Wolves' Cunningham making most of his chance to play

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 7, 2014 - 12:29 AM

With the entire starting frontcourt out, the backup played often, and well, at Oklahoma City.

 

– Fewer than 20 minutes before Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma City, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman learned Kevin Love couldn’t play because of a stiff neck, so he told backup power forward Dante Cunningham to get ready to start and play a lot.

“About 48 minutes, jokingly,” Cunningham said. “But I guess it was for real.”

Cunningham played nearly 43 minutes — his most with the Wolves and only two minutes short of his career high — Wednesday night, when the Wolves played without Love, Nikola Pekovic and Corey Brewer, the entire starting frontcourt.

Fewer than two weeks ago, Cunningham still struggled to find the kind of playing time and good form he discovered last season, when playing time wasn’t much of an issue because Love played just 18 games after breaking his hand twice and veteran backup center Ronny Turiaf hadn’t arrived yet.

Then Pekovic left a game at Chicago last week after only six minutes and hasn’t played since. Then Love fell hard in Tuesday’s victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, his head whipping back violently.

Love remains questionable for Friday night’s game at New Orleans.

Suddenly, limited playing time behind Love at power forward or backup minutes at center in a small lineup isn’t an issue. And suddenly, Cunningham’s spunk and shot have returned.

Cunningham went 9-for-13 from the field and scored 18 points in 42:35 played during Wednesday’s 106-97 loss to the Thunder.

“A guy like D.C., he got an opportunity,” Adelman said, referring to Love’s absence and Cunningham’s presence in Oklahoma City.

“He played great. Competed, rebounded, made shots. I think that’s what you’re looking for when you have guys out like that. You’re looking for the next guy to step up.”

In the three games before Pekovic left the lineup for the first time this season, Cunningham had played just 10, 11 and 10 minutes in those games. He played between 18 and 25 minutes in the first four games after Pekovic was injured and then played those 42-plus minutes Wednesday without both Love and Pekovic.

In those five games, Cunningham has had shooting nights of 6-for-9, 6-for-7 and Wednesday’s 9-for-13 in a season when until recently he has struggled more often than not to find his shot. He credits much of it to being on the court more often and for longer periods.

“I feel right now there are a lot of things going the right way for me,” Cunningham said. “Minutes are there consistently on the court. That’s a good feeling. It’s easy to catch a rhythm that way. I’m out there, I get a feel for the game. I know what I’m looking for. I’m not trying to get warm to find a shot. When I’m out there playing, the shot’s going to come.”

Adelman talked with Cunningham after Pekovic was injured, telling him an opportunity was about to present itself. “I think he was bothered that his minutes had gone down,” Adelman said. “That was just one of those things where Ronny came back [from injury] and was playing behind Pek and D.C. was behind Kevin. So his minutes weren’t the same as last year and he was struggling with it.

“All you can tell them is you have to play the way that helps us in the time you’re on the floor, and that’s by being very active and giving us energy.

“I think you can always tell when he’s really active and he has been really active lately. When you’re active like that, you’re making things happen, you seem to be more aggressive and have more confidence shooting the ball. That’s the way we need him to play.”

  • related content

  • Love will participate in 3-point contest during All-Star weekend

    Thursday February 6, 2014

    Kevin Love won the 3-point title in 2012, but didn't participate last year because he was hurt. He'll give it another shot next week in New Orleans.

  • RandBall: Data ranks Wolves' Rubio, Love worst players in NBA last season

    Thursday February 6, 2014

    Good times

  • Gameday preview: Wolves at New Orleans

    Thursday February 6, 2014

    wolves gameday8:30 P.M. at NEW ORLEANS • SMOOTHIE KING CENTER • ESPN, 830-AMPreview: Can you say streaky? Winners 105-100 over Atlanta...

  • Dante Cunningham statistics

    Thursday February 6, 2014

  • Chicago Bulls center Nazr Mohammed (48) and Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Dante Cunningham (33) compete for the ball during the first half of their game at the United Center in Chicago on Monday, Jan., 27, 2014.

  • Dante Cunningham celebrated with Kevin Love during a game at Target Center. Cunningham typically spells Love during games, but with Love, Nikola Pekovic and Corey Brewer out Wednesday, Cunningham saw 43 minutes against the Thunder.

  • WOLVES AT NEW ORLEANS

    8:30 p.m. Friday • TV: ESPN (830-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 2 Top 9th Inning
Washington 1
Seattle 1 Top 8th Inning
Baltimore 2
Texas 1 Top 6th Inning
Cleveland 11
Colorado 2 Bottom 7th Inning
Detroit 3
Cincinnati 4 Top 7th Inning
Miami 1
San Francisco 5 FINAL
NY Mets 1
LA Angels 4 Bottom 5th Inning
Tampa Bay 3
NY Yankees 2 Bottom 6th Inning
Boston 3
Minnesota 5 Bottom 3rd Inning
Chicago WSox 2
Toronto 1 Bottom 4th Inning
Houston 0
Milwaukee 2 Top 4th Inning
St. Louis 0
Kansas City - J. Guthrie 8:35 PM
Oakland - S. Gray
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez 8:40 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Atlanta - M. Minor 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
NY Giants 8/3/14 7:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/7/14 6:00 PM
NY Jets
San Francisco 8/7/14 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New England 8/7/14 6:30 PM
Washington
Cincinnati 8/7/14 7:00 PM
Kansas City
Seattle 8/7/14 8:00 PM
Denver
Dallas 8/7/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Philadelphia 0 2nd Half
Sporting Kansas City 0
Winnipeg 27 FINAL
Hamilton 26
Toronto 17 1:34
Montreal 5
Brt Columbia 9:00 PM
Calgary
Saskatchewan 8/2/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/7/14 7:30 PM
Winnipeg
Edmonton 8/8/14 6:00 PM
Montreal
Hamilton 8/8/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/9/14 6:30 PM
Calgary
Connecticut 64 3rd Qtr 1:18
San Antonio 49
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which uniform will Kevin Love wear next season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close