Wolves notes: Cunningham forced to become option at center

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 22, 2014 - 11:20 PM

– Contrary to reports elsewhere, assistant coach Jack Sikma did not start for the Timberwolves on Saturday night at Utah, so coach Rick Adelman had to improvise at a center position missing starter Nikola Pekovic and backup Ronny Turiaf.

Pekovic missed his 11th consecutive game on Saturday because of ankle bursitis and Turiaf is expected to miss at least three weeks because of a knee bone bruise sustained in Wednesday’s home victory at Indiana.

Their absences caused Adelman to start power forward Dante Cunningham alongside Kevin Love and Corey Brewer in a small lineup against a Jazz team that itself was missing injured power forward Derrick Favors.

“You lose Pek and Ronny steps in,” Adelman said. “Now you lose Ronny and the depth becomes a real issue.”

Adelman’s options now include playing rookie center Gorgui Dieng more — if Dieng can stay on the floor enough to avoid fast foul trouble — or weighing how much he can ask Love, who is a little banged up himself, to play center against bigger, more physical opponents.

Pekovic worked out at length before Saturday’s game but the decision already had been decided that he wouldn’t play limited minutes at least until Sunday’s game at Portland at the earliest.

“The toughest part is he really hasn’t ran or practiced or anything,” Adelman said of Pekovic. “So when he is available, I’m not sure what his conditioning is or how much he can take or how many minutes he can play. All those things haven’t been discussed until they figure out if he can go.”

Adelman said he and President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders haven’t discussed creating a roster spot so they can sign a big man. Yet …

“We’ll see what happens, see how long Pek is out,” Adelman said.

Slow recovery

Pekovic has worked out three consecutive days now, but still is experiencing pain in his ankle that he said is manageable as long as it doesn’t grow worse.

Asked if he feels the need to play now because the team is so short at his position, he said, “Yeah, I feel and I also feel like it has been longer than I expect. With this injury, it’s that type of recovery. It has been frustrating for me. I really want to be on the court. I’ve been missing these guys. I’ve been missing playing.”

He has not played in a month, so his conditioning also isn’t where it needs to be.

“I don’t know how it can be,” Pekovic said. “It’s a problem when I come back. I play limited minutes, I’ll try to do as much as I can to kind of build it. But nothing is like conditioning on the court when you play basketball. You can do running, like 1,000 miles, and still when you come back you’ll feel like this. I try to hang in there, be the best I can be at this point.”

Martin seeks opinion

Wolves shooting guard Kevin Martin said he’s headed to Los Angeles on Monday to get another opinion on the fractured bone in his left hand.

He is seeking an opinion that will allow a speedier return on an injury that caused him to miss his fifth consecutive game Saturday and is hopeful he will be able to play yet on this five-game trip that started in Salt Lake City and ends nine days later in Denver.

“You can tell it’s broke,” Martin said when asked how the thumb is feeling. “There’s not much you can do with it. With a break, you just have to be patient. It’s not like a muscle or something like that.”

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