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.
No Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and, yes, no Ricky Rubio tonight for Wolves at Denver.
Shabazz Muhammad is out, too, against a Nuggets team that is getting former Wolves guard Randy Foye back in the lineup tonight after 26 games out injured.
It's hard to tell with him, but Andrew WIggins apparently is feeling better. At least Flip Saunders said before tonight's game that he believes so. Wiggins played ill last night, but still scored 17 points in 36 minutes before he sat out the game's final six minutes.
Robbie Hummel started tonight's game in place of Chase Budinger.
This is the third game between the teams since the day after Christmas. The Nuggets won the first two meetings and are getting healthier and better, having won five consecutive games before losing at Dallas on Friday night.
The Wolves will stay overnight in Denver tonight and fly to Charlotte on Sunday, where they finish this odd four-game road trip with a MLK Day matinee against the Hornets.
The Wolves will continue to wait for those three players our injured since November and will play on tonight at Phoenix without Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio.
Martin called Thursday's practice a big step forward for him but said he didn't except he'd play vs. the Suns, although he left open the possibility that he'd wake up Friday morning and change his mind.
Flip Saunders reported that Pekovic and Rubio each practiced on their own Friday morning and each continues to improve, but expect Martin to be the first one back of those three.
The Wolves just got done working out in Phoenix, back to work again after Tuesday's victory at Indiana broke their 15-game losing streak.
A bunch of this and that from practice:
* Kevin Martin had a good day at practice pain free, feeling well and could return almost any day now.
"I think I'm getting close, I think I impressed them today," he said. "I was back to K-Mart today. Today was a big step."
Asked if he was inspired by teammate Mo Williams' career-high and franchise-record 52-point game Tuesday, he said, "I don't know what it was, I think it was. I've been hanging out with Mo lately, I think he rubbed off on my today.
Martin said he's uncertain if that means he'll play sometime on the remaining three games of this road trip that goes Phoenix Friday, Denver Saturday, Charlotte Monday.
Asked if he could play as soon as Friday against the Suns, he said, "I don't think it's likely, but you never know when you wake up."
Flip Saunders said it's all up to Martin to make the call and tell him that day when he's ready.
"I don't know if he's ready yet," Saunders said. "That's going to be his call. One of these days he's going to get up in the morning and say he's ready"
* Martin is closest of the trio of injured that includes Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio.
Rubio is the furthest away of the three and Saunders said Rubio still has some soreness on the inside of his ankle and said "definitely not" about the prospect of Rubio playing on this trip.
"Almost like a little bone bruise so we're going to be very cautious with that," Saunders said.
Saunders said Pekovic is willing to go to the D League for rehab and the team would send him there, but the D League's current Showcase in Santa Cruz, Calif., might mean the timing won't work out for Pekovic to go down and get 22, 24 minutes in a game.
Saunders said Pekovic's issue now is conditioning, says he's not having any pain in that troublesome ankle.
* Former Sacramento coach Mike Malone was at practice today and will travel with the team on the rest of this trip.
He coached Williams at Cleveland, knows Martin and he walked out of practice today chatting with Thaddeus Young.
Saunders said he's done that before with other coaches who have been fired because "the first three days you get 120 calls. Everyone tells you how great you are and two weeks later, no one talks to you."
Saunders said he invited Malone to come down and travel with the team and he accepted.
"It's good to have him and it's something hopefully that will help him, too," Saunders said.
* Williams has been fielding calls and text messages since that 52-point game Tuesday.
"I got a lot of reaction," he said. "It was a special moment for myself. A lot of people saw it and gave me a lot of attention for it. But I'm a couple days removed from it, so it's dying down a little bit."
When asked if he has gone back and watched the game, "To be honest with you, I just saw the clips they put on social media, on my Facebook page or whatever, I saw the highlights, definitely I did."
When asked if he watched the game to see if it really happened, Saunders said, "It was real. I was there."
The Wolves will be without their latest starting point guard, Mo Williams, tonight at Milwaukee.
He won't play because of a sprained ankle, which puts rookie Zach LaVine back in the starting lineup and leaves newcomer Troy Daniels and point forward Robbie Hummel as the best backup options.
Meanwhile, newly signed Miroslav Raduljica flew with the team to Milwaukee -- where he played last season -- on Thursday and is available to play tonight, but neither he nor Flip Saunders was certain before the game if he will.
Raduljica was signed to a 10-day contract but he said he hopes to prove he's worth keeping all season. He said he sprained his ankle early in the Chinese season weeks ago, but is fine now, although he acknowledged he signed the 10-day deal so the Wolves would have peace of mind that he's all right before they guarannteed the rest of the season.
Saunders said it was important to add a center with legitimate size as insurance in case something happen to Gorgui Dieng and said the team still will need a 7-foot presence even when or if Nikola Pekovic returns to full health.
Raduljica looks an awful lot like bearded pal Nikola Pekovic, enough so that Williams apologized for not introducing himself because he walked right by thinking it was Pek.
"I'm prettier," Pek said when told the two look alike.
When I asked Raduljica who had more or better tattoos, he said Pek has more of them but his are better.
Other bits of news:
* The Wolves are seeking a D League team where rookie Glenn Robinson III can play meaningful minutes, perhaps as early as Sunday or Monday.
* Pekovic and Kevin Martin did more contact work today and Saunders said there's a chance one or the other could play in a game by next weekend. He again left open the possibility that Pekovic might play first in the D League, though.
* Saunders like St. Cloud's own Nate Wolters -- the second-year point guard waived by the Bucks Friday to make room to sign Kenyon Martin -- but the Wolves have no roster space to claim or sign him, unless they pay off a player for the rest of the season or trade Robinson or someone else without getting a current player in return.
Flip Saunders' illness that kept him from this morning's shootaround has kept on keeping on, and he will not coach tonight against Denver at Target Center.
Top assistant Sam Mitchell will coach tonight instead as the Wolves try to end that 11-game losing streak.
Chase Budinger remains ill as well and will miss his second consecutive game. Robbie Hummel missed the shootaround and also will not play.
Two other things:
* Veteran Mo Williams is starting for Zach LaVine tonight. That's the only lineup change made after Flip promised after Saturday's game that there probably would be some changes.
* Andrew Wiggins today was named the West's Rookie of the Month for December. He's 2-for-2 in that award this season.
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