Timberwolves' veterans play roles their way

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 3, 2012 - 11:46 PM

Early contributions from Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko fill a void, but not necessarily a boxscore.

Derrick Williams fights for control of a lose ball.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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The Timberwolves moved on without either Kevin Love or Ricky Rubio on Friday, when coach Rick Adelman started Derrick Williams in Love's place so he could bring energetic Dante Cunningham off the bench during a season-opening 92-80 victory over Sacramento.

Ultimately, the Wolves' ability to survive -- or thrive -- until Love's broken hand heals might not depend on what roles Williams or Cunningham fulfill or how much of Love's 26 points and 13 rebounds either can deliver every night.

The two players they could lean on most in Love's absence are veterans Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy, a pair of former All-Stars prepared to provide more than Love's missing points and rebounds.

"Those two guys, they've been through it all," Adelman said.

Kirilenko is a versatile small forward who also can play Love's power-forward spot. More important, he'll affect a game with his defense, rebounding and determination in ways that can't be quantified in a boxscore.

Roy is the three-time All-Star who showed Friday that he, too, still can affect a game even if he no longer moves like he once did.

He opened the game by assisting on the Wolves' first four baskets and ended it down the stretch with a clutch running shot and a couple of trips to the free-throw line on a night when he made four of 14 field-goal attempts.

"It's important everybody steps up, but, of course, I'm going to put a little more on myself to help this team because Kevin does so much, especially offensively," Roy said. "I'm sure A.K. feels the same way."

Kirilenko on Friday delivered the same sort of boxscore line -- 10 points, seven rebounds, five assists -- that once caused statistical geeks in Utah to create a new category to define his play: The 5-by-5, or a player who is a threat to collect at least five points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals nightly.

"He's very unselfish," Adelman said. "He'll have his moments when he takes his shots, but he doesn't really cares if he scores or not."

The Wolves could use him to shoot and score more while Love is out. Kirilenko said he will play as he always has, which means he will do whatever he must.

"I will do my best for my team to win the game," Kirilenko said. "If it takes two points for me to score, so be it. If it takes a couple extra steals, I will be hustling, I will be energetic. That's all I can promise. I have never been a scorer, you know that. But I will try to do different things.

"I will try to do a few more 5-by-5s. You like that? I like that, too. I'm not aiming for that, but it's good to have."

Roy played 30 minutes Friday, an amount that Adelman deems reasonable for a guy who hadn't played a game since the 2011 playoffs because of a year's retirement caused by degenerative knees.

Adelman played Roy at the end of a game for the first time and considered playing him a bit more, but he is aware he might be tempted to ask too much of Roy too soon with Love injured.

"Of course, I want to do more, but he's a veteran coach and he's going to be smart," Roy said. "I don't necessarily need to score, but I do need to create offense for the team. That's going to continue to be my mindset."

He did so with his playmaking at the start of Friday's game -- he had four of his six assists in the first 2 1/2 minutes -- and with his presence at the end, when Adelman improvised by going with the evening's most productive players down the stretch.

On Friday, that meant he turned to Roy, Kirilenko or Chase Budinger, Cunningham, Nikola Pekovic and point guard J.J. Barea, who provided a pulse for the Wolves all night with his 21-point evening.

"We're trying to figure out how we're going to score when the game is on the line," Adelman said. "We don't know right now. We're just kind of searching for it."

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