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, that Wolves' 10-game losing streak could be history after tonight's game against Utah at Target Center.
At least it better be.
The Wolves haven't won since a Dec. 10 home game against Portland, but if they're ever going to win a game, what better time than against a Jazz team that doesn't look like the same one that last played the Wolves juat four days ago in Salt Lake City.
The Jazz already was without starting shooting guard Alec Burks that night.
On Saturday, they also were starting center Enes Kanter and missing Burks' replacement, rookie Rodney Hood, as well as Hood's replacement, Patrick Christopher.
The Wolves themselves were missing veteran Chase Budinger, who was out ill, in addition to the usual injured (Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin).
The Jazz countered by starting Rudy Gobert at center, moving Joe Ingles into the starting lineup to combat the length of Anderw Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad and planned to play Trey Burke and rookie point guard Dante Exum together a good bit in its backcourt.
The Wolves finish up their post-Christmas, three-game trip tonight in Salt Lake City, looking to end an eight-game streak that also includes losses in 14 of their last 15 games.
You'd think they'd have a fighting chance against a Utah team that also is rebuilding and played last night in Los Angeles, losing to the Clippers 101-97.
The Jazz, though, is playing better: They won four of five games -- including a victory over mighty Memphis -- before Monday's loss and the Wolves will have to contend with Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, not to mention up-and-coming center Rudy Gobert.
A game against Utah always is a chance to revisit that 2013 draft-night trade between the teams, which looks better for the Wolves than it did this time last year because of Shabazz Muhammad's season so far this year.
You'll remember -- especially if you're a Trey Burke fan -- that the Wolves swapped the ninth pick on draft night after Detroit surprised and took guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope eighth. They sent that ninth pick to Utah for the 14th and 21st pick and the Jazz ended up with Burke while the Wolves took Muhammad 14th and Gorgui Dieng 21st.
The Wolves never considered taking Burke with that ninth pick because they already had Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved already on the roster.
The Wolves made the deal with Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk and Muhammad on their radar for that 14th pick. They also considered Greece's Giannis Antetokounmpo but favored the aforementioned player both because he was more of an unknown and because they didn't want to gamble on more of project with then-coach Rick Adelman on the bench.
They hoped Antetokounmpo would still be available with that 21st pick, but Milwaukee took him with the next, 15th pick and the Wolves chose Dieng over French center Rudy Gobert with the 21st pick.
The Wolves then traded/sold their 26th pick in that draft with Gobert still on the board so they'd create enough cap space to sign Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger that summer.
A couple other things:
* Flip Saunders said the team still is considering many options with their 15th roster spot, now held by Jeff Adrien and still they haven't yet decided to sign former Milwaukee center Miroslav Raduljica, who was bought out by his Chinese team last week.
Saunders did acknowledge the team needs to add size to help out Dieng in the middle. The video/statistical analytics the team uses shows both Dieng and Muhammad are playing with less energy the more the team asks of them and Saunders is conscious of the load he's asking both players to carry.
It's still probably likely the Wolves sign Raduljica after such things as visa issues are sorted out, but Saunders said he is "looking at all options."
* Mo Williams returns tonight to the arena where he's made two stops in his career, as a rookie when he was drafted by the Jazz in the second round and then 10 years later. He was warmly greeted by Cavaliers fans last week when he returned to Cleveland, where he played beside LeBron James in LeBron's first go-around there.
* Wolves assistant Sidney Lowe also is coming back to EnergySolutions Arena, where he was an assistant to Ty Corbin for three seasons.
* Jazz rookie Dante Exum played with Andrew Wiggins on the World team at the 2013 Nike Summit in Portland.
A couple quick injury updates now that the Wolves have reconvened from their very brief Christmas break and are about to tip off a three-game Western trip tonight in Denver:
Ricky Rubio ran full court with his teammates today for the first time, participating in some dummy offensive work on that healing sprained ankle at the morning shootaround.
Flip Saunders said Rubio still has a hitch in his gait when he runs, but said he's hopeful Rubio can do some contact work by the New Year, then perhaps can play some limited minutes in games seven to 10 days after that.
Nikola Pekovic has started running on the anti-gravity treadmill -- the machine on which he run without bearing his body weight -- at 50 or 60 percent and will have MRIs done on his wrist and ankle/foot when the team returns home from this trip after playing at Utah on Tuesday.
Saunders said Pekovic likely will go to the D League to play some games when he is ready, but said Rubio will not. The difference: Saunders said Pekovic's injury is a chronic one that will need the benefit of more court time while Rubio's is not. Saunders said the team should have sent Chase Budinger to the D League to get his conditioning and timing down last year with that chronic knee injury.
Kevin Love had hugs and handshakes all around for some of his old mates when the Timberwolves took the floor here in Cleveland for their morning shoot just after the Cavaliers were finishing up.
He chatted with Flip Saunders, the man who traded him to Cleveland last summer, as well as former teammate Kevin Martin and members of the team's training and media-relations staff before his first game against the team for which he played six NBA seasons.
"It always is a different feel," he said about playing against old friends. "It will probably be even more different when we head back and play them at Target Center."
That game is Jan. 31.
On Monday, Saunders said Minnesotans are a loyal bunch who don't forgive when someone turns on them.
When asked about Wolves fans who'll never forgive him and forget that he forced his way out with that August trade,
"I try to stay off that stuff because negative stuff makes for more than what us people have in common," Love said. "So I try to stay off that stuff. I know when somebody leaves, they more often than not don't want to say good things about him. I think (Saunders) was right in a lot of ways, but at the same time I made a lot of great relationships in the Twin Cities that will carry on throughout my career and post career."
Almost forgotten is a homecoming of sorts for Wolves forward Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, if you can call it that.
Bennett played just one season in Cleveland, Wiggins was a Cav for barely a month, two months if you count that 30-day waiting period to announce the trade.
"It was a long 30 days, just waiting for the decision," Wiggins said. "No hate or nothing like that...I'm excited, more excited than usual."
If you haven't seen it yet, I've been in Cleveland since Saturday working on a Love story that ran in today's paper. You can find it here.
The Wolves have traded veteran forward Corey Brewer to the contending Houston Rockets, a league source confirms.
Injured veteran center Ronny Turiaf is headed out in the trade as well. In return, the Wolves will receive young, sharp-shooting guard Troy Daniels and draft picks, as in plural.
They'll get Sacramento's 2015 second-rounder as long as it doesn't fall within picks 50-60 and Houston's own second rounder in 2016.
"Kind of mixed emotions just because I really love Minnesota," Brewer said this afternoon. "People don't understand how much I love Minnesota. I wanted to end my career here. That's why I signed back here. I thoguht it'd be possible, but I understand we're going young. It's going to be a few years, but the Wolves have great, young talent."
The trade reunites Brewer with Rockets coach Kevin McHale, the guy who drafted him seventh overall in 2007 and coached him for four-plus months to end the 2008-09 season.
"To get traded to a team where the guy who's coaching you is the guy who drafted you with the seventh pick, that's my guy, I love Mac," Brewer said.
Brewer noted other connections: Rockets assistant J.B. Bickerstaff worked him out in Minnesota pre-draft 2007, assistant Greg Buckner was a veteran on the team Brewer's rookie year and T.R. Dunn was an assistant with the Wolves last season.
The trade also gives Brewer a legitimate chance to win a title.
"A great situation, it's going to be great," Brewer said. "Playing with guys like Dwight Howard and James Harden, they're in a playoff race. They have a good team. I think I can come in and help that. That they wanted to trade for me and think I can help, that means a lot."
Brewer won a title as a limited role player in 2011.
"I've got lots of room for more rings," he said. "Last time I went to Texas, it worked out. Make it 2-for-2 in Texas, the Texas Two-Step."
He said Harden and other Rockets were recruiting him to come over to their side before a game at Target Center earlier this month.
Brewer was trying to make travel plans to join the Rockets when I spoke to him by phone this afternoon.
"I don't even know who I got traded for," he said.
Daniels, 23, is a 6-4 shooting guard whom a former Rockets coach calls the best pure shooter he has ever seen.
Undrafted out of VCU, he was cut by Charlotte at the end of training camp a year ago and signed a multi-year deall with Houston last February. He hit a go-ahead shot late in Game 3 of a playoff series against Portland last month.
Daniels has averaged just 6.4 minutes in 17 games this season, probably partly because of the Rockets' depth and partly because of his defense.
The trade also opens up a starting spot and more playing time presumably for hard-playing Shabazz Muhammad on the wing.
YahooSports' Adrian Wojnarnowski first reported the trade.
|Vikings (12)||Wolves news (1033)|
|Bears (2)||Lions (1)|
|Packers (3)||Super Bowl (2)|
|Injury report (2)||On the road (54)|
|Rookies (36)||Roster moves (3)|
|Vikings draft (41)||Vikings trade talk (2)|
|NBA playoffs (1)||Wolves coaches (80)|
|Wolves draft news (58)||Wolves guards (45)|
|Wolves injury report (375)||Wolves management (142)|
|Wolves players (564)||Wolves postgame (305)|
|Wolves practice news (173)||Wolves pre-game (432)|
|Wolves trade talk (87)||Wolves training camp (63)|
|Adrian Peterson (3)||Sidney Rice (2)|