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.
Ricky Rubio did not participate in this morning's shootaround in El Segundo because he is feeling ill and is being called a game-time decision for tonight's game against the Lakers.
Kobe Bryant, of course, won't play for the home team because of that fractured knee bone that will keep him out for the next six weeks.
If Rubio doesn't play, that leaves J.J. Barea as the starter and Alexey Shved and A.J. Price as backup options.
The Lakers are down three point guards -- Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar -- and LA coach Mike D'Antoni said before tonight's game that the Wolves should give his team a fighting chance.
When asked if his team catches a break if Rubio doesn't play, he said, "I don't know, (J.J.) Barea's pretty good, too. Maybe both of them. We have three out. At least they can have two."
Wolves guard Chase Budinger -- out all season so far because of that second knee surgery in 11 months -- has been cleared to participate in contact practices, starting tomorrow, the team announced today.
Still uncertain is how much practice he will need before he is cleared to play in a game.
You can be sure the Wolves will be conservative with him after he needed that second surgery to resolve his torn meniscus issue.
The Timberwolves are at home tonight against the Trail Blazers.
Dante Cunningham and Kevin Martin both were on the floor for this morning's shootaround at Target Center and there's chance both could play tonight against 22-4 Portland.
Rick Adelman said after Monday's game that he expected Cunningham would miss some time with a late-game ankle injury that looked bad because of Cunningham's reaction when he landed on a Celtics players foot and caming tumbling down in great pain.
"Yeah, I let out a little war cry," Cunningham said. "I did. I admit that. It was more shock than anything."
Adelman said he thought at that moment that Cunningham might have broken his ankle, but he was walking carefully on it after the game and was able to run on it this morning even though it remains tender and swollen.
"I'm moving on it right now and it's feeling pretty good," he said. "But it's still a little swollen."
Asked if he might be cautious with it, he said, "If I can run and I can move and I can benefit this team, I’m going to play."
Martin underwent treatment after practice and didn't talk with media members before leaving the arena, but I'm hearing he's feeling better with what likely is knee tendinitis. His knee first bothered him last week in Detroit and really flared up in the second half of Friday's game at San Antonio.
He said before Monday's game that he needed to get his knee "right."
We'll see if that has already happened in just two days or if he needs more time with three games left before the Wolves get three full days off for Christmas.
The Wolves are back home tonight, 24 hours after thumping the Pistons in Detroit 121-94.
Tonight, they've got Philadelphia in the second half of back-to-back games.
Before the game, Rick Adelman gave updates on injured Ronny Turiaf and Chase Budinger, both of whom remain out.
On Turiaf's fractured elbow, Adelman said, "He's not there at all yet. It's just healing a lot slower than they anticipated. It's just a slower process the doctors thought and he thought. He's getting better, but I think it will be a while yet."
He said he didn't know who'd return first, which is a surprising because I -- and others -- had assumed Turiaf will be back before Budinger, who coming off a second knee surgery.
"We're hoping Chase can practice the next couple weeks and then we'll see where he goes from there," Adelman said. "Right now, they're both unknown."
Chase Budinger was back on the Target Center court Monday, taking shots.
But, at this point, that’s about all he’s doing, at least as far as basketball is concerned. Budinger, the Timberwolves forward, is still working his way back from Sept. 30 surgery on the same right knee he had work done on a season ago.
The good news is that this second procedure was not as extensive, and he should be back more quickly than he was last year. Budinger originally injured the meniscus in the knee on Nov. 10, 2012 in Chicago, and didn’t return to action until March 21, 2013. He hopes to be back more quickly this time, but no timetable has been set for his return.
“I’m just taking it week by week,” Budinger said after practice today. “I am progressing, very well, each week. But I can’t really tell when I’ll be back practicing or playing. Right now it’s going slow, we’re taking our time, getting it right, getting it strong so when I do get on the court it will be 100 percent.’’
Budinger had the surgery done by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla. And Budinger remained there for the initial rehabilitation after the surgery before returning to Minneapolis late last week. Budinger made his first appearance at Target Center before Saturday’s game with Boston, when he went around the team’s locker room greeting his teammates.
Budinger, a California native, said he got a bit lonely at times while in Florida.
“It was very difficult when I got the news and how it happened right before the season,” said Budinger, who experienced soreness in his knee as he ramped up workouts before training camp started. “But I’ve been staying positive. I’ve actually had some help from my family. They bought books. I remember my uncle sent me like 10 books, all about the mental game, about staying ready, all this stuff. I’ve been reading those on my down time, and just staying positive knowing I’m going to be back on the court.”
At this point, besides doing some shooting, Budinger is doing a lot of exercises designed to strengthen the knee and the leg. He’s also doing some jogging on a treadmill. “Each week it’s getting better, it’s feeling stronger, and I’ve got to keep continuing that until it gets to full strength.”
Meanwhile, the Wolves actually got in a practice Monday before boarding a plane for Washington to embark on another stretch of five games in seven nights. The Wolves finished up such a stretch against Boston Saturday, and coach Rick Adelman continues to be crabby about his team’s early-season schedule. The Wolves have two back-to-backs in the coming week. They will return from Washington on Wednesday to play a Clippers team that had Tuesday off. They will play on the back end of a back-to-back in Houston on Saturday against a Rockets team that had two days’ rest.
“I don’t know if [the league] knows we’re almost to Canada and Houston’s almost all the way to Mexico,” Adelman said. “That doesn’t’ seem like a real good back-to-back to me.’’
Here is Adelman on a few subjects:
On finally getting a practice in: We have five in seven games and four in five days with the travel, so we did some things, but they weren’t real enthusiastic about it,” he said. “We went through some things offensively just to talk about things we need to clean up, and to talk a little about Washington defensively.’’
On the Wizards: “It’s a talented team,” Adelman said. “I think that’s why there’s a lot of frustration there. From what we read, there’s a lot of frustration there. I think they’re going to be a good team at the end, but right now they’re struggling.’’
A couple final things: Adelman had no update on center Ronny Turiaf’s elbow. Shabazz Muhammad, who missed the last two games with an ankle sprain, was able to practice today but was still sore.
That’s about it. Jerry will be with the team tomorrow.
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