Illness leaves a few more holes on already thin Wolves roster

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 17, 2013 - 7:01 AM

Assistant coaches subbed for two ailing starters on a depleted team. Extended minutes also appear to be taking a toll.

The Timberwolves practiced with just eight healthy players Wednesday when they prepped for Thursday night's TNT game against a Los Angeles Clippers team that didn't lose a game in December and has won 22 of 25 games since the two teams last played in late November.

Starters Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved, as well as newly signed Lazar Hayward, all missed practice because they were ill.

Their absences were the latest developments in a season marred by injuries and sickness that got assistant coaches Bill Bayno and Shawn Respert drafted into action Wednesday just so the team could put 10 guys on the floor.

"We got creative," Wolves acting head coach Terry Porter said. "We signed a couple 10-days from the coaching staff."

The Wolves need to do something now that they've returned winless from a four-game trip with their confidence and defense in shambles after both ranked among the league leaders in November and December.

They play nine of their next 12 games at home and will play Thursday again without head coach Rick Adelman, who visited with coaches and addressed his players Wednesday morning, then returned to the hospital to be with his wife, Mary Kay, who continues to undergo tests for an undisclosed condition.

Porter will coach the Wolves for the sixth consecutive game Thursday.

Porter said Adelman delivered a message before he left.

"He said 'win,' " Porter said. "That was it, just win."

The Wolves beat Atlanta at home in Adelman's first game away and then lost at Oklahoma City, New Orleans, San Antonio and Dallas in which they were outscored by an average of nearly 17 points a game.

"The continuity isn't there," Wolves forward Dante Cunningham said of a team that is playing without injured Kevin Love, Chase Budinger, Malcolm Lee and Brandon Roy and with Ricky Rubio still recovering from knee surgery. "You're used to stepping left because you're used to a guy being there and you have to step right instead."

Cunningham has started at power forward since Love broke his right shooting hand for a second time this season during a Jan. 3 game at Denver. In Monday's 113-98 loss at Dallas, the Mavericks played off Cunningham all night, daring him to shoot.

He did 18 times, and made six. He said Wednesday that could have been because the increased playing time required in Love's absence have left his legs and body tired. He has played 39 or more minutes in three of six games since then.

"I looked at 'em, I watched 'em," Cunningham said about studying video of Monday's game. "The shots I take every game, I make 'em. Just one of those nights, I guess."

Until Wednesday, Porter remained firm in saying there had been no discussion about moving second-year forward Derrick Williams into a starting role and bringing Cunningham off the bench.

On Wednesday, he seemed to be at least contemplating the idea for a game in which he expects both Kirilenko and Shved to play.

"Think so, not for sure, but I think so," he said when asked if Cunningham will start against the Clippers. "I don't think it's relevant, start-don't start. It's not because of his shooting. He's earned the minutes from a starting standpoint because of what he's done up to this point. We have a lot of confidence in what we need him to do."

Porter also has said Rubio won't move into the starting point-guard spot until he is back playing unlimited minutes and playing well.

Rubio played a season-high 26 minutes Monday in the second of back-to-back games and said Wednesday he will talk to the team's medical staff before Thursday's game about having his playing-time limit increased,.

"I hope it happen like two months ago," Rubio said. "I can feel very well, but maybe my knee is not ready yet to play as many minutes as I want to. It's just my feeling about what they know, so I discuss ... I feel pretty good. I'm happy with how my body responds and how I feel. We'll talk now and see where we're at. I think I'm ready to play more minutes."

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