolves season, coach Rick Adelman is expecting a lot from point guards Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea.

"They are really important for us to get off to a good start," Adelman said after the team scrimmaged Tuesday. "And they each give us something different."

It will be paramount for Ridour, the starter, and Barea to stay healthy. That's something Ridnour has struggled with during the preseason and something Barea had big trouble with last season.

Dealing with a variety of injuries, including ankle sprains and hamstring pulls, Barea played in only 41 of the Wolves' 66 games a year ago. When he did, the hard-driving guard averaged 11.3 points and 5.7 assists while playing about 25 minutes per game. Ridnour's 12.1-point scoring average last season was his highest in nine years in the league. But Ridnour has been hampered because of a herniated disc in his back that limited him during preseason play.

The good news is both presently appear healthy. Adelman said Ridnour feels good, and he took full part in Tuesday's scrimmage. The key for him will be getting his conditioning and timing back after missing so much during camp.

"I don't know if it's where it needs to be," Adelman said. "But he's doing all the extra work after practice, and he looks a lot better during scrimmages."

Ideally Ridnour would get the Wolves offense running and Barea would provide a nice change of pace off the bench. If one of them got hurt, Adelman said he likely would turn to Will Conroy for minutes ahead of Malcolm Lee unless Adelman needed a defensive stopper, in which case Lee could fill in.

Roy's knee seems fine

Brandon Roy returned to practice after being limited Monday after banging knees with a teammate. Adelman said Roy took full part in the scrimmage.

"He seemed OK," Adelman said. "At first I didn't think he was, but he wanted to get out there, and he seemed to move all right. So that's a good sign. Hopefully he'll feel better [Wednesday]."

Adelman said he still hasn't settled on a rotation system for Roy. His plan is for the shooting guard to play around 30 to 32 minutes per game. But the trick is to get to that number without sitting Roy for long stretches, as his knees might get stiff.

"We have to figure that out," Adelman said.

Choices at forward

Another area requiring some decisions is at forward, where Adelman has to figure out his rotation while Love is on the shelf. Adelman called it a work in progress. But, reading between the lines, it appears Dante Cunningham will start at power forward over Derrick Williams. Adelman was asked what his priorities were at the position with Love out.

"It's going to be more energy and defense," Adelman said. "We need scoring, but hopefully we're going to pick that up from everybody."

Defense and energy are Cunningham's strengths. That said, Adelman is willing to change on the fly if necessary, especially if matchups force his hand. Against certain teams, Andrei Kirilenko could play power forward.

Love has not been at practice since breaking his right hand. He's expected back Wednesday.

Etc.

• As expected, the Wolves officially exercised third-year options on Rubio and Williams.

• Adelman was asked if he'd watch some of Tuesday night's games. "I might see some of them," he said. "But what's tonight? Tuesday? NCIS is on."

• Opening-night NBA rosters had 84 international players from 37 countries and territories, tying a record set in 2010-11. San Antonio has a record eight international players. The Wolves and Cleveland have five each.

  • WOLVES NOTES

    Season opener: 7 p.m. Friday vs. Sacramento • Target Center TV: Ch. 29 (830-AM)

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