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.
It's game day here in Mexico City, where the Wolves and San Antonio Spurs will tip off at the new Mexico City Arena (I wonder how much the town spent for those naming rights?) Arena at 8:30 p.m. Twin Cities time.
The late start isn't because of a designated time slot for an ESPN or TNT game.
No, rather it's cultural: Mexico City residents work until 6 pm usually and the rush-hour traffic in a metropolitan area of nearly 30 million people is horrible, so dinnertime isn't until 8:30 or 9 and so, too, is the timing for sportnig events.
Tonight's game is on FSN by the way, or NBA TV as well if you're elsewhere.
One thing you watch for: Mexico City is situated at 7,300 feet, a good bit higher than even Denver.
Rick Adelman had his players scrimmage to start Tuesday's practice here, just to see what effect the altitude at this height might have . And he noticed it quickly.
Kevin Martin said he noticed it when the team arrived on Monday. He was just lounging around his hotel room and felt out of breath and knew he wasn't that out of shape.
We'll see if that gives the younger Wolves an advantage.
In case you missed it in the paper or the web site, here's some catching up from the last two days here ni Mexico City:
* Spanish-speaking Ricky Rubio and JJ Barea drew a media crowd at Tuesday's practice. Here's my story for today's paper on the scene and the Wolves getting adjusted to that altitude. There's the Wolves Daily video for this morning -- from high above Mexico City's Paseo de la Reforma -- attached as well.
And if you're not on the mobile site, go to the links to the right of the story and click on the photo of Pek and AJ Price showing off the latest in Latin America fashion.
* If you're wondering why the Wolves have gone all the way to Mexico City to play a regular-season "home" game, here's the explanation from Tuesday's paper.
There's also Tuesday's Wolves Daily video attached to that, too.
Look for Thursday's Wolves Daily video and hopefully some post-game locker room video after tonight's game, if the iffy Internet down here obliges.
At some point today – if it hasn’t already happened – Kevin Love will welcome back an old friend. Luc Mbah a Moute was not available to the media this morning. I understand he was taking care of some final details, perhaps finishing up his official physical. He is expected to be available before tonight’s game with Denver after coming to the Wolves in the Derrick Williams trade.
But Love knows Mbah a Moute as well as anybody. Love was a freshman and Mbah a Moute a junior on the 2007-08 UCLA team that made it to the final four before, as Love said today, they ran into a guy named Derrick Rose.
Well, officially, they didn’t. UCLA’s Final Four loss to Rose and Memphis in the spring of 2008 was vacated by the NCAA because of rules violations by Memphis.
But I digress.
Mbah a Moute might have been busy, but Love took some time to talk about his once and future teammate. “I’m very happy to have Luc around,” Love said. “Obviously it’s sad to lose D-Will, he’s been here. But we wish him the best – I think everybody does – in Sacramento. But, having Luc around brings a guy who, defensively, is going to be great for us. He can guard multiple positions, can score the ball if need be. Just a great guy to have around, period. He’s really going to help the locker room out, bring an intensity and a defensive presence for us.’’
Love saw Mbah a Moute’s defensive ability at UCLA, and said that hasn’t changed. He also sees his former teammate as a player who, in spots, has shown his ability to take advantage of mismatches on the offensive end as well.
That said, Love admitted that making a personnel change during the season can be difficult. “It’s pretty tough,” he said. “I would say it would be a little bit more tough had D-Will been a starter or something, playing 25-, 30-plus minutes a night. But it’s always tough losing somebody. I really enjoyed having D-Will around. And, like I mentioned, Sacramento will enjoy him. But having Luc, he’ll come in and fit in immediately.’’
Love reiterated his believe that Williams will flourish in Sacramento. “He’ll definitely get a chance there,” Love said. “And I think he’ll have success. If he keeps working hard, keeps his nose to the grind, he has the talent. He just has to go out there and show it.”
--Meanwhile, Derrick Williams did an interview with the Kings’ web site last night. Here are some excerpts.
On the trade: “It’s a new beginning, a new start for myself and the team,” he said. “I feel I can help this team out, we have a young nucleus on this team and I feel I can help a lot.’’
On how he found out in the Wolves locker room: “Some of the guys were like, ‘I heard it’s happening,’ ‘’ Williams said. “They all said good luck and wished me the best and things like that.”
On his fit with the Kings: “I feel like I fit,” he said. “We’re going to run up and down the court, use our athleticism. Like I said, we have a good nucleus on this team, with young guys on this team , and the vets as well. The sky’s the limit.”
On his fit in Minnesota: “Yeah, (the trade) was good for both sides,” Williams said. “Not too many times it’s like that, when you part ways. They have a great team over there, sometimes it just doesn’t work out and I think we all felt that way and that’s the reason I’m here. (It is a) better fit for myself and the style of play that I have. … Everybody knows I’m athletic, run up and down the court, like to shoot. I like to shoot threes, I like to get everybody involved, I like to call myself a game-changer.’’
More on his fit in Minnesota: “I think it was just a bad fit for myself and the situation I was in. I’m here to prove people wrong. Since the day I picked up a basketball I’ve always been like that. I was never in the top 100 for ESPN out of high school and people talked I was going to redshirt my freshman year, and two years later I was the No. 2 pick. … It was tough (in Minnesota). People say I’m a 3 or 4, I just tell people to get me on the court and I’m going to do good things. Playing with Kevin Love is tough. Not too many people can out play him, he’s one of the best players in the world. He’s going to give you 25 or 26 and 15 a night. It wasn’t a great fit but I’m here now and I think it’s going to be a great fit in Sacramento.’’
That’s it for now. I’ll get back to you before tonight's game.
Flip Saunders met with the media this afternoon to explain the trade that sent former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams to Sacramento for veteran defensive specialist Luc Mbah a Moute.
Here's the video our shooter David Brewster did from the gathering, including a little standup bit that Jim Souhan and I did. Turned out kind of funny the way David edited it.
Here's a bunch of this and that, most of it taken from my Twitter feed today:
* Mbah a Moute will wear No. 12 for the Wolves after wearing No. 33 in Sacramento.
* Flip said there's a chance LMM plays Wednesday night vs. Denver. "We're hoping," he said. The new guy is due in town tonight and will undergo a physical exam in the morning.
* LMM didn't have a physical done before the league was finalized. Flip said his team had done extensive background on LMM's knees and are confident there's no issue after he underwent surgery in May 2012 to resolve tendinitis.
* Flip said he and Rick Adelman concluded Derrick can't play small forward in Adelman's system -- didn't rule out that he couldn't play it in other coach's system, including Sacramento's. And he asked if Williams's value would be any greater in a month or at the February trade deadline if he wasn't playing much, which he wasn't of course.
* Flip said contrary to popular opinion on Twitter, Adelman actually likes Derrick and think he'll be a good player in this league. Said he doesn't hate him. Implied, though, that Derrick never won Adelman's trust and team needs to find bench guys Adelman can trust to play more to relieve stress on the starters.
* Interesting that when talking about adding one of the league's best individual defenders, Flip singled out Dante Cunningham as the team's best defender pre-LMM.
* I asked Flip if he would have preferred to deal Derrick to add bench scoring and he said sometimes your scoring from your defense.
* Asked Flip about D League for Shabazz or Robbie Hummel but he said notion that they'll sit on bench now isn't necessarily true. Said they want to expand bench play beyond eight guys to help out starters.
And one more thing:
My compatriot Jason Jones of the Sac Bee put up this posting on the trade this afternoon. It's a good read from the other side of the deal.
That's all for now. Carry on...
Well, the Wolves might gotten a break on the second half of these back-to-back games while tonight's opponent has been waiting at home in Houston since Wednesday:
Rockets star James Harden won't play tonight because of a sore foot.
Point guard Jeremy Lin will start in his place beside starting point guard Pat Beverley.
The Wolves clobbered Brooklyn last night and rested their starters the entire fourth quarter before making the two-plus hour flight south after the game to play their fourth game in five nights once again.
"Well, he's their best player," said Wolves guard Kevin Martin, who returns to the Toyota Center arena where he played nearly four seasons with Rick Adelman as his coach. "Anytime your best player sits out, other guys step up. When he's out, they play pretty good. THere's more shots to go 'round for everyone else."
By the way, Wolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad is available after missing the last five games because of a sprained ankle. That doesn't, of course, mean he'll play.
And now, Kevin Martin said, we’ll find out what the Wolves are made of.
This is not necessarily a crucial part of the season. It’s too early, there are too many games left. But the Wolves’ poorly-played loss in Washington has now become a two-game losing streak. And the team’s upcoming schedule is scary, to say the least.
Friday the Wolves played hard, but looked tired. Especially Love who, frustrated with what he thought was excessive force on the part of the Clippers, struggled with his shot.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
--Love thought the Clippers got away with too much. But the Wolves did have a big edge, getting 31 free throws to the Clippers’ 16.
--Still, it was a tough game, with the Clippers getting called for two flagrant fouls.
--What a night by Chris Paul. He scored 16 of his 20 in the fourth quarter, personally keeping the Wolves at bay down the stretch, taking time to smile at the Wolves bench a few times while he did it.
--Martin was nearly as good as Paul. He got his first double-double since 2009, scored a game-high 28 points and scored 15 in the fourth quarter on 6-for-8 shooting.
--It has become pretty clear that teams, having done their homework, are not allowing Brewer to get that fast-break pass as much these days. But Love – who had five turnovers – keeps trying.
--Center Nikola Pekovic continued his strong recent play. He scored 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting. Over his last six games he has shot 44-for-64 (68.8 percent).
--There is still work to be done with the Wolves bench, which was out-scored 32-18 tonight.
That’s about it for now. Have a good night.
|Vikings (12)||Wolves news (875)|
|Bears (1)||Lions (1)|
|Packers (3)||Super Bowl (2)|
|Injury report (1)||On the road (50)|
|Rookies (26)||Roster moves (3)|
|Vikings draft (41)||Vikings trade talk (2)|
|NBA playoffs (1)||Wolves coaches (68)|
|Wolves draft news (50)||Wolves guards (41)|
|Wolves injury report (308)||Wolves management (135)|
|Wolves players (465)||Wolves postgame (270)|
|Wolves practice news (138)||Wolves pre-game (316)|
|Wolves trade talk (77)||Wolves training camp (48)|
|Adrian Peterson (3)||Sidney Rice (2)|