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.
Greetings from Target Center, where the Wolves just finished their morning shoot minus the still-ailing Mo Williams.
Williams, who missed practice Monday and Tuesday, is still questionable for tonight’s game. It will likely be a game-time decision. If he cannot play rookie Zach LaVine would likely move into the starting point guard spot. But then the question is who plays backup minutes there?
There are no other real ball-handling guards healthy enough to suit up. I would imagine coach Flip Saunders would use some combination of Andrew Wiggins, Corey Brewer or Shabazz Muhammad to handle the ball in a pinch.
Perhaps the Wolves could suit up Lindsay Whalen, who will be in the building being honored for her FIBA Gold Medal during tonight’s game. Just a thought.
Also out tonight: Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin of course. Centers Nikola Pekovic (wrist, ankle) and Ronny Turiaf (hip) are also out.
Meanwhile, Thaddeus Young will return to action for the first time in six games following the death of his Mother, Lula Hall, from breast cancer. Young was very honest and well-spoken about his ordeal on Monday, when he returned to practice for the first time.
On Tuesday the Wolves put out a statement from Young thanking friends, teammates and people from all around the league for their well-wishes. He also made a point of advocating for routine breast exams. “It is up to all of us to encourage women to get screened to help avoid the ravages of this deadly disease,” he said.
Tonight, after getting official permission from the league, all of the Wolves will wear pink shoelaces to raise awareness of breast cancer. The idea was spearheaded by team GM Milt Newton, who called the league to ask how the Wolves might honor Young's mother.
“I just thing something needs to be done,” Young said after today’s morning shoot. “A lot of people they go throughout their lives without going to the doctor, without the proper procedures to get tested. … Me, personally, I think something should definitely be done, and people should urge other people to do so.’’
Young said his mother discovered her cancer not during a routine testing procedure but after finding a lump in her breast.
Young thanked Newton for securing permission from the league to wear the shoelaces, and to his teammates for showing their support.
“It was cool the league allowed us to do that,” Wolves rookie Zach LaVine said. “I was all for it, the whole team was all for it. It’s going to be special for [Young], and we’re going to go out there and play our hearts out.”
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you pre-game with an update on Williams.
The hits just keep coming for the Timberwolves: An MRI taken today shows starting shooting guard Kevin Martin fractured his wrist in Wednesday's victory over New York.
He is listed as out indefinitely and will be re-evaliated in the coming days to determine whether he'll need surgery.
The team said he broke his right wrist midway through Wednesday's first quarter.
That's his shooting wrist, of course.
You might recall he went on to score a season-high 37 points that night.
Surgery likely is the fastest way to get him back on the court, perhaps in four to six weeks
Add him to the list of injured that also includes Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio and Ronny Turiaf. Forward Thad Young is out for tonight's game against San Antonio at Target Center as well.
A little bit of history here:
Martin broke the other wrist -- his left, non-shooting one -- in November 2009 and did so the same night he scored 48 points and then went out and scored 29 the next.
He had surgery then and missed the next two-plus months.
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.’’
Well, it's come to this: Flip Saunders added to his team's list of potentially injured or ill missing before tonight's game against New York and revealed that both Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin each had IVs this afternoon after they fell ill.
One reporter responded by laughing.
"You think it's really funny, don't you?" Saunders responded wryly. "I have a sportcoat in there, it's a blue one with a blue tie."
Flip could use all the help he can get.
Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Thad Young, Ronny Turiaf are all out tonight and Brewer and Martin are expected to try to play despite not feeling well.
Even assistant coach David Adelman is out.
Saunders said he will search the Target Center corridors for tall guys and would activate Calvin Booth if he could.
He can't, so he's modifying his starting lineup by putting veteran Mo Williams alongside Martin in the backcourt while giving Shabazz Muhammad his first NBA career start in Young's power-forward spot alongside Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng up front.
Dieng is the only healthy center, Anthony Bennett and Robbie Hummel are the only other big men available.
So what's the latest deal with Wolves center Nikola Pekovic?
That same hurting ankle that bothered him in previous seasons? A personal situation? Or a sprained wrist sustained Saturday at Dallas?
Turns out it seems to be some of all three things.
Pekovic said after shootaround this morning that painful bursa sac in his ankle began bothering him more again starting with last week's game in Mexico City. But he said the wrist that he banged in Dallas is the condition a doctor recommended he take the week off to heal.
As for the personal situation to which Flip Saunders attributed Pekovic's absence from practice Monday...it was a trip Pekovic and his mother made to Rochester and the Mayo medical facilities, where each had their own appointments.
Pekovic said before tonight's game against New York at Target Center that he will visit a doctor again beginning of next week and is hopeful he'll be cleared then to resume practicing.
"Of course, it's just the beginning of the season, of course it's disappointing," he said. "But it's more disappointing when you try to do something and you just can't. When you're in pain, you make more damage than you can help your team. That's more disappointing that just sitting on the side...It's better to sit, take a few days off, try to heal everything as much as I can and then try to come back and play how I can play."
Saunders as the team's president of basketball operations has hired additional athletic training staff and forged a relationship with the Mayo organization that has resulted in its own facility next to Target Center.
None of those steps has prevented a rash of injuries that affected the team both past and present.
"There are some things you can't control," Pekovic said. "Ricky (Rubio), he played four, five games and he sprained his ankle and he's out for two months. The only thing you can control is you can do everything they say to protect yourself. We try to do what we can: We try to do our weights, try to do our stretching. Some things you just can't help it...
"It gets frustrating every time. This is our job. We don't work in an office. You get hurt. You get hit, especially me, how I play. I get hit a lot."
Pekovic is out for least the next three games. So, too, is Thad Young, who remains away from the team after his mother died last week. Rubio's out, too.
That leaves a starting lineup with four players who are rookies (Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine) or second-year players (Gorgui Dieng, Anthony Bennett) and veteran Kevin Martin.
With backup center Ronny Turiaf (hip) also still injured, Dieng is the only healthy natural center left. He, Bennett and Robbie Hummel are the only "big" men left.
"It stinks but at the same time it gives guys a lot of opportunity to play, whether it's in position or out of position" said Hummel, who like Bennett probably will have to play some center tonight. "The games don't stop. We still have to come out and be ready to play. In my situation, whether it's the 5 or the 4 or the 3 or wherever that may be, I'll be ready to go. I look at any opportunity on the court is a good one."
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