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.
Coming off a 2-2 road trip that Kevin Love termed "great," the job now is for the Wolves to focus on winning as many of the few home games the team has this month.
And that starts tonight. Kent Youngblood here. I'll be covering tonight's game, with Jerry Zgoda getting a much-deserved night off. The Wolves are a super-respectable 9-9 on the road this season. Splitting your road games is one of the key ingredients for a team looking to make the playoffs.
But a .500 home record isn't. And that's what the Wolves have at this point, going 10-10 at Target Center. "It means a lot for us to play well in front of the home crowd," Love said. "We're not putting extra pressure on ourselves. But we need that extra push at home.''
There is no question about that. Tonight's game vs. the Clippers is the first of four straight at home. After that the team goes on the road for a seven-game road swing, the longest since the Wolves had a seven-game swing from March 23-April 5, 1998. After this week, the Wolves have only two more home games this month.
Here are some other items from today's morning shoot:
--Derrick Williams said the key to his recent surge in scoring is about him playing aggressively. It's also about him getting back to the kind of player he's always been, he said. "Just that fire, playing with a little more passion," Williams said. "I felt like in the first half of the season I wasn't really playing like i used to, like I know how I can play, like I was playing back in school. You know, just having fun and playing with passion."
Williams has scored in double figures in four of his last five games, and he is shooting 24-for-44 (54.5 percent) from the field in those games, 7-for-14 from three-point range.
--Another fellow who appears to be finding his shot of late is Wes Johnson, who is 12-for-25 from the field (4-for-8 on three-pointers) in his last four games. I talked to him this morning, and he discussed the frustration he has felt with his shots not falling this season, and how hard he has worked to get it back. I'll have more on that in tomorrow's paper.
That's about it for now. I'll get back to you before the game.
J.J. Barea ran and shot without as much as a limp at the Wolves' morning shootaround today and afterward said he expects to play tonight against the Trail Blazers in Portland.
"I feel a lot better, I feel great," he said. "These two days helped. I'm going to try to give it a go tonight."
He will wear a compressive sleeve tonight on that calf that he injured Wednesday against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
Barea missed Thursday's game at Phoenix because of the injury.
There's playoff implications to this one tonight, considering you've got the 18-18 Blazers and the 18-19 Wolves chasing that eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
There's also all sort of connections between the teams, on both sides.
From the Minnesota end...
Rick Adelman has lived in Oregon since he took a junior-college job in the 1970s and coached the Blazers as an assistant and head coach for 11 years until 1994.
David Kahn grew up here and still considers it home and, of course, Love grew up here, too.
Assistant coach Terry Porter's No. 30 playing jersey is retired in the Rose Garden rafters after a long career here.
Martell Webster was drafted by the Blazers and played his first six seasons here, not far from his home up the freeway a piece in Seattle.
Assistant coach Bill Bayno was a Blazers assistant here before getting hired by the Wolves last summer.
From the Blazers side...
Monticello's own Joel Przybilla signed last week to return to Portland after being wooed by both Miami and Chicago in free agency.
Blazers trainer Jay Jensen was the Timberwolves' original trainer and assistant coach Dean Cooper used to be an assistant coach and a scout with the Wolves.
I think that about covers it, unless you want to include Blazers forward Luke Babbitt, whom Portland took in 2010 with the 16th pick they got from the Wolves for Webster.
And the Wolves tried to sign shooting guard Jamal Crawford in December, but he opted to go with the Blazers instead and now is starting at point guard for them.
Keep an eye on Crawford in the coming 11 days before the trade deadline: He said before tonight's game that he came "really close" to signing with the Wolves in December.
"I really thought they were a team on the rise," Crawford said. "Their young guys have gotten better, obviously with Rubio coming in. I'm a big fan of Coach of Adelman. He's really laid back. He's an old-school coach. He's got some great, great, great stuff offensively. I can't take credit and say I saw them being right there in the thick of things (a playoff race) but I definitely saw them being a lot better than they were last year.
"Toward the end of it, I wasn't sure how interested or serious they were. I think they wanted me to be more patient and at that time, I was kind of running out of time. I wanted to be in camp before the season started."
With the Blazers in danger of imploding here -- they've lost five of their last seven at home and are a long way from that team that started the season 7-2 -- and with the Blazers able to terminate Crawford's deal after this season, they just might be willing to deal him away for something if the Wolves coming calling.
That is all for now from Portland.
If you don't hear from me on the blog after the game tonight, it's because I ran out of time trying to catch a red-eye flight bound for home after being on the road for 10 days.
Maybe I'll check in from the plane if I don't right after the game.
Rookie Derrick Williams returned to Los Angeles at home Tuesday and looked more at home than he has all this season, scoring 27 points off the bench that Michael Beasley matched step by step.
History can be a fickle thing and measured in many ways, but according to Elias Sports Bureau, Derrick Williams did something Tuesday night back home in L.A. that has never been done before.
On a night when he made nine of 10 field attempts, including all four three-pointers he took, and 5-for-5 from the line, Williams became the first player in NBA history to shoot 90 percent from the field (a minimum of 10 field-goal attempts), perfect from three-point land (minimum 4 attempts) and perfect in free throws (minimum five attempts) in a single game.
He and teammate Michael Beasley each scored 27 to lead a Wolves’ bench that scored 72, most in the NBA this season and two points away from a franchise record set in 2009.
Here’s the game story from Tuesday night, when Williams and Beasley each gave the kind of performances for which Rick Adelman has been searching:
One that will keep him from having to play Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio 40 minutes or more again.
Rubio played fewer than 29 minutes, and just 84 seconds in the fourth quarter when Adelman again turned to Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea like he did in last Wednesday’s unlikely comeback victory over Utah at Target Center.
Love played just 25 minutes, both because of early foul trouble and because of a rib injury sustained in the third quarter.
He put on a padded shirt and said he was prepared to play in the fourth quarter, but Adelman never needed him because of both Williams and Beasley, who combined to shoot 80 percent (20-25) from the field and made all seven threes they attempted (4 for Williams, 3 for Beasley).
Love said he was hurting after the game – he said DeAndre Jordan hit him in the back and he got hit a couple times after that – but said he has a high pain threshold and expects to play Wednesday night against the Lakers at Staples.
A couple other things about Tuesday’s game:
· * Clippers star Blake Griffin scored 24 points by halftime, 29 by the end of three quarters and…just one more point after that in the fourth quarter, thanks to Blake Buster Darko Milicic, who played 10:36 of the fourth quarter and was mostly responsible to shutting Griffin down and allowing the Wolves to outscore the Clippers 36-21, the same lopsided fourth-quarter margin by which they outscored the Jazz six days earlier.
· * The Wolves’ 27 assists were a season high. Rubio had nine of those in his 28:58 played and Barea had seven of them and Milicic, of all folks, had five.
* The Wolves moved over .500 Tuesday night with another comeback victory in which both Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio sat either all or most of the fourth quarter.
Now can they stay there?
“We can try, no guarantees,” Beasley said after the Wolves' second victory at Staples Center over the Pacific Division leaders in five weeks. “If we play like we played tonight second half, it’s no question.”
The last time the Wolves slipped into winning territory, they beat Sacramento at Target Center on Feb. 7 to get to 13-12, then lost four consecutive games, their longest losing streak of the season.
This time, they have gotten there again, this time by winning consecutive comeback games and by winning five of their last six games.
S So when, you might ask, is Adelman going to shake up a starting lineup that once trailed by 10 points in the first quarter and either replace ineffective Wes Johnson with Beasley or try Williams there at small forward?
I s I suggest you don’t hold your breath, but we’ll know shortly since the Wolves Tuesday started a stretch where they play three games in three nights on the road and 11 of their next 15 away from Target Center.
T That's it from Los Angeles Tuesday night.
I I'll blog at you again on Wednesday, when we'll find out with the NBA will allow Kobe Bryant and his broken nose to play or if the league's new concussion policies will keep him sidelined since Sunday's All Star Game.
It's pretty clear that both coaches involved in today's Timberwolves-Philadelphia game think very highly of each other.
Greetings. Kent Youngblood here. I'll be covering the game tonight, and Mr. Zgoda will pick the team up tomorrow.
Jerry had a nice story today about the job Doug Collins has done with the 76ers who, though they're struggled a bit of late, enter this game atop the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference. Both Collins and Wolves coach Rick Adelman have been in the game for a while, and both were asked to talk about the other in pre-game meetings with the media. Here's what they had to say:
First, Collins on Adelman: "Coach Adelman's teams have always been able to score," he said. "They execute very, very well. He runs an offense that guys get very comfortable with. . His big men have always been a big part of what he's done. Like in Sacramento with Brad Miller, Vlade Divac and Chris Webber; high-post, passing, shooting, dribble hand-offs. And he's given Ricky Rubio the ball and the room to make plays, play in the open court, play to his strengths. Rick is a great coach, and David Kahn, to be able to add Rick, with this young team that is building? Rick's done a great job."
And here is Adelman on Collins: "He's got a good basketball mind," he said. "He's very sharp, and I think he's a hard worker. When you get a team like this that's very young, a lot of young guys, he's going to give them an opportunity to succeed. I think that's what he does."
In other pre-game news:
--Adelman talked about -- and I will write more about it in Monday's paper -- how he expects teams to start doubling Nikola Pekovic more with the success he's had. Actually, he expects both Pek and Kevin Love to get extra attention. As a result, both of the big guys will have to be aware of double teams and be ready to pass the ball out of the post to the open man.
--Thanks to Brad Miller, there was a little bit of rookie hazing going on Sunday. In the locker room, Miller put children's backpacks in the lockers of the three rookies -- Derrick Williams, Malcolm Lee and Ricky Rubio. They will be expected to bring 'em on the road at least up to the All Star break. Williams got a pink Princess backpack, Lee got a pink Hello Kitty backpack and Rubio got a purple one with Justin Bieber's picture on it.
Trust me, none of the rookies seemed thrilled. Said Adelman: "That sounds like Brad."
--Adelman said there were no changes to the starting lineup or rotation planned for tonight's game.
that's about it for now. I'll get back to you after the game.
Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic on Friday night became the first players in franchise history to record 30/10 points and rebounds in the same game.
Can you imagine what Houston coach Kevin McHale said to himself on his ride home tonight, beaten by the two guys he brought to Minnesota?
The Wolves and Rockets completed their four-game season series already with the Wolves winning the final three games and tonight they did so with Love and Pekovic combining for 63 points and 29 rebounds.
That's three more rebounds than the Rockets grabbed as a team.
Here's the game story from Friday's game, in which Rick Adelman campaigned afterward for Pekovic to get an invitation to next week's All Star Rising Stars game.
Adelman's point: If the NBA added Jeremy Lin and Norris Cole on Thursday to the game, how can they possibly deny Pekovic, who now has seven double-doubles in 10 February games.
Pek reached a career scoring high with 30 points, just two weeks after he put up 27 at New Jersey.
So while guys David Kahn brought to Minnesota -- Darko!, Anthony Randolph, Wayne Ellington and Anthony Tolliver -- sat and watched all night, Love and Pekovic went out and pounded the Rockets all night.
"I mean, look, they just beat us up," McHale said. "They just kicked our tail."
Nine of Pekovic's 12 rebounds were offensive boards, 28 of his 30 points came in the first three s.
Pekovic carried the Wolves to the verge of victory on his big, broad shoulders, and then Love took the Wolves the rest of the way.
The Wolves led 91-77 after three quarters when Adelman sat Pekovic down for a brief rest and went to a zone defense he used late in the third quarter, this time with Love at the center spot.
Adelman admitted afterward that the zone was a gamble, but he deemed it one worth taking because McHale sent Patrick Patterson out as his center and Adelman said he felt the Rockets would dice them with the pick-and-roll if they stuck with a man-to-man defense that had served them pretty well until then.
Instead, the Rockets made three threes -- one each from Chandler Parsons, Kyle Lowry and Courtney Lee -- during a 17-4 run that got them right back in the game and twice brought them back within a point, the last at 95-94 with fewer than six minutes left.
"I took a gamble," he said. "They had some guys who haven't made many threes all year and they just shot it."
And just quick as that, Love rescued the Wolves by scoring eight straight points, including a pair of HUGE back-to-back threes that set them off on a 16-4 run of their own to finish the game.
"This isn't about me," he said afterward. "This is about us competing down the stretch."
It's also about Pekovic's physical strength and confidence make Love's job easier recently.
"So much easier," Love said. "Just having him out there playing at a high level, he's consuming so many players and drawing so much attention from the other teams. It's allowing me more one-on-one opportunities."
I asked Love after the game if the Houston fans booed him tonight because he was the guy who planted his size 19 sneaker on Luis Scola's face or because he sent the Rockets home losers by scoring 14 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter.
"I think a little bit of both," he said. "Hopefully, they'll move past the stomp, know I learned from it and just remember me as a good player who beat them up in the fourth quarter."
Pek, meanwhile, just seems to play better and better by the game while Darko again sat all night tonight.
Darko wasn't alone. Wayne Ellington, the Anthonys (Randolph and Tollliver) and Brad Miller didn't get off the bench either now that it's clear Adelman will shorten his rotation despite the demanding schedule as much as he feels he needs to if it's going to mean a chance to win every night.
Tonight that meant every starter but Wes Johnson played more than 39 minutes and Michael Beasley and Martell Webster each played 18:50 while Derrick Williams played 9:50.
Getting an idea who the coach trusts?
Pekovic played more than anybody, 42:22.
Pek credits beginning the season playing in Europe during the lockout with keeping him in shape and ready to do what he's doing now.
"I was playing back in Europe, I was pretty much ready in shape," he said. "I already played 20 games there before I came here. When I wasn't playing here, I was just trying to keep myself in shape. As my father said to me, `Keep working, something must happen.' So it just started, little by little."
And little by little now adds up to something pretty big.
"Pek is playing unbelievable," RIcky Rubio said. "Everybody knows Kevin can do that. Not a lot of people knew Pekovic can do that. I knew it because he played in Europe before and I saw him a lot of times and I knew he is able to do stuff. But he's showing up everybody what he can do. He's a monster. He's huge. He's a great player."
Rubio, btw, apologized to Adelman after tonight's game for his six turnovers.
He also had 18 points (on 6 for 13 shooting), nine assists, two rebounds and a steal and seemed so in command of his team and the game when the Wolves built up that 17-point lead.
"I turn over like six times," Rubio said. "Our goal was to control the ball, especially with me. I struggled with that today. I got six, especially in the last quarter (when he had two) in tough moments."
That's all from Houston here Friday night.
Kent's got Saturday's practice and Sunday's game against Philadelphia before I pick them back up Monday in Denver for a long run through the All Star break -- I'll be in Orlando along with KLove, Rubio and Williams -- and then onto a four-game Western road trip that kicks off nearly a month of being on the road far more often that not.
They play 14 of 20 games after the All Star Game on the road.
That might not be such a bad thing, considering they're now 7-6 on the road and 8-10 at home.
"I don't understand it," Adelman said. "It just seems like we just play better on the road. I just told them, `We want to go home and beat a good team.' We're playing a really good team on Sunday. If we're going to hang around this thing (a playoff hunt), we're going to have to beat these good teams. That's the only way we're going to hang around."
Finally, here's Rubio's behind-the-back-with-English pass to Love in the game's final minute.
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