Veteran guard Luke Ridnour played 206 games in three seasons with the Timberwolves and started all but five of those, even though many nights he stretched his aging body across the locker room floor beforehand or strapped a heating pack to his hurting back during games.
Through it all, he said all he wanted was to win, a fleeting objective at best for an injured-ravaged Wolves team that always was at least another season away from winning.
Traded back to Milwaukee last summer, Ridnour now finds himself a 32-year-old afterthought on a young Bucks team whose better days will arrive long after he is retired.
He has started three games this season — one fewer than the times Bucks coach Larry Drew has chosen not to play him at all — and is playing behind starting point guard Brandon Knight and rookie Nate Wolters after he started every game last season and played 30 minutes a night out of position for the Wolves as a diminutive shooting guard. He did not play at all in Saturday’s blowout loss to his former team in Milwaukee.
To hear both sides tell it, neither the Wolves nor Ridnour really wanted that three-way July trade that created the salary-cap room needed to sign Kevin Martin, a legitimately sized shooting guard.
“We didn’t want to get rid of Luke,” said Wolves coach Rick Adelman, who could still use Ridnour’s determination, professionalism and spot-up shooting. “But we wanted to make some moves.”
At the time, the Wolves had what they considered at least four point guards on their roster and didn’t possess what they considered a proven shooting guard. So they traded Ridnour to a Milwaukee team for which he played two seasons before signing with the Wolves as a free agent in 2010. The deal was reached when the Bucks agreed to take Ridnour’s expiring $4.3 million contract for this season without giving any salary back.
“I was the first, the easiest, most wanted maybe just because of that one-year deal,” Ridnour said. “It’s always sad to move. I especially liked playing for Rick. That was fun. I enjoyed my time with him. There are good guys over there, too.”
He missed the season’s first seven games with the Bucks because of that troublesome back, and on many nights since then he has become something of an afterthought in coach Larry Drew’s rotation that has focused on young players such as St. Cloud’s own Wolters and rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo.
When he has played, Ridnour has developed a growing chemistry with Antetokounmpo, a freakishly raw athlete who has also shown surprisingly refined instincts. Off the court, Ridnour has advised Wolters with a veteran’s perspective.
“He knows so much,” Wolters said. “I just hope I have as long a career as he’s had.”
That career might be extended — even if it’s not with the Bucks after this season — now that Ridnour is back playing point guard, after the Wolves asked him to play out of position and often defend players 6 inches taller and 40 pounds heavier.
“It made me a better player,” Ridnour said. “It expanded my game and allowed me to do more. At this point in my career, I just wanted to do whatever I could to help win. That’s what they needed.
“Unfortunately, we had so many injuries it didn’t work out the way we hoped or thought it might.”
Saying goodbye to original Wolves owner
Funeral services for Marv Wolfenson were held in Minneapolis on Thursday, five days after one of two men who brought the NBA back to Minnesota after nearly 30 years died in La Jolla, Calif., at age 87.
Wolfenson and business partner Harvey Ratner bought an expansion franchise in 1987 for $32.5 million and two years later the Timberwolves began play, providing opportunities for many including a young assistant coach named Tom Thibodeau that first year — he’s the Chicago Bulls coach now — and a young backup point guard named Scott Brooks the second year.