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.
Stuff from practice today:
* Neither Nikola Pekovic nor Alexey Shved will accompany the team to Washington, D.C., today for that two-game trip to play the Wizards and Charlotte on Friday and Saturday.
Shved is closer of the two to returning, but not yet.
He stayed well after practicing running and working with the medical staff. He said afterward that he can run straight fine, but still has some pain when he's cutting on it. He says he has been working twice a day to get back.
"I feel like I really want to play, but I'm really not so ready," he said. "But I really want to."
* Terry Porter reports that J.J. Barea was a little stiff, a little sore during practice from that bruised thigh he got late in Wednesday's game.
"But J.J.'s a trooper," Porter said. "I don't know if that's going to hold him out."
* Porter and Ricky Rubio haven't talked yet about last night's finish, when Rubio never got back on the floor in the game's final minutes and clearly was angry about it.
If you missed it, here's the game story from last night.
Porter addressed the team before practice today and talked about respecting teammates and the game.
Rubio said after practice that he and Porter will get through this.
"I've been working with him while I was trying to get back and he helped me a lot," Rubio said. "I trust him a lot. We are adults. Sometimes I can disagree with him or he can disagree with a player, too, on the court. But we just talk and share thoughts and put it all together."
I asked Porter if he has to be more mindful of communication during this time, keeping everybody together, keeping players' respect with Rick Adelman gone and Porter as acting head coach, "I think everything. It's part of being respectful to whoever is in charge, being respectful to the game, being respectful to your teammates. A lot of that boils from frustration, I'm sure. But it's also, hey, this is an emotional game. I get it. I've been there.
"I can't say I played 17 years and haven't been in a situation where I probably said some things. But we have to make sure it doesn't boil over. It has to be addressed."
Both Porter and Rubio said they will discuss the matter.
The Wolves could have one more able body at acting head coach Terry Porter's disposal Monday in Atlanta.
Dante Cunningham, who missed Saturday's victory over Houston with an illness, missed Sunday's brief practice. But he will accompany the team on the trip to Atlanta for Monday's game. The team believes he will be ready to play by then.
That's the good news.
Unfortunately Alexey Shved's sore left ankle kept him at home, so neither he nor Nikola Pekovic will be available.
That means more minutes for everyone else. Including, perhaps, newcomers Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale, who combined to score the Wolves' first 23 points in the fourth quarter Saturday.
Both Johnson and Gelebale were a bit tired but pretty happy Sunday. Johnson said he got a slew of calls and texts from friends after scoring a career-high 15 points against the Rockets.
Meanwhile, Porter just laughed when asked if he was going to get into any trouble for playing Ricky Rubio for 30 minutes Saturday, two over his limit. "We were trying to take him out," Porter said. "We had J.J. (Barea) at the scorer's table in a timely fashion. They should have fouled."
For the first time in more than a week Wolves coach Rick Adelman met with his team. The meeting was relatively short, after which Adelman left to be with his wife in the hospital. Adelman did not coach the team in Wednesday’s practice and will not coach them Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers. That much interim coach Terry Porter knows. After Thursday the situation will be re-evaluated.
“It was good for the guys to see him, to have him talk to the guys,” Porter said. “So I’m sure they felt good to have him there, to give them an update on everything.”
Adelman has been away from the team since Jan. 7, when he missed practice. He has missed five games since then and will miss a sixth game Thursday. Adelman did not accompany the team on its recently-concluded four-game road trip, though he did watch the games and has stayed in contact with the coaching staff.
So what was the subject of Wednesday morning’s meeting?
“He talked a little bit about the games, because he’s been watching,” Porter said. “Just saying, ‘This is a tough time, you guys have done a good job of being resilient, and to continue to play together, work for each other and just pull through it.’ “
It has been a difficult stretch for the injury-riddled Wolves, who have lost four straight. But Adelman’s return, however brief, was welcomed by the players.
“He’s just trying to keep us positive,” guard J.J. Barea said. “He told us to stay together. I don’t want to get into details, but it was nice to see him today.”
Said Ricky Rubio: “He said we have to stay together. We’ve been through a lot of stuff this year, there is no excuse to stop now. We’re going to go forward with the players we (have).”
Here are some other notes from today’s practice:
--It was kind of hard for Porter to even conduct the practice, seeing as there were only eight healthy players available. Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved and Lazar Hayward all missed practice due to illness, though Porter said he expected all to be available for Thursday’s game.
That meant that assistant coaches Shawn Respert and Bill Bayno had to jump in so the team could run five-on-five drills. Porter joked how Respert and Bayno were signed to “two-hour deals.” Guard Brandon Roy did not practice either.
--After practice Rubio said he was going to talk with the team’s medical personnel about increasing his playing time. Rubio said he came out of the team’s recent stretch of playing five games in seven nights feeling good. He played a season-high 26:05 in Dallas Monday and he said he wants to play more. It’s unclear whether an increase in playing time would mean he would have no minutes limit at all or if that limit would simply be raised. But Rubio should have an answer before the Clippers game.
--Chase Budinger did some set shots after practice, but is still in the earliest stages of recovering from knee surgery. “If there is a stage one (of recovery), he’s at one,” Porter said. “Or the point-five stage or something.”
--Porter said he and the rest of the staff are at least talking about changing the starting lineup. One possible chance could be having Dante Cunningham – who has started the last six games at power forward with Kevin Love out – perhaps come off the bench with Derrick Williams starting. Cunningham’s minutes have gone up considerably of late and his game has shown a little strain as a result; Cunningham hit on just six of 18 shots in Dallas Monday. But Porter did say he wanted Cunningham to continue to take open shots and that Cunningham has earned his minutes and his starts with strong play at both ends of the court.
--The Wolves announced that Malcolm Lee's two surgeries this week were successful. Monday Lee had surgery to correct right knee cartilage damage in a procedure done by Dr. Jonathan Glashow at Midtown Surgical Center in New York. Wednesday Lee had right hip surgery done by Dr. Bryan Kelly at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman missed Monday’s practice on the Target Center’s main court for personal reasons. So we had to go without his comments today. But the team’s president of basketball operations, David Kahn, did speak with the media, and here, in a nutshell, are some of the things he had to say:
--Kevin Love had his broken right hand examined by a local doctor today, but no definitive course of action has been decided on, nor has a timetable been set for his return. Kahn said Love will still confer with the New York City-based specialist he has dealt with before with problems with both hands. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Love will have to travel to New York; the MRI of Love’s hand was sent to New York this morning. Still, it might be a day or two before that specialist can offer an opinion.
“I think the doctor is unavailable today,” Kahn said. “So maybe tomorrow, maybe Wednesday at the latest. I think it’s important that we let that doctor weigh in.”
Kahn said Love us understandably disappointed, but is doing as well as can be expected. “ I’m sure he’ll be out a number of weeks,” Kahn said. “But because we don’t’ have anything else definitive yet, I can’t say precisely what that means. But a number of weeks is a number of weeks.”
Kahn would not say if surgery on the hand is a possibility.
--With Love out for a while, Kahn said the team is considering ways to deal with that loss. With Ricky Rubio back – he is expected to return to action Tuesday against Atlanta at Target Center – Kahn was asked if any potential personnel move would be focused on getting a big man rather than a forward/guard combination player.
Not necessarily, he said.
“If I felt that everything would stabilize from here on in, I’d say yes,” he said. The question for me and for all of us, is all the other variables still at play with Chase (Budinger), Brandon (Roy). I still think we need to add some depth. Perhaps we could say everywhere, in the meantime. But obviously, when you lose somebody with Kevin’s production capabilities, it’s a big hole to fill.”
Kahn indicated he would be interesting in making a trade, and said he’s having conversations with other teams, but that nothing was imminent. “It’s very difficult to make trades, especially significant trades, in the month of January,” he said. “If you look historically, they almost don’t occur. Typically the league is a deadline-driven league, and it tends to do trades as we get close to the (Feb. 21 trading) deadline.”
In other news:
--Both Rubio and Nikola Pekovic are expected to play against Atlanta Tuesday, though Pekovic (hip) was held out of practice today for precautionary reasons. With Adelman gone, assistant coach Terry Porter talked with the media, and he said it isn’t clear how many minutes Rubio would be able to play; that decision will be made after Rubio and Adelman talk on Tuesday. But Porter didn’t think Rubio – who lost some conditioning while dealing with back spasms last week – would have to be cut back significantly in minutes.
That’s about it for now. I’ll be covering tomorrow’s game, so I’ll be getting back to you after the morning shootaround.
My colleague/boss Dennis Brackin covered practice for me today at Target Center while I head to the airport to catch a flight westward for this quick two-game trip to Salt Lake City and Denver.
* Don't expect Ricky Rubio to make the trip because of that stiff back that caused him to miss Saturday's victory over Phoenix.
Rick Adelman said it didn't make much sense to put Rubio and his spasming back on a plane to Utah and Denver for back-to-back games, the second of which he's wasn't going to play anyway.
Instead, unless there's a late change in plans before the team flies today, they'll keep him here for treatment and try to get him healthy for Saturday's game against Portland.
The start time for that 7 p.m. game, btw, won't be changed to avoid conflict with the Vikings' playoff game at Green Bay because Portland plays the night before in Memphis and needs 24 hours before it plays again and because the Wolves have their big, annual prep Shootout scheduled for Saturday and the headlining Apple Valley-Robbinsdale Cooper game is set for 3 p.m. and there's no wiggle room to move the start time up a couple, three hours.
* Andrei Kirilenko makes his return to Utah to play the Jazz for the first time after playing his first 10 NBA seasons there.
He said after practice that he can't imagine how he'll feel walking out onto the court and said he probably will recognize every fan sitting in the first 20 rows there.
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