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.
Thaddeus Young is glad to be back with his teammates, and he’s eager to play again. But he is still mourning the loss of his mother. Lula Hall succumbed to cancer Nov. 13 in Memphis. Her funeral was last Friday. Young returned to the Twin Cities on Sunday.
“It’s still a situation where you still think about what happened with my mom,” Young said after Monday’s practice. “But my teammates and my coaches and the whole organization have been behind me every step of the way.I thank them for their thoughts and their prayers, each and every fan that’s reached out to me also, all the players around the league. It’s definitely a tragic thing, but you try to get back in the swing of things and just keep playing, making her proud.”
The Wolves were in the middle of their long road trip when Hall, who had battled cancer for some time, had a downturn. Young left the team after the Wolves played Houston in Mexico City on Nov. 12 and was able to get back home before his mother died.
“The last 10, 15 minutes of my mom’s life I was there holding her hand,” Young said. “I felt her last breaths as she passed away. I was just happy I was able to get home and see her before she passed.”
Young said his mom, who raised him and his siblings as a single parent, was a huge influence on his life, a disciplinarian when needed, a strong woman who sacrificed a lot to help her children. “She was my concentration, my focus,” Young said. “Everything. You just try to keep making her proud and keep going out there and doing the things that she taught me to do.”
Here are some other items from today’s practice:
--Wolves coach Flip Saunders had no updates on either center Nikola Pekovic (wrist, ankle) and guard Ricky Rubio (sprained ankle). Rubio is still in his protective boot, but he is down to one crutch.
--Guard Mo Williams was sick and missed practice.
--Guard Kevin Martin was scheduled to see a doctor Monday afternoon. After the visit, Saunders said, a plan of treatment – one that could include surgery – will be decided upon.
--Saunders said the team still hasn’t decided on whether to use an injury exemption to add a player to the roster. But if they do, he said, that addition will be a post player.
Greetings from Target Center where, after a relatively brief Wolves practice, Ricky Rubio – still on crutches – talked with the media for the first time since severely spraining his ankle No. 7 in Orlando.
In true Rubio style, over the course of the 12-minute gathering, he remained mostly upbeat about his situation. Yes, it’s been tough, he said. Especially considering how well he was playing just before his injury. “I was feeling good,” he said. “I think the best I’ve felt in the NBA. Especially the game in Brooklyn (when he had 14 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds). I was feeling like I’d found my tempo. I was leading the team.”
But, Rubio said, it doesn’t do anyone any good to dwell on the past. “It is what it is,” he said. “We can’t look back and take the injury back. So we just have to deal with it. It’s been almost two weeks, so just getting to rehab every day, twice, three times every day. And trying to come back as soon as possible to help the team.”
When will that be? Nobody knows for sure, but Rubio hopes by Christmas.
As usual, Rubio was good for a few laughs. He joked about whether he should have taking the jumper rather than drive to the hoop when he was hurt. When asked about what he was doing with his extra time, he said he was reading books. And, though he’s not a huge fan, he’s been playing video games, including NBA 2K. “I play with myself and score 40 points and I feel like I’m playing again,” he joked.
But he’s just trying to stay positive and do what he can to help the team. And that part of it has changed, too. Rubio thinks of himself as a leader by example. But now he’s not playing, so being a mentor is more difficult. “I have to be more vocal,” he said. “My English is improving, so I can talk to [his young teammates] more often and they understand me finally. I just try to talk with them, see what I see, encourage them. Because they’re young.’’
So the big question, of course, is when he might return. Rubio, who has never dealt with a badly sprained ankle before, said he doesn’t know. He did say his family was visiting from Spain at Christmas and he hopes they’ll be able to watch him play. But there are no guarantees. “I don’t know the time,” he said. “It’s going to depend, everybody’s different. As the doctor, and if he answers that question tell me.”
Until then he will do what he can by watching, observing and talking to his teammates. He said Wednesday’s win was definitely an elixir for him; he said he almost retwisted his ankle jumping up to cheer for Shabazz Muhammad on his alley-oop dunk from Corey Brewer.
“I’ll push hard,” he said about his rehab. “But there are limits.’’
Rubio said he was told he could put some weight on the ankle a few days ago. But, after spending time walking around his house without his crutches his foot swelled up again. So the key is, he said, to take things at the right pace.
“ Because if you push too hard sometimes it’s bad,” he said. “So I always want to go fast, but at the same time I want to make sure that the steps I’m taking forward are the right steps. And, first of all, I want to make sure that my ankle is safe and I can play again.’’
The Wolves likely will start four players with a year's experience or less Wednesday night against New York at Target Center now that starters Nikola Pekovic, Thad Young and, yes, Ricky Rubio aren't expected to play.
Coach Flip Saunders said after Tuesday's practice that Pekovic is out the rest of the week not because of that troublesome sore ankle but because of a sprained right wrist sustained in Saturday's loss at Dallas.
Saunders said managing Pekovic's soreness and pain in his ankle/foot is an ongoing issue, but said his absence for games against the Knicks, Spurs and Kings is due to the wrist injury.
He said Pekovic will be evaluated early next week.
Young also is out at least until Sunday while he's away from the team following his mother's death. Her funeral is Friday.
Rubio was at practice again today, on crutches. Saunders said Rubio's sprained ankle won't be evaluated until he is off crutches and can place some weigh to that foot, which probably will be sometime next week.
For now, the Wolves are expected to start rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine as well as second-year players Anthony Bennett and Gorgui Dieng.
"We'll be a little undermanned, but we'll be ready to go," Saunders said after Tuesday's practice. "No one got hurt today, so that's a positive."
The Wolves held a brisk practice – one that ended early – before heading out to Memphis for tomorrow’s season opener.
Coach Flip Saunders is still being cagey about who will be the starter at small forward; his standard response the last two days has been, “We’ll wait and see.” I’m not sure it really matters who starts – Andrew Wiggins or Corey Brewer. Because both are going to get significant minutes.
Here are some other tidbits from Saunders today:
--Saunders said he’s confident fans will see a more confident Gorgui Dieng this season. Especially on the offensive end. “He’s more confident in what he’s doing,” Saunders said. “He’s a little more assertive offensively. He’s just going to look more comfortable when he’s out there. The leap [from the first season to the second season] is astronomical.’’
--Because of his confidence in Dieng, Saunders reiterated his pledge to keep Nikola Pekovic’s minutes down, both the total number of minutes played in a game and how long his in-game stints will be.
--Saunders said he has not decided exactly what path Glenn Robinson’s development will take. Specifically, how much time the rookie forward will spend in the development league. The problem? The Wolves are one of 13 teams that will use the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Mad Ants as their D-League affiliate. So guaranteed playing time for a player going to Fort Wayne might be hard to get. “You don’t want him to go down where he might not play,” Saunders said. “If we find situations where it’s conducive for him to do that we’ll utilize that. If not, he’ll be able to practice with our people, our guys.”
That’s about it for now. Jerry will be with the team in Memphis tomorrow.
Wolves president of basketball operations and head coach Flip Saunders made it official today, announcing J.J. Barea had been waived after the team reached a negotiated buyout with the veteran guard.
That means Barea will be free to sign with another team, and that Flip decided to go with rookie Glenn Robinson for the final roster spot. For Saunders, the decision came down to the direction he wants to take the team.
“We thought it best to go in a different direction,” Saunders said. “J.J. has been a consummate pro. I thought he had a very good training camp for us, and played really well in the preseason. He’s been a pro, he’s done everything we asked him to do. And so we wish him well moving forward.”
But the Wolves have committed themselves to developing their young roster.
“I think it was a situation that, with Mo Williams coming in, [Barea} didn’t feel he’d get as much of an opportunity,” Saunders said. “ And we also felt that Glenn Robinson has a chance to be a very good player in this league. And so what happens is, when you make a decision as an organization to go in a certain direction… you either have to be committed to it or not.’’
Barea is reportedly interested in signing with Dallas, the team he was with before coming to the Wolves., after he clears waivers.
Barea spent three seasons with the team. He averaged 11.3 points in each of his first two seasons here, 8.4 points per game last season. Barea was due just over $4.5 million this season, the final year of his contract.
That means that Ricky Rubio and Williams will handle the bulk of the point guard duties, with rookie first-round draft pick Zach LaVine as the No. 3, though Saunders indicated that the team likely wouldn’t need a third point guard that often. “But Zach would be the third [point] guard in that situation,” Saunders said. “As we get into it, we simplify game plans as we go in, so it will be easier for Zach to play in those situations as we move forward.’’
In other news, Andrew Wiggins, who returned full-time to practice Sunday, was fine Monday and is set for the opener. Saunders said all 15 players on the roster are healthy.
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