Wolves get boost from return of players, coach

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 30, 2013 - 4:13 PM

Nikola Pekovic, Alexey Shved and coach Rick Adelman return to try to turn around a 2-9 stretch.

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Nikola Pekovic (14) grimaced in pain.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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The Timberwolves potentially get back two starters and their head coach Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, not to mention perhaps a new sense of energy as they transition from a 2-9 record these past three weeks to a six-game home stand.

Center Nikola Pekovic and rookie guard Alexey Shved are expected to return from injuries for the first time in two weeks, or since the last time these two teams met at Target Center.

Coach Rick Adelman is back after missing 11 games to be with his wife while doctors were mystified by her seizures.

When Adelman last coached the Wolves, Ricky Rubio was on a tight minutes limit and still coming off the bench. Newcomers Mickael Gelebale and Chris Johnson hadn't yet signed a first 10-day contract, let alone a second one, as each player did Tuesday.

And the Wolves still were firmly in pursuit of a playoff spot with a 15-15 record that quickly disintegrated. Their current 17-24 record now leaves them five games out of the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.

They enter the second half of their 82-game season Wednesday against a Clippers team that is chasing San Antonio and Oklahoma City for the NBA's best record.

Is there enough time left -- and will there be enough healthy bodies -- to make up for all that ground lost while Adelman was away and his team was decimated by injuries?

"We have to, that's reality," Adelman said. "It's not going to happen just because you get guys back. I told them, 'You've seen other teams -- New Orleans, Washington, all these teams -- really struggle and now they're playing well.' They're not the same team. We have to respond the way those teams have responded."

Pekovic will return to a regular starting role against the Clippers.

"Yeah, I think so," he said, smiling. "I hope nothing changed while I was gone."

Adelman said Tuesday he hasn't decided whether Shved or veteran point guard Luke Ridnour will start alongside Rubio.

Whether or not Shved starts after missing two weeks because of a sprained ankle, his presence gives the Wolves a fourth available guard. He also adds some much needed size to a backcourt otherwise comprised entirely of point guards.

Pekovic's return from a bruised thigh provides the physical presence the Wolves completely lack otherwise, particularly with Kevin Love (hand) still out until late March.

On Tuesday, Adelman wondered whether he can play Pekovic and Johnson together in a two-center lineup against opponents with the kind of physical centers Johnson struggles against.

Johnson is a player unique among the Wolves' big men, an athletic leaper who can get to the rim and reach those alley-oop passes that Rubio, Barea, Ridnour and Shved like to throw.

Adelman has coached Johnson before, back in training camp before Johnson was one of the team's final cuts.

"I'm glad we got him back," Adelman said. "I think he has a future. He does things none of our big guys do."

Adelman on Tuesday sounded like a coach who wants Johnson and Gelabale for the rest of the season. The Wolves will have to guarantee both players' contracts the rest of the season after the 10-day contracts they signed Tuesday expire. They'll also have to make a roster move 10 days hence to clear room for one if they intend to keep both players.

"You've got to give both those guys credit, that first game was incredible," Adelman said of a debut when the pair scored the Wolves' first 23 fourth-quarter points in a victory over Houston. "Watching them, I didn't think we'd lose again."

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