Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.
A couple quick injury updates now that the Wolves have reconvened from their very brief Christmas break and are about to tip off a three-game Western trip tonight in Denver:
Ricky Rubio ran full court with his teammates today for the first time, participating in some dummy offensive work on that healing sprained ankle at the morning shootaround.
Flip Saunders said Rubio still has a hitch in his gait when he runs, but said he's hopeful Rubio can do some contact work by the New Year, then perhaps can play some limited minutes in games seven to 10 days after that.
Nikola Pekovic has started running on the anti-gravity treadmill -- the machine on which he run without bearing his body weight -- at 50 or 60 percent and will have MRIs done on his wrist and ankle/foot when the team returns home from this trip after playing at Utah on Tuesday.
Saunders said Pekovic likely will go to the D League to play some games when he is ready, but said Rubio will not. The difference: Saunders said Pekovic's injury is a chronic one that will need the benefit of more court time while Rubio's is not. Saunders said the team should have sent Chase Budinger to the D League to get his conditioning and timing down last year with that chronic knee injury.
Kevin Love had hugs and handshakes all around for some of his old mates when the Timberwolves took the floor here in Cleveland for their morning shoot just after the Cavaliers were finishing up.
He chatted with Flip Saunders, the man who traded him to Cleveland last summer, as well as former teammate Kevin Martin and members of the team's training and media-relations staff before his first game against the team for which he played six NBA seasons.
"It always is a different feel," he said about playing against old friends. "It will probably be even more different when we head back and play them at Target Center."
That game is Jan. 31.
On Monday, Saunders said Minnesotans are a loyal bunch who don't forgive when someone turns on them.
When asked about Wolves fans who'll never forgive him and forget that he forced his way out with that August trade,
"I try to stay off that stuff because negative stuff makes for more than what us people have in common," Love said. "So I try to stay off that stuff. I know when somebody leaves, they more often than not don't want to say good things about him. I think (Saunders) was right in a lot of ways, but at the same time I made a lot of great relationships in the Twin Cities that will carry on throughout my career and post career."
Almost forgotten is a homecoming of sorts for Wolves forward Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, if you can call it that.
Bennett played just one season in Cleveland, Wiggins was a Cav for barely a month, two months if you count that 30-day waiting period to announce the trade.
"It was a long 30 days, just waiting for the decision," Wiggins said. "No hate or nothing like that...I'm excited, more excited than usual."
If you haven't seen it yet, I've been in Cleveland since Saturday working on a Love story that ran in today's paper. You can find it here.
The Wolves have traded veteran forward Corey Brewer to the contending Houston Rockets, a league source confirms.
Injured veteran center Ronny Turiaf is headed out in the trade as well. In return, the Wolves will receive young, sharp-shooting guard Troy Daniels and draft picks, as in plural.
They'll get Sacramento's 2015 second-rounder as long as it doesn't fall within picks 50-60 and Houston's own second rounder in 2016.
"Kind of mixed emotions just because I really love Minnesota," Brewer said this afternoon. "People don't understand how much I love Minnesota. I wanted to end my career here. That's why I signed back here. I thoguht it'd be possible, but I understand we're going young. It's going to be a few years, but the Wolves have great, young talent."
The trade reunites Brewer with Rockets coach Kevin McHale, the guy who drafted him seventh overall in 2007 and coached him for four-plus months to end the 2008-09 season.
"To get traded to a team where the guy who's coaching you is the guy who drafted you with the seventh pick, that's my guy, I love Mac," Brewer said.
Brewer noted other connections: Rockets assistant J.B. Bickerstaff worked him out in Minnesota pre-draft 2007, assistant Greg Buckner was a veteran on the team Brewer's rookie year and T.R. Dunn was an assistant with the Wolves last season.
The trade also gives Brewer a legitimate chance to win a title.
"A great situation, it's going to be great," Brewer said. "Playing with guys like Dwight Howard and James Harden, they're in a playoff race. They have a good team. I think I can come in and help that. That they wanted to trade for me and think I can help, that means a lot."
Brewer won a title as a limited role player in 2011.
"I've got lots of room for more rings," he said. "Last time I went to Texas, it worked out. Make it 2-for-2 in Texas, the Texas Two-Step."
He said Harden and other Rockets were recruiting him to come over to their side before a game at Target Center earlier this month.
Brewer was trying to make travel plans to join the Rockets when I spoke to him by phone this afternoon.
"I don't even know who I got traded for," he said.
Daniels, 23, is a 6-4 shooting guard whom a former Rockets coach calls the best pure shooter he has ever seen.
Undrafted out of VCU, he was cut by Charlotte at the end of training camp a year ago and signed a multi-year deall with Houston last February. He hit a go-ahead shot late in Game 3 of a playoff series against Portland last month.
Daniels has averaged just 6.4 minutes in 17 games this season, probably partly because of the Rockets' depth and partly because of his defense.
The trade also opens up a starting spot and more playing time presumably for hard-playing Shabazz Muhammad on the wing.
YahooSports' Adrian Wojnarnowski first reported the trade.
Wolves veteran guard Mo Williams returned relieved from a one-day visit back home to Dallas for a second opinion on his hurting back and an early birthday party.
Williams turns 32 today with peace of mind that his back pain that caused him to miss six consecutive games recently is deemed only muscular.
"Strains and spasms, something that's manageable," he said at shootaround before tonight's game at Boston. "This is my first time I ever hurt my back. The last thing I wanted was to go about it like it's muscular and then find out it's something serious. This is something that, at this point in my career, was a fear in me. I want to make sure I'm 100 percent."
Williams said he'll continue to navigate what he calls a "gray area" between resting his back and rehab work.
"I'll play through it," he said. "Obviously, rest would be great. But I want to play."
Besides peace of mind, Williams also got from his quick Dallas trip the chance to see his family and celebrate his birthday a day early.
Flip Saunders called Williams a "game-time decision" but he participated in shootaround this morning so I'm guessing he plays some.
We'll see how Williams' uncertain future for now influences Saunders' decisions in the coming days and weeks. Forward Jeff Adrien's hardship roster exception is about up and the Wolves need another point guard while Williams is slowed by that back, especially if Saunders trade Corey Brewer.
Those trade rumors have percoloated again on ESPN.com and elsewhere in the last day or two. ESPN.com Marc Stein suggested the Wolves are nearing a deal with Houston. Last I heard this morning is that three or four teams -- the Rockets, Cavaliers, Clippers and Heat -- all continue to troll for Brewer.
I'm pretty sure Saunders has been seeking a first-round pick in return, which is why nothing has happened so far. The Rockets have New York's second-round pick -- a high second-round pick almost certainly -- they'd trade.
The Wolves could include Ronny Turiaf's expiring contract in any deal. The Rockets probably are willing to
We'll see if Flip holds out for what he wants. Brewer was at shootaround this morning, so at least check he's still here.
The Rockets also have young guards Isaiah Canaan and Troy Daniels and could include one of the two in a deal. New Orleans today waived point guard Gal Mekel, who would be another option as is D League guard Brady Heslip.
The Wolves will play a Celtics team that traded away last night star guard Rajon Rondo to Dallas.
When told the Wolves might be catching a break by playing an undermanned opponent tonight, Williams said, "Well, they are, too."
Wolves veteran center Ronny Turiaf underwent "successful" arthroscopic surgery today in New York City to repair that hip injury that has kept him out for all but two games so far and will be sidelined for the rest of the season.
Expect that in time to lead to his release so the Wolves can sign another player to add to their injury-depleted roster.
Also, Ricky Rubio is on the trip and looks like he's made some good progress with that healing ankle.
Turiaf's contract -- with a $1.6 million salary -- expires after this season. Flip Saunders said this morning the team would waive Turiaf and pay him his remaining owed money "if there's the right person available."
That could be just keeping around forward Jeff Adrien, whose current 10-day roster exception spot runs through Friday. Or it could be a guard such as D League sharpshooter Brady Heslip, who was with the Wolves in training camp.
In a perfect world, that new player would be a versatile defender who can shoot.
They likely won't release Turiaf at least until Adrien's exception expires. Or they could wait to do until 10-day contracts can be signed until January, although that's some time to wait for a team that needs help now.
"It doesn't mean we'll disassociate ourselves from him," Saunders said about Turiaf. "We'd do it just for the survival of everybody else."
Saunders said Rubio's timeline has "sped up a little bit" recently, since Saunders a week ago said Rubio would be out another four to five weeks.
Rubio has advanced from running on the "anti-gravity" treadmill -- a machine that allows exercise without putting weight on the knees and ankles -- to running and shooting on his own. He's getting some jump into his jump shot.
Saunders said he's hopeful that Rubio by Christmas -- just a week away basically -- can practice in some 5-on-0 work offensively even if he's not facing live action by then.
"He thinks he can play Christmas Day," Saunders said. "But that's not going to happen."
Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic all on this trip to Washington and Boston.
"It's good to keep guys around the team, keep the other guys locked in," Saunders said. "We have so many young guys. They need to have some veterans around, just for leadership, because this is a tough time."
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