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.
Kevin Garnett is out tonight in Chicago on the first night of back-to-back games.
There's is an asterisk, though: He will be active and in uniform so...
"You never know with him," coach Flip Saunders said before tonight's game.
Saunders said there are a couple reasons:
1. The team is committed to playing its young players and he considers a Friday night at United Center in Chicago a good experience for them to feel a big-game atmosphere, even if Bulls star Derrick Rose (knee surgery) and Pau Gasol (ill) won't play.
2. They don't want to tax Garnett's body by playing him on consecutive nights. He'll play at home Saturday against Memphis instead.
Adreian Payne will start at power forward instead.
Center Nikola Pekovic said tonight that pain in that ankle is worse and he didn't go out for warmups tonight just so he wouldn't put any undo wear on it.
Saunders said it hasn't gotten to the point yet where they've considered holding him out of back-to-back as well, though.
Flip Saunders says it will be up to Kevin Garnett to decide if he can play games on consecutive nights the rest of the season. Today it appears he's still listening to his body.
Garnett was uncertain at the morning shootaround in Chicago if he'll play against the Bulls tonight.
If you have tickets for Saturday's home game against Memphis, worry not.
"My thing is just being productive," he said. "All year, I've been having issues with back-to-backs. I've tried to practice as much as I can. I want to be productive. The situation, I haven't done most back to backs. This year, I told 'em, we'll see how it goes, be patient with me with that and I don't see that probably changing or nothing."
Asked if he'll play tonight, he said, "We'll see, we'll see. If not tonight, definitely tomorrow. The thing is here is the long haul and the bigger picture here and trying to be productive."
If he does play, he'll face Bulls big man Joakim Noah. The two have a long, competitive history together, most recently in a November game when Garnett looked like he was going to chomp on Noah's fingers as the two pushed for position.
“I know how to bite somebody,” Garnett told reporters that night with a laugh. “Obviously I was messing around in that moment. If I wanted to bite him, I’d have just … shout out to Mike Tyson.”
Chicago reporters this morning tried to get Noah to join in on the feel-good story that is Garnett returning home to the franchise where he played his first 12 seasons.
Like Garnett pretended to bite him, Noah pretended to be touched by it all.
Asked if he didn't think it was a "cool" storyline, Noah answered, "So cool, man. Unbelievable, great story. Puts butterflies in my stomach."
Garnett's return is nothing but an afterthought here in Chicago, where the big news today is that Derrick Rose had another knee surgery this morning but walked out of it on his own and could return in four to six weeks, before the end of the regular season.
Garnett expounded when asked about Rose's third knee surgery in the last few years.
"Oh, man, the D-Rose situation is very unfortunate, man, that type of injury. He's young, such a promising future and a lot of hopes for him. It's just sad to see him have to go through injuries, go through this tough part of his career. I'm just hoping he makes the best decision for himself. Not just for himself, but his family. I know he has kids and a family that loves him and I want him to think about that before basketball.
"Basketball is always going to be here for him. He can always pick a ball up and go hoop, but to walk around and be who you are and be free, run around with your kids and be yourself is more important. I always say the game of life is bigger than the game of basketball, so D-Rose take care of yourself, man, and do what's best for you.
"The hell with what they're talking about. Do what's best for you and your family and take care of yourself. God bless."
Kevin Garnett's return to Minnesota gets real on Tuesday, when he will practice with his new teammates for the first time and be introduced at a 3 p.m. Target Center news conference.
Garnett needed a long weekend to take care of matters before making the move from Brooklyn back to Minnesota, Wolves coach Flip Saunders said before this morning's shootaround in Houston.
He said Garnett could have made his Wolves' debut tonight against the Rockets and old mentor/pal Kevin McHale and that is wasn't mandatory that Garnett's first game back comes at Target Center.
But he said it'll work out just fine that Garnett's first game back is Wednesday against Washington and his former Wolves coach Randy Wittman and former Boston teammate Paul Pierce.
Garnett has been home in L.A. over the weekend at his Malibu summer place. Just by coincidence, he was in Los Angeles when he waived his no-trade clause and the deal was made on Thursday because Brooklyn practiced there Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for their first game back from All-Star break against the Lakers.
The Wolves acquired Garnett by trading away veteran Thad Young, who reported to the Nets the next day and played Friday night against the Lakers.
Without Garnett, the Wolves beat Phoenix on Friday night and tonight meet the Rockets, James Harden and former Wolves forward Corey Brewer.
They'll do so with Shabazz Muhammad (ruptured finger ligament), Anthony Bennett (sprained ankle), Robbie Hummel (broken hand) and Gary Neal (sprained ankle) all out injured. Muhammad, Bennett and Hummel all are power-forward options.
That leaves Saunders just two real options at power forward until Garnett arrives Tuesday: Center Gorgui Dieng and newly acquired Adreian Payne.
Saunders said he might have to play rookies Andrew Wiggins and Glenn Robinson III some at power forward, if necessary.
"It's OK," he said. "We'll get through."
Saunders wouldn't disclose at Monday's shootaround who will start at power forward that night.
If he starts Dieng beside Nikola Pekovic in the frontcourt, then Saunders doesn't have a legitimate backup center to bring off the bench.
Neal, who sought a buyout when the Wolves acquired him from Charlotte, was limping noticeably at shootaround. He injured his ankle in Sunday's practice -- what he called a "freak" injury on the last play of pracitce -- and when asked how it was Monday, he said, "Bad."
One more thing from this morning:
Wiggins turns 20 tonight and Saunders turns 60.
"I'd rather be 19," Wiggins said. "I miss it."
If you're a believer in signs, stars aligning and such things...today's also the birthday of Ohio State freshman star D'Angelo Russell, a possible pick by the Wolves with a top 5 lottery pick in this summer's draft.
“I’d rather be 19,” Wiggins said. “I miss it.
The Wolves have won three consecutive games and now they're almost getting their full team back just in time for tonight's game against the surprising Atlanta Hawks.
Ricky Rubio will play after being held out of Sunday's victory at Detroit.
So, too, will Shabazz Muhammad, who will make his return after missing a month because of a groin/abdominal strain.
And Nikola Pekovic said at shootaround this morning that it's business as usual with him, which means Flip Saunders isn't following through with his talk a couple days ago that he might sit Pekovic on one half of back-to-back games to help his ankle.
The Wolves' medical staff didn't want Rubio playing consecutive games this soon, so he took the night off on Sunday and now won't be faced with back-to-back games until Feb. 27-28 at Chicago and vs. Memphis.
"I was feeling good so I was kind of mad, but I respect the process," Rubio said about sitting out after carrying the Wolves to an upset victory over Memphis on Friday night.
Muhammad hasn't played since a Jan. 9 game at Milwaukee.He said there hasn't been any discussion about a minutes limit for him tonight.
"I feel good," he said. "My energy's there."
Pekovic played back-to-back games shortly after he returned following a 31-game absence. Games at Atlanta and Oklahoma City were his third and fourth games back.
"When I come back, after three days I play back-to-back," he said after Monday's shootaround. "I wouldn't see the reason I wouldn't play tonight. Nobody even mentioned to me anything. I'm a little tired, but it's OK. I've got lots of time to rest today. I'll be fine tonight."
Both Saunders and Pekovic the other day said it'd benefit his ankle not to play back-to-back games.
Two other things...
* The Wolves have two games left before the All-Star break against the league's two best teams, the Hawks and Golden State.
That also means they have just two games before the Feb. 19 trade deadline, which comes a way before they return from the NBA's elongated All-Star break this year.
There's a good chance somebody from a group that includes Mo Williams, Thad Young, Kevin Martin and possibly Chase Budinger won't be a Wolf by the time the team plays again after nine days away.
Williams is the most likely to go because he's a valuable veteran on an expiring contract.
"I think about it every day," he said. "I have no clue (what will happen). I haven't spoken with them. Neither have they spoken with my. Every day I wake up, if I don't get a call, I'm here."
Martin the other day said he doesn't think about the deadline at all.
Williams probably will fetch a second-round pick in return. The Wolves will shoot higher if they trade either Martin or Young, probably looking for a young lottery-pick player in recent years in return.
Martin's the most marketable, but it also depends on how much a contender values him. You'd think teams that need a shooting and 2-guard help -- Chicago, Washington, Phoenix, Dallas to name a few -- will kick the tires on him.
* Starting tonight, the Wolves' next 14 opponents -- through a March 15 game at San Antonio -- have a combined winning percentage of 63 percent. The only team among those 14 opponents that has a losing record is Denver. Otherwise, it's a murderer's row with the likes of the Hawks, Warriors, Sunds, Rockets, Wizards, Bulls, Grizzlies, Clippers, etc.
The Wolves re-signed backup point guard Lorenzo Brown to a second 10-day contract before playing Memphis tonight at Target Center.
When this one runs out, they'll have to decide whether they want to sign him for the rest of the season. That's likely because Flip Saunders liked Brown when they drafted him in the second round two summers ago and likes his progress, and also because by the time it expires the Wolves could have traded or might be about to trade veteran point guard before the Feb. 19 trade deadline.
As for tonight's game...
* Shabazz Muhammad isn't ready to play yet tonight, but Saunders is targeting Monday's home game against Atlanta. He said that is more likely than Sunday's game at Detroit because they probably won't play him back-to-back games to start with anyway.
* Saunders said the other night he's open to rest Nikola Pekovic on the second part of back-to-back games if it'll help reduce discomfort in that ankle and Pekovic said after this morning's shootaround that he's all for that as well. We'll see if that could happen as soon as Monday's game against Atlanta.
* Saunders said if you had to pick the toughest team in the NBA right now to play in a seven-game series, the Grizzlies might be it with their physical tag-team of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol up front and underrated Mike Conley running the show a the point.
* Tonight is the first time back at Target Center for Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger, who interviewed for the Wolves coaching job last summer before the Grizzlies extended his contract and kept him in Memphis. Both Joerger and Flip Saunders said all is fine and happy between the two sides.
* Now that the Wolves are getting healthy, Flip said it's a better possibiity they send rookie Glenn Robinson III to the D League for playing time, but probably won't do so until after All-Star break.
|Vikings (12)||Wolves news (1042)|
|Bears (2)||Lions (1)|
|Packers (3)||Super Bowl (3)|
|Injury report (2)||On the road (54)|
|Rookies (37)||Roster moves (3)|
|Vikings draft (41)||Vikings trade talk (2)|
|NBA playoffs (1)||Wolves coaches (80)|
|Wolves draft news (58)||Wolves guards (45)|
|Wolves injury report (382)||Wolves management (142)|
|Wolves players (566)||Wolves postgame (310)|
|Wolves practice news (174)||Wolves pre-game (445)|
|Wolves trade talk (88)||Wolves training camp (63)|
|Adrian Peterson (3)||Sidney Rice (2)|