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.
Chase Budinger was back on the Target Center court Monday, taking shots.
But, at this point, that’s about all he’s doing, at least as far as basketball is concerned. Budinger, the Timberwolves forward, is still working his way back from Sept. 30 surgery on the same right knee he had work done on a season ago.
The good news is that this second procedure was not as extensive, and he should be back more quickly than he was last year. Budinger originally injured the meniscus in the knee on Nov. 10, 2012 in Chicago, and didn’t return to action until March 21, 2013. He hopes to be back more quickly this time, but no timetable has been set for his return.
“I’m just taking it week by week,” Budinger said after practice today. “I am progressing, very well, each week. But I can’t really tell when I’ll be back practicing or playing. Right now it’s going slow, we’re taking our time, getting it right, getting it strong so when I do get on the court it will be 100 percent.’’
Budinger had the surgery done by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla. And Budinger remained there for the initial rehabilitation after the surgery before returning to Minneapolis late last week. Budinger made his first appearance at Target Center before Saturday’s game with Boston, when he went around the team’s locker room greeting his teammates.
Budinger, a California native, said he got a bit lonely at times while in Florida.
“It was very difficult when I got the news and how it happened right before the season,” said Budinger, who experienced soreness in his knee as he ramped up workouts before training camp started. “But I’ve been staying positive. I’ve actually had some help from my family. They bought books. I remember my uncle sent me like 10 books, all about the mental game, about staying ready, all this stuff. I’ve been reading those on my down time, and just staying positive knowing I’m going to be back on the court.”
At this point, besides doing some shooting, Budinger is doing a lot of exercises designed to strengthen the knee and the leg. He’s also doing some jogging on a treadmill. “Each week it’s getting better, it’s feeling stronger, and I’ve got to keep continuing that until it gets to full strength.”
Meanwhile, the Wolves actually got in a practice Monday before boarding a plane for Washington to embark on another stretch of five games in seven nights. The Wolves finished up such a stretch against Boston Saturday, and coach Rick Adelman continues to be crabby about his team’s early-season schedule. The Wolves have two back-to-backs in the coming week. They will return from Washington on Wednesday to play a Clippers team that had Tuesday off. They will play on the back end of a back-to-back in Houston on Saturday against a Rockets team that had two days’ rest.
“I don’t know if [the league] knows we’re almost to Canada and Houston’s almost all the way to Mexico,” Adelman said. “That doesn’t’ seem like a real good back-to-back to me.’’
Here is Adelman on a few subjects:
On finally getting a practice in: We have five in seven games and four in five days with the travel, so we did some things, but they weren’t real enthusiastic about it,” he said. “We went through some things offensively just to talk about things we need to clean up, and to talk a little about Washington defensively.’’
On the Wizards: “It’s a talented team,” Adelman said. “I think that’s why there’s a lot of frustration there. From what we read, there’s a lot of frustration there. I think they’re going to be a good team at the end, but right now they’re struggling.’’
A couple final things: Adelman had no update on center Ronny Turiaf’s elbow. Shabazz Muhammad, who missed the last two games with an ankle sprain, was able to practice today but was still sore.
That’s about it. Jerry will be with the team tomorrow.
We’ve all been inundated with Kevin Love stats of late in the wake of his great start. But, for all of them, one stat stuck out. Last night Love scored 33 points with eight rebounds, six assists and zero turnovers. And he only needed 16 shots to get to those 33 points. According to a tweet by @statcenter, no other player in modern NBA history has done a 33-8-6-0 with less than 20 field goals attempted.
Yes, this is another stat might be rather arcane. But I think it speaks to the efficiency with which Love is playing at the moment. He’s second in the league in scoring and I don’t remember him taking too many bad shots.
That, coupled with his willingness and ability to pass the ball, has made him even more formidable.
“He’s really taking that on,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said after today’s practice. “Every good player or great player in this league gets better every year at something new. They just don’t do one thing and that’s all they do. I think that was his next step, to be a facilitator.’’
Love, meanwhile, said he tries hard not to take much notice when folks start comparing him to Moses Malone and the like.
“It’s definitely flattering to hear those names,” he said. “Guys I grew up either watching or studying tape or just trying to emulate in my back yard. But, more than anything, I’m just excited about winning.”
--Yet another stat: There have been seven first quarters in which 38 or more points have been scored in the league this season. The Wolves have four of them.
--Meanwhile, Kevin Martin was back at practice today and is full-go for tomorrow’s game in Denver. He watched Wednesday’s game on TV and said the way the team played may have cured him. “I started feeling better after the first half last night,” he said. “The team made me feel a lot better.’’
-And yet another stat, tweeted out by Wolves play-by-play man Alan Horton last night. Ricky Rubio had a career-high 16 assists last night. Every one of them resulted in either a three-pointer or a shot from within three feet of the basket.
That is making your team better. It’s not like Rubio was picking up cheap assists by throwing the ball to someone for a 17-footer.
“I just liked the way he played last night,” Adelman said. “He picked and chose his spots. He had a good rhythm to the game as far as the flow for us. He got us up and down the court. There’s times when he tries too hard to make something happen. Last night, I think he just saw what was there and he took it and found the right people. He’ll grow and figure that out more and more as the season goes on.”
-- Robbie Hummel proved Wednesday how important it is for a player to be ready when an opportunity comes along, scoring 10 points in his first NBA start with Martin ill.
“I was proud of Robbie,” Martin said. “The journey he took to get here, and then get an opportunity like that? I was a proud big brother for Robbie last night. That’s why you work hard in practice. You could be the 12th man one night and the sixth man the next. You have to be ready for your opportunity, like Robbie was last night.’’
--One final item: The Wolves expect Chase Budinger to return from Florida this weekend so they can monitor his recovery from October knee surgery here. Budinger has been rehabilitating in Pensacola, Fla., and jogging on a treadmill there, but is not yet cleared or close to practicing with the team or playing, president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said.
It was back to the film room for the Timberwolves Thursday.
Unhappy by what he thought was a poor performance at both ends of the court in Thursday’s loss to Golden State, Wolves coach Rick Adelman had the team sit through a long film session before taking the court for practice.
Adelman didn’t like the way the ball stopped moving after the first quarter. He didn’t like the lack of help on defense. He didn’t like much of anything. “There wasn’t much that was up to par last night,” he said. “We just played a very poor game. We looked at a lot of film today, so they could see where we are. Just the breakdowns. … We just have to be better.’’
We’ve heard this from Adelman before. He felt the team backslid a little bit having gone a good while without a really good practice.
Adelman said it looked to him like the team played in what he called a frenzy Thursday, trying to win games with every offensive possession.
“I can’t tell you how many times we broke off plays and went to the wrong spot,” Adelman said. “And, to me, that’s a lack of concentration. Or, you don’t think you’re going to get the ball, so you don’t do the right thing out on the court. … I asked ‘em a number of times, what is this play? Because I don’t recognize it. It’s just a matter of concentration. ‘’
I would expect the Wolves to come out very focused Friday against Dallas.
Here’s more Adelman: “I don’t think we have any selfish players, but we’re playing selfish right now. It’s not so much you don’t pass the ball, it’s you don’t make the right cuts, you don’t’ get to the right spots. We’re shortcutting a lot of stuff offensively. And in this league you can’t do that. It’s just not going to work. The players are too good and you’re scouted too well. We wanted to really address it today.’’
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be with the team tomorrow.
It should be an interesting night at the Target Center.
The Wolves host the Golden State Warriors. The team hoping to be the breakthrough team of this season hosting the team that broke through last year. The Wolves (fifth in scoring in the NBA) vs. the Warriors (first). The second- and third- most productive fast-breaking teams in the league.
Both teams are 3-1.
“We’ve been tested in every way (so far),” Kevin Love said today after shootaround. “We had teams come back on us. We played well against Oklahoma City, we had a game where we had to fight back. This will be another test, Golden State. Because they have guys who can really shoot. It will be a test to see what our perimeter defense can do.’’
The Warriors have three players averaging 19.8 points or more in David Lee (19.8), Stephen Curry (22.0) and Klay Thompson (22.5). Both Thompson and Curry are shooting 50 percent or better from three-point range, as is Andre Iguodala. The three of them have combined to hit 41 of 81 three-point shots. It will be interesting to see how the Wolves attack this threesome.
In other items from today’s shootaround:
--No update yet on Ronny Turiaf’s right elbow. Turiaf, who sustained a radial head fracture in the elbow vs. Oklahoma City Friday, saw a doctor in New York – the same doctor who worked on Kevin Love’s hand – but the team hasn’t given an approximate return timetable yet. One might come tonight. The good news is that Turiaf wasn’t in a sling this morning. He had a compression sleeve on the elbow instead.
--Rookie center Gorgui Dieng admitted that the little playing time he’s had so far has been educational. The Wolves had hoped Dieng could be an effective backup to Nikola Pekovic with Turiaf hurt. But Dieng has had a hard time avoiding foul trouble. Dieng said Pekovic took him aside after shootaround today and told him not to let officiating get in the way of him playing aggressively.
“I’ll listen to him and do the best I can,” he said. “I’m not going to stop playing aggressive. But I need to know my job.’’
Love on whether the Warriors season last year can serve as a template for Minnesota this season: “I’ll be saying this all year,” Love said. “We want to take it game by game. But we’d like to do what they did last year. They had a great run. Steph and Klay and David Lee are the anchors who helped them to be the darlings of the NBA.”
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you before
An MRI performed Saturday morning revealed a radial head fracture in backup center Ronny Turiaf’s right elbow. Turiaf will be re-evaluated next week to determine an approximate timetable for his return.
Turiaf was injured at the 10:17 mark of the second quarter of Friday's victory over Oklahame City when, off-balance, he crashed to the floor.
The good news is that surgery will not be needed. But Turiaf is likely out at least a few weeks.
And that will force Wolves coach Rick Adelman to shuffle some things in his rotation.
“Obviously G will get his chance,” Adelman said of rookie center Gorgui Dieng, who was drafted by the Wolves with the 21st overall pick in the 2013 draft.
The post position, which looked so deep just a few days ago, is less so now. Turiaf, a vocal leader, was a valuable defender off the bench at the center position.
Now Adelman will have to use Dieng to back up starter Nikola Pekovic. Adelman said he will also slide Kevin Love into the five position more often as well, though he wants to avoid doing it too much.
“We don’t want to do that as a consistent thing,” Adelman said. “I like doing it at the end of games, because it forces (the opponent’s) hand. Plus, you don’t want him playing against guys who are going to attack him in the post. It’s not his strong suit. … Hopefully Pak and G can do it. G was a little nervous (Friday) night. But he’s played and he’s done a decent job. I think the more he plays the better he’ll be.’’
Dieng got his first action of the regular season in the Wolves’ one-sided victory Friday. He played 14½ minutes. He missed the only shot he took, was 0-for-4 from the free throw line and committed four fouls.
Adelman can also use Dante Cunningham in spots against teams fielding small lineups.
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