Patchwork lineup is a big challenge

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 13, 2012 - 12:46 AM
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Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman

Photo: Nam Y. Huh, Associated Press

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DALLAS - Not expecting a rule change back to the way girls played years ago, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman forged ahead Monday night the best he could with 10 healthy players (maybe even nine) now that his team is playing without Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Brandon Roy, J.J. Barea, Chase Budinger and possibly the newly injured Nikola Pekovic.

"We have three point guards and three centers," Adelman said before the game, embellishing only slightly. "It'd be like girls' basketball [in the 1950s]: three at one end and three at the other end. If they'd allow us to do that, we'd be all right ... Our roster is not great right now. You have to keep the team believing they can win right now because they can."

Pekovic injured his ankle Monday and had to leave the game, while Budinger suffered a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee in Saturday's loss at Chicago and could miss anywhere from a month to two months, depending on the surgery's findings.

Adelman compensated for the loss of both Roy and Budinger at shooting guard by starting Malcolm Lee there, because he wanted to keep rookie Alexey Shved in his familiar reserve role and because Adelman thought Lee's defense might slow down hot Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo.

Budinger's absence leaves the Wolves very thin at small forward, so thin that when Adelman was asked who he is backup is at that position behind starter Andrei Kirilenko, he said, "We don't have a backup 3."

He told Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham -- the tag-team combo who have been replacing Love -- to be prepared to play there some. Adelman went with a small lineup that featured Lee, Shved and point guard Will Conroy in a three-guard lineup when he gave Kirilenko a brief rest in Monday's first half.

Adelman hopes Roy and Barea will be back for Wednesday's game against Charlotte.

Other options?

Adelman also hopes Budinger's surgery will give some clarity to a situation that could require the Wolves to add a wing player, either by requesting an injury exemption from the league or by signing or trading for a player and waiving a player.

Adelman said there have been internal discussions about whom the team might add. That list likely includes free-agent wings Mikael Pietrus, Josh Howard and Chris Douglas-Roberts along with Utah's Raja Bell, who has been exiled from the Jazz.

"I couldn't even tell you," Adelman said when asked about getting an injury exemption. "We're just trying to get through this game. I haven't even asked about that."

Proceed with caution

Roy said he wanted to try to play Monday because his team needed him. But he called Adelman and the team's training staff the voices of reasons in the decision to sit him out. He hopes to practice Tuesday and play Wednesday.

"That's always the biggest issue, I wanted to try to go tonight," Roy said. "Coach and the trainers have done a good job getting me to think big picture when I want to rush back."

Go the distance?

With no obvious backup for him, Kirilenko said he is prepared to play as much as needed. That meant 44 minutes Monday after 42 minutes Saturday.

"That's fine with me," he said. "I feel like I'm in pretty good shape right now, game shape, running shape. I feel like I can play extra minutes."

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