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.
Yes, the NBA couldn't deny Zach LaVine and the Timberwolves rookie couldn't refuse the league when it came offering a place in All-Star Weekend's Saturday night slam-dunk contest.
He will compete against Orlando's Victor Oladipo, Brooklyn's Mason Plumlee and Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Plumlee's home court..
He is the sixth Wolves player chosen to compete in the contest. The others: Derrick Williams in 2012, Gerald Green in 2008, Chris Carr in 1997, Isaiah Rider in 1994 (when he won) and 1995 and Doug West in 1992.
LaVine has 17 dunks this season and recorded a 46-inch vertical leap at one of the draft workouts last summer.
"I'll have something," LaVine said recently when asked about a slam-dunk invitation.
All the injury news is not bad for the Wolves.
Yes, they lost another player on Sunday night when Robbie Hummel broke his shooting hand, but they learned before tonight's back-to-backer at Oklahoma City that Thunder superstar Kevin Durant won't play because of a big toe he sprained on his left foot yesterday in Cleveland.
Of course, that still leaves Russell Westbrook and the others.
Hummel's injury means Chase Budinger will play more and probably means Glenn Robinson III will get some playing time as well.
Flip Saunders is staying with the same big lineup he used last night in Atlanta. That means Gorgui Dieng at power forward beside Nikola Pekovic at center, with Thad Young moved over to small forward while Andrew Wiggins and Mo Williams start in the backcourt.
Kevin Martin returned to shooting and apparently shot the lights out with his limit of 100 shots. He said he is targeting his return Wednesday at Target Center if he gets another good workout in tomorrow.
Some more on Kevin Martin's condition, according to someone close to him:
His right shooting wrist swelled up on him Tuesday and Wednesday and he had fluid drained from it on Thursday, a setback that has delayed his return from November surgery at least from Wednesday's loss against Dallas until Sunday in Atlanta at the earliest.
He noticed the wrist was not feeling right while shooting on Monday and it continued to bother him on Tuesday and swelled noticeably by Wednesday morning.
The cause of the swelling is unknown. He wore a brace on it at shootaround Friday morning and remarked to a reporter all dressed up for the night's game already, "You're more ready than I am."
He remains hopeful that Thursday's draining will resolve the issue and he'll be able to play on Sunday.
He had been targeted Wednesday as his return night until the complications arose.
Greetings from Target Center, where the Wolves are about to host the Dallas Mavs.
Lots of pre-game news to get to. So:
--After missing 31 games with ankle soreness, center Nikola Pekovic will play tonight. He won’t start, instead coming off the bench. And, given his conditioning issues, his minutes will be limited. Coach Flip Saunders said 15 minutes, maybe 20. We’ll see how that goes.
The bigger question is whether the medical staff has found a way to avoid this inflammation from returning to Pek’s ankle. Both Saunders and Pek said that a new therapy has been found that should be able to keep a lid on the situation. We’ll see.
“I think we’ve finally found a real therapy,” Pek said. “Hopefully that will mean everything will go well. We have half the season left. Hopefully I’ll go through the rest of the season with no major issues.
--Kevin Martin, though, is still feeling some pain in his wrist, so he will miss his 31st game tonight. He remains close to returning, though. And it could happen Friday.
--This morning Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan wondered, in his blog, why Ricky Rubio was taking so long to return from a left ankle sprain, questioning Rubio’s desire to return in light of a dearth of information about the length of his recovery.
Well, Saunders came out strong in response in his pre-game press conference, giving us just the sort of information that has been missing in the weeks since his Nov. 7 injury in Orlando.
Given the wealth of information offered, we all owe Mr. Souhan – or, as Saunders referred to him, Dr. Souhan – some thanks for bringing the whole thing up.
Here’s the scoop: Saunders said that, in addition to the high ankle sprain, there were muscles also torn, a situation that has led to Rubio’s toes giving him some problems as well. He has pain on the inside of his ankle, where there is a bone bruise. And the concern is that rushing Rubio back might result in a stress fracture.
“I want to clear the air,” Saunders said. “It has nothing to do with him not wanting to play, or not working to try to play. He’s doing everything he can. We as an organization and the doctors that are involved have been the ones who have tried to hold him back. ‘’
That’s about all for now. I’ll get back to you after the game.
Mo Williams' 52 point game last Tuesday got him named the Western Conference's Player of the Week for last week.
The Wolves' 2-1 week -- with victories at Indiana and Denver -- sure helped, too.
Williams averaged 30.3 points, 6.3 assists and 39.8 minutes in those three games.
Golden State's Stephen Curry, Memphis' Zach Randolph and the L.A. Clippers Blake Griffin and Matt Barnes also were considered in the West.
Atlanta's Al Horford was the East's Player of the Week.
The NBA announced the choices just before this afternoon's tip-off in Charlotte.
It's a 1 p.m. start Minnesota time because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and there is no local television today.
Robbie Hummel is starting at small forward for the second consecutive game, btw.
Neither Kevin Martin or Nikola Pekovic is playing, but you could see both Wednesday at home against Dallas.
Also today, the Wolves re-signed backup center Miroslav Raduljica to a second 10-day contract so they can get a longer look at him.
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