Nine days later: No smoke, no fire, one Wolves-Spurs game

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 14, 2013 - 12:36 AM
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People leave as smoke engulfs the basketball court during a regular season NBA match between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the San Antonio Spurs in Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.

Photo: Eduardo Verdugo, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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– Nine days after they were supposed to play a game in Mexico City, the Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs finally met for the first time this season.

This time, there was a deafening pregame introduction on the big overhead scoreboard, a major theatrical, lights-down presentation featuring a guy sprinting with a huge, fluttering Spurs flag and cheerleaders in chaps, but there were no pregame pyrotechnics.

That meant thankfully there was no smoke, which meant a game actually was played.

“I just felt bad for the people,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, referring to the Mexico City fans. “You go all that way, you want to play the game. You don’t just want to leave. It seems like a waste of time if you don’t play. Since there’s no way it could be played, you just think about the people, the sponsors and how proud they were of their arena and having that game.

“When we were leaving, you saw all those kiosks where they were selling shirts and you just knew they were embarrassed and disappointed as heck. So that’s how we felt, sorry for them more than anything. We’ll go play again. The league will pick a date and we’ll go play, but it was tough for them.”

That Dec. 4 game will be played at the Target Center instead in April, so Wolves coach Rick Adelman will get that 41st home game he always wanted.

“I’ve never seen something like that happen before,” Wolves star Kevin Love said. “I doubt it’ll happen like that again. It was just one of those things. Everything happens once. Like I said, I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Staying late after school

Wolves backup point guard J.J. Barea stayed way late after the team’s shootaround Friday morning to work on his shot and conditioning, long enough in fact that the bus that took his teammates back to their hotel returned to AT&T Center to fetch him.

He was attempting to correct a three-game stretch in which he made just four of 18 shots. Included were 0-for-5 games against both Miami and Philadelphia.

“Just decided to get a little extra work the last couple days, see if I can get going, if it works out a little bit better,” he said. “I’m not playing as many minutes, so I’ve got to get in a little conditioning so when I get in, I’ll be ready to go. … Happens every season, you go through a little slump and you’ve got to keep to working at it. I think it’s the rhythm, you know. Your confidence has to stay high and you just have to keep shooting it.”

Follow the Spurs?

The Spurs are among the most active NBA teams when it comes to utilizing their D-League affiliate — they own their own franchise just up the freeway in Austin — while the Wolves historically have seldom used the league for player development.

Adelman said the Wolves will discuss how — or whether — to use their Des Moines team get rookies Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng and possibly even Alexey Shved some playing time once the team survives a schedule that remains hectic through Christmas.

Until then, those three, Robbie Hummel and A.J. Price play 3-on-3 games with each other on days the team doesn’t practice hard.

“They go at each other pretty good,” Adelman said. “Those guys are all workers.”

Etc.

• The Spurs played without starting center Tiago Splitter (calf) and reserve forward Aron Baynes (tibial strain) while Wolves center Ronny Turiaf (elbow) and forward Chase Budinger (knee surgery) remain out.

• A parking-lot attendant admitting cars before Friday’s game wore a knitted mask with only his eyes and nostrils exposed to protect him from the winter cold. The temperature outside AT&T Center at the time: 48 degrees.

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