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.
Wolves coach Flip Saunders wouldn’t say anything for sure. But it appears there is a good chance that at least one veteran will be back in the rotation Wednesday when the Wolves host Dallas at Target Center.
Both center Nikola Pekovic and guard Kevin Martin appear very close to returning. Pekovic has missed 31 games with ankle soreness and Martin has missed the last 30 after fracturing his right (shooting) wrist and then having surgery.
Pekovic said there is still some residual soreness in his ankle, but the soreness that he’d been experiencing after practices and games is gone. “It feels better,” he said. “I mean, way better. There is still some pain there, but it’s normal. It’s something that is totally acceptable for me.”
When asked whether he’d play Wednesday, Pekovic said it was Saunders’ decision. But he also indicated that he’d told his coach he was ready to play.
Martin, meanwhile, said it would be his decision on whether to return Wednesday. “I’ll make that decision, if I’m going to go tomorrow,” he said. “It depends on how I feel when I wake up. I’m still learning how to play with it, being a little cautious because it’s a shooting hand. But I’m getting there.’’
Ricky Rubio’s return date is a ways off, though. The good news is that the team’s point guard – out the past 35 games after spraining his left ankle – did some live contact work in practice Tuesday, the first time he’s done that since the injury. But Saunders said Rubio still has some soreness.
But, having had both Pekovic and Martin in practices over the last week or so has made the whole team better; Saunders said it was one reason for the recently-completed 2-2 road trip.
But the bottom line is that all three will be back sooner than later. And that means a lot of adjustment from everyone. Pekovic indicated that he might need to ease back into things, minutes-wise, to get his conditioning back. Martin seemed to think he’d be good from the time he returns. “I’ve been on a minutes restriction the last 2½ months,’’ he quipped. “I think I’m past that point.’’
Saunders said the returning vets will have to learn with a team that has changed since they left, with the development of youngsters Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng in particular. Those players who have been playing all along will have to adjust to a change in rotation – and, perhaps, a decrease in minutes – with the return of the veterans.
“It will be an adjustment both for the guys coming back into their roles and also the guys who have been playing,” Saunders said.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you prior to Wednesday’s 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.
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."
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