The Wolves gambled by signing Nicolas Batum to a big offer sheet and the Blazers did too by matching it.
After a complicated courtship, the Timberwolves last summer made restricted free-agent Nicolas Batum a hefty $45 million offer that Portland decisively matched. This season, the guy had two triple-doubles in one week and is putting up the kind of numbers -- 15.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 36.7 three-point shooting -- that suggest he's almost worth all that money.
Q: So did you send a thank you or a fruit basket or anything to the Wolves?
A: (Laughs) No, no, I should I think.
Q: All those really nice things you said when the Wolves were wooing you last summer, was all that sincere and genuine?
A: Of course, I was interested by the Wolves. The way they played last year was nice. Enough people wanted to be there and play with them because Rubio was good, Kevin Love was an All-Star, Pekovic ... all those guys. And Coach Adelman, I would have liked him as a coach.
Q: The season you're having this year, is that natural maturation from being another year older, your summer spent playing for France in the Olympics or are you in any way playing up to that big contract?
A: You know, I think a little bit of everything: Where I played this summer, the contract, the Olympics, new coach (Terry Stotts) we have, it was a new project here for us. The coach really let me play like I wanted to play, so it's a little bit of everything.
Q: You're playing like you said you could play if given more freedom, right?
A: Yeah, of course, yeah.
Q: Damian Lillard looks like the runaway Rookie of the Year winner. What has he brought to this team?
A: I've been five years now with this team, a lot of point guards -- Andre Miller, Steve Blake, Raymond Felton -- but he's different. He's good. He's very good, and he's going to be rookie of the year, for sure. He brings a lot of things: Scoring, energy, he wants to win, too. He's competitor.
Q: Has he surprised you?
A: A little bit. I didn't know him. Last year, he came from a little school (Weber State). I didn't know him when he got drafted. I watched summer league and some pickup games before training camp and said, "OK, he's going to be good."
Q: You played three seasons with Brandon Roy. How much have you followed his attempted comeback this season?
A: I follow him. I'm really sad for him. I know him, he want to be on the court. I saw him right from the top. ... So I just wish him all the best in his life. I want him to be happy, that's it. When he retired, it was like he didn't know. I think he wanted to know if he could do it one more time. He tried it this year and now he knows. I'm feeling better for him because now he knows for sure."
Q: You know new Wolves forward Mickael Gelabale well, don't you?
A: Mike was my idol when I was young. When he was 18, I was 12. I just love the guy. I play with him (French) national team. People call us Gelabatum, one combination. I just love this guy. He can stay in this league.
Q: I know you always said if you were asked to do more, you could do more. Surprised yourself at all this season?
A: A little bit. I knew I could do it, but not this point. When I fixed a goal -- 15 (points), five and five (rebounds and assists) -- this year, people laugh at me. But now, I reach this goal, so I try to stay with those numbers.
ZGODA'S NBA SHORT TAKES
Curry joins an impressive party
Three days after he left Target Center last week, Golden State's Steph Curry went to Madison Square Garden and became the first player in NBA history to make 10 three-pointers and score 50 points in a game with his 54 points and 11 threes in a loss to the Knicks.
It was the fifth-highest scoring game by a NBA player since the Garden opened on its current site in 1968, and it put him in some pretty good company:
Pts Player Team Date
61 Kobe Bryant L.A. Lakers Feb. 2, 2009
60 Bernard King New York Dec. 25, 1984
55 Michael Jordan Chicago March 28, 1995
55 Bernard King New York Feb. 16, 1985
54 Steph Curry Golden St. Feb. 27, 2013
Amundson home in Chicago
Chicago on Saturday signed former Wolves forward Lou Amundson to a 10-day contract to give them another energy guy who probably still will be one of the last ones off the bench.
He was in uniform that night against Brooklyn and wore uniform No. 17, a picture of which he tweeted the day before with the caption, "#23 wasn't available."
The Wolves waived Amundson on Feb. 8 so they could re-sign Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale for the rest of the season.
From almost fired to ... admired
Once the NBA's overwhelming favorite as the next coach to get fired, former Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman, returns to Target Center on Wednesday with a Washington team that started the season 3-23 but is 13-10 since John Wall came back from a season-starting injury.
It's also a homecoming of sorts for Martell Webster, who played two injury-filled seasons with the Wolves before signing as a free agent with the Wizards last summer. He is starting as small forward for a rejuvenated team that has won seven of its past 11 games.
Monday: 7 p.m. vs. Miami (Ch. 29)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. vs. Washington (FSN)
Saturday: 8 p.m. at Denver (Ch. 29)
Player to watch
LeBron James, Miami
Whether before games with his warm-up dunk exhibitions or at the end -- his winning shot Friday against Memphis stretched the Heat's winning streak to 13 games - the guy always entertains.
"Change this face. Be happy. Enjoy it." -- Wolves guard Ricky Rubio, miked for TNT's Thursday night game at the Lakers, to a struggling Alexey Shved as both walked out of a timeout huddle.