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.
Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng arrived in Minnesota today and met the media at Target Center.
Muhammad, the Timberwolves’ top pick in Thursday’s draft, elicited immediate negative reaction from fans, who on chat boards and radio call-ins noted his me-first, shoot-first playing style.
The Wolves, who entered the draft in desperate need of a shooting guard, failed to draft one despite having three first-round picks. Making matters worse, the perception is that Muhammad’s style will be a tough fit in coach Rick Adelman’s passing offense that relies on team play.
New Wolves GM Flip Saunders said Friday that Muhammad and fellow first-round pick Dieng were “winners’’ who he deemed “NBA ready to contribute.’’ Both picks appeared at a Friday press conference.
Muhammad did his best to dispel the critics. Asked if his reputation as a selfish player was something he had to address during pre-draft workouts for teams, Muhammad did not shy away from his past.
“Absolutely,’’ he said. “That’s one thing I’m really working on, figuring it out. It makes life way easlier to be unselfish, for yourself and your teammates. I’m concentrating on that.’’
Muhammad was the 14th overall pick out of UCLA, and Dieng, a center from national champion Louisville, was 21st overall.
It was a fairly newsy Thursday over at Target Center. J.J. Barea reiterated his belief that the team needs to get tougher, and just about everybody on the team agreed. Coach Rick Adelman talked about the need for more patience on defense and a better, more team-oriented approach on offense.
But the biggest news of the day really came from Brandon Roy and Ricky Rubio.
--Roy said he had another setback in his quest to return to action over the weekend. It happened Saturday – the day after what he said was a very, very good workout on Friday – when he felt a tweak in his chronically sore right knee.
“I felt I was getting close to being able to play,” he said. “And (I was) just starting to pick up my workouts. I didn’t actually bump anybody, just made a move, and kind of tweaked it. Had a setback.”
There is no question Roy is frustrated about his attempts at getting back on the court. A few weeks ago president of basketball operations David Kahn said a new treatment approach would be used on Roy. It appears that new approach is a knee brace designed to take pressure off the most sensitive part of his right knee.
But Roy said it has been a difficult thing to get used to. As his doctor predicted, Roy experienced hamstring pain soon after donning it, and he has had to work through that, too.
“I still don’t have a timetable,” he said. “Just trying to fight through it and get back on the court. … I am able to work out. But we’re trying to get a new schedule where we don’t pound day to day. Maybe I’ll work hard on Monday, then go lighter on Tuesday, to see if that will get me closer to being able to play games, and get into shape to where I can’t practice as much, but I can play some games.”
Then Roy was asked if he is optimistic about his being able to return this year.
“That’s a hard one,” he said. “There are moments when I don’t know if it will happen again. And then I’ll start working out, building and I get to a place where I have a great workout. Friday I worked out great, and Saturday there was a setback. So I’m disappointed right now. But if it settles down, mentally I think I can start building my confidence to hopefully get back out there.”
And now Rubio:
Rubio is good friends with Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who is going through a difficult season with the Los Angeles Lakers – the Wolves’ opponent Friday at Target Center.
Gasol missed eight games earlier in the season with knee tendonitis. More recently he missed five games with a concussion. Upon his return he has been used mainly off the bench. In the Lakers’ victory over New Orleans on Tuesday Gasol did not play in the fourth quarter, and expressed his displeasure about it afterwards. Gasol, 32, is averaging a career-low 12.8 points per game.
Today Rubio was asked if Gasol was being treated fairly.
“I don’t’ think so,” Rubio said. “He proved in the league that he is one of the best. He can pass, he can shoot, he can rebound. He can do a lot of things. I think if you use him in the right way, he is a top player in this league. If they don’t want him, we are more than welcome to get him.”
At this Rubio laughed. But it’s no secret that Gasol’s name has been linked to trade rumors all season.
“He’s been with the Lakers (five-plus) seasons,” Rubio said. “And he’s been a starter since day one. This year – it seems like It’s been the last two years – it seems they don’t want him. But actually they need him, because he’s a great player. He can do a lot of things. He’s had issues with his knees, and it’s been a lot of years without resting for him. But he’s a veteran, he knows how to play. He’s a great player.”
Rubio said he’s in regular contact with Gasol, as he is with other Spanish players playing in the NBA. “It’s hard when you’re hearing things, rumors that you’re going to be traded,” Rubio said. “But he’s a professional. He’s been playing a long time, and he’s going to keep doing what he’s been doing.”
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be covering tomorrow’s game.
Timberwolves coach Terry Porter and guard Ricky Rubio have talked. And there are no issues between the two. Indeed, listening to both after this morning’s shootaround at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., it sounds like there was never really an issue to start with.
Rubio remained on the bench the entire fourth quarter of the Wolves’ loss to Brooklyn Wednesday at Target Center. At one point he was at the scorer’s table, ready to check back in. But, after J.J. Barea hit a three-pointer, Porter decided to go with Barea – who played the entire quarter -- and Rubio returned to the bench.
After the game, clearly frustrated with that decision, Rubio said he wanted to play and the he would talk to Porter about the decision.
But, Rubio said today, he had calmed down before that talk ever took place.
“Of course I was frustrated,” he said. “I wanted to play. I always want to play. … But, actually, I didn’t even need to talk (to Porter). The next day I realized that maybe I didn’t deserve (to play) because J.J. was hitting the shots. And he’s able to get hot at some point and get a lot of points.”
Still, Rubio said, he apologized to Porter.
“Because it came up like I was saying something against him,” Rubio said. “And I never went against him. It was something that I was against me, by myself, because I was frustrated with me. But it’s something that doesn’t have to be against him or against the team. We are here, we are a team and we always try to do the best for the team.”
Porter also downplayed both the incident and the need for a talk with Rubio. “I don’t think it ever was really an issue,” he said. “He was frustrated, like any player would be who wants to play in the fourth quarter. So, really, a dead issue.”
Barea, meanwhile, said he took no offense at Rubio’s frustration. “I got no issue with him,” Barea said. “He’s a competitor just like me, and we all want to be in the game in the last minutes and try to help our team win. I have no problem with that. I’m fine with him. He’s a competitor, he wants to win, and I want to win. Everybody wants to play at the end of the game and help the team. Especially now, with us losing some games, and everybody is a little tired of losing.”
In other news from this morning:
--J.J. Barea was not surprised that Brooklyn guard C.J. Watson was warned by the league for violating the league’s anti-flopping rules during Wednesday night’s game with the Wolves. It came in the fourth quarter with more than 9 minutes left in the game, when Watson fell to the floor after a slight bump from Barea. Watson admitted the flop after the game. “He’s a flopping guy, so I tried to give him a taste of his own medicine,” Watson told the Nets’ postgame television broadcast after the game. “I hope I don’t get fined, though.”
Because it was a first offense, he only got warned.
“It was a great defensive play,” Barea said. “And the refs, they called the charge. But I knew he was going to get a warning after that one. Because I just got a fine. So he was going to get (a warning).”
Barea has appealed his recent fine. But he said he has learned that the NBA Players Association is taking up the flopping issue with the league, and that process might need time to play out.
“I’m finding out that everybody who has gotten (warned or fined) is in the same process,” Barea said. “So it’s a Players Association thing now.”
--Porter said there might be a silver lining in Alexey Shved’s ankle injury, which will keep him out of his fourth straight game tonight. Shved, a rookie from Russia, was showing signs of fatigue in the games before his injury. Porter said Shved might be able to take advantage of this down time to recharge a little bit.
“Hopefully, with the time off, he’ll come back fresher,” Porter said. “His legs will be stronger. He seemed to need that. Normally they get that at the All-Star break. But he’s gotten it a little earlier.”
Just as he appeared to have rediscovered his shooting touch, Timberwolves forward Kevin Love has had another injury setback.
Love got poked in the eye late in the Wolves’ victory over Oklahoma City Thursday at Target Center. He will not travel with the team to New York and will miss Sunday’s game against the Knicks.
“He has to be careful the next few days to make sure he doesn’t do anything that causes pressure in his eye,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “It’s an unfortunate thing that happened near the end of the game. But, hopefully, if he rests and doesn’t do anything, we’ll see how he is after Christmas.”
It is the latest in a series of injuries and illnesses for Love, who missed the team’s first nine games after breaking two bones in his right hand while doing knuckle pushups at his home. Love also injured his thumb in a victory at New Orleans Dec. 14. He was set to return the following night, but missed Ricky Rubio’s return – and the Wolves’ overtime victory over Dallas – with an illness.
The hope is Love will be able to return for the Wolves’ home game with Houston Wednesday.
In other news:
--Guard Brandon Roy returned, full-time, to practice Saturday for the first time since Nov. 19 arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He said he felt good, and Adelman said he looked good. Adelman said a timetable for Roy’s return to action could come after he takes part in another high-intensity workout following Wednesday’s game.
--Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn said the team worked out a player Saturday and would work out another on Wednesday, but did not disclose the names of those players. The Wolves are looking for a player who can play both the small forward and shooting guard position in the wake to injuries to Malcolm Lee and Josh Howard.
--Kahn said Lee is contemplating surgery on his injured knee, but hasn’t made a final decision yet. Lee was in New York this past week meeting with specialists, who recommended surgery, Kahn said. In any case, Kahn said Lee is likely done for the season.
--Both Kahn and Adelman said Rubio has not suffered any setbacks and could see his minutes increase, as early as Sunday.
That’s about it right now. Have a good weekend.
It appears, as Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said Wednesday night, that the goal remains to have Ricky Rubio make his debut Saturday against Dallas at Target Center.
Not that anybody is anywhere near to confirming that.
After Thursday’s very light, no-contact practice, Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn, coach Rick Adelman and head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam met with Rubio courtside. But Adelman wasn’t revealing anything about that meeting.
“It’s like I told you last night,” he said. “Just evaluating it every day, and we’ll see what comes, you know?”
And that prompted what has become the usual round of questions circulating around the Rubio issue.
Does he look ready? Won’t know until he plays, Adelman said, but he hasn’t had any setbacks in practice.
Adelman said Rubio is being tested every day, and that a decision on whether or not he plays Saturday could be made that morning.
“There are a lot of things we’ve talked about, if he plays,” Adelman said. “What’s the schedule going forward from there? It’s just not Saturday, it’s how much do we want to play him?”
Starting Friday the Wolves have four games in five nights. After a day off the Wolves then hit a stretch with three games in seven days.
Still, Adelman said there have been discussions about how much Rubio will play to start with, how he will be used at first – off the bench or starting, for example.
“You have to look at it not just from Ricky’s point of view but from the whole team’s point of view and how it affects the other guys,” Adelman said. “We certainly have talked about if he starts, how do we do that? If he doesn’t start, how do I play him? If they put a minute limitation on him, how do we use those minutes the best way for him and the team? Those are all things we’ve talked about and as soon as we decide he’s going to play, then I’ll have to make that decision.”
Brandon Roy, who had Nov. 19 surgery on his right knee, said he didn’t consider retirement when it was decided he’d have surgery.
Roy took part in Thursday’s practice, which doesn’t mean much. The team did little more than shoot. But the fact Roy said retiring didn’t cross his mind was interesting.
“No,” he said when asked about reports that he’d considered leaving the game again. “A few people asked me that, and I don’t pay attention much to the media. I don’t really read that stuff. But I don’t know where that could have come from. But no, I never thought about walking away. It was, for me, just do I want to go through another procedure or do I want to play through it. that was more my question than walking away.”
Roy said he’s been able to some running, participate in team warm-ups and do shooting drills. He has been spending a lot of time in the weight room working to get the strength back in his right leg.
That said, Roy did admit to some concern about the injury – which happened late in preseason – and the process of surgery and recovery. “There is always, I think, that small concern in the back of your mind,” he said. “But it felt good this week, and I think I’m trying to push it because I want to get to next week and see where it’s really at. But the good thing is it feels good. It feels like that nagging feeling I was feeling there early in the season, it feels like it’s gone. ‘’
It will likely be a while before Roy can really test the knee. Given the Wolves upcoming schedule, the team probably won’t have another full-contact practice until Dec. 21.
--Malcolm Lee (hyper-extended right knee) did not practice and did not travel with the team to New Orleans.
--Forward/guard Josh Howard, who missed Wednesday’s game with an illness, should be ready to play Friday, Adelman said.
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