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.
Greetings from Target Center. Here are a few items before the Wolves and the Celtics tip off:
--Wolves center Nikola Pekovic is good to go tonight. Pekovic got his foot stepped on last night in Denver, and he was pretty sore after the game. But, foot wrapped, he said he was OK to play.
--Boston coach Brad Stevens is starting Brazilian rookie Vitor Faverani in place of Kelly Olynyk because of the Wolves’ sizable frontcourt.
--Chase Budinger is back. Not back playing, just back. Budinger, who has been rehabbing his surgically-repaired knee in Florida, is back in Minnesota. He was walking around greeting his teammates prior to tonight’s game. He’s not ready to do much more than continue rehabbing, but he’s with the team again.
--This is the Wolves’ fifth game in seven nights. The team will be lucky enough to do the same next week, against the likes of the Clippers, Houston and Indiana. Adelman sounds like a coach getting pretty tired of the intense November the league handed his team; the Wolves will have played 18 games by the end of November. The Wolves don’t play again after tonight until Tuesday, their first two-day stretch without a game since the season started.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you after the game.
Kevin Martin is back feeling better and is expected to start tonight against the Nuggets in Denver in an early 7 p.m. Twin Cities start time.
If you're used to 8 p.m. starts from Denver and Utah, this one's an hour earlier because it's in the early time slot for ESPN's Friday night doubleheader.
Shabazz Muhammad won't play tonight -- what are the odds he would have anyway? -- because of a twisted ankle sustained in the fouth quarter of Wednesday's blowout win over Cleveland.
He was dressing back out of his warmups into a shirt and tie 45 minutes before tonight's game and won't be in uniform.
Tonight's game is the fourth in a stretch where the Wolves played five games in seven nights. They finally have two consecutive days off between Saturday's home game against Boston and Tuesday's game at Washington.
Just in case you haven't seen it, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love a year ago filmed a spot for ESPN's NBA coverage that just began airing on Friday. It takes place in the famous ESPN NBA recreational vehicle.
Productive Wolves shooting guard Kevin Martin will miss tonight's game against Cleveland at Target Center with flu-like symptoms.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman inserted Robbie Hummel into Martin's spot in the starting lineup, giving the rookie his first NBA start.
Martin had scored 20 or more points in seven of the team's eight games, with three 30-point games in that mix. He had scored his 10,000th career point Monday against the L.A. Clippers.
The Wolves will try to keep a streak going tonight when they play a Cleveland team that is 0-5 on the road this season.
They get a Cavs team that is without center Andrew Bynum, who, coming back from injury, played pretty well in Cleveland’s loss in Chicago Monday. Bynum is away for a family matter, and will be replaced in the starting lineup by Anderson Varejao, the versatile forward/center who will probably defend two or three Wolves during the course of the game.
In other pre-game news:
--Other streaks: Ricky Rubio has a steal in 29 straight games, the longest active streak in the league. Kevin Love has an offensive rebound in 83 straight games, also the league’s longest streak. Nikola Pekovic is second with 82. Love will be going for his 200th double-double tonight.
--Corey Brewer leads the league with 56 fast-break points.
--Kevin Martin has scored 20 points or more in seven of the team’s eight games, including three of 30 or more. He had 20 or more just 10 times with Oklahoma City last season.
No surprise with the starters: Love, Pekovic, Rubio, Martin and Brewer for the Wolves, Alonzo Gee, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Varejao and Dion
The Wolves are back at it tonight, and back at Staples Center for the second time in two nights.
This time, there's no 22-game losing streak against the opponent on the line.
Just a test whether the Wolves can come from Sunday's big 113-90 victory over the Lakers 24 hours later after asking a lot of their starters for the first three quarters.
A week ago, the Wolves won at New York while playing their starters big minutes and then came out the next night at Cleveland with dead legs on a night they trailed big and rallied only to lose when Kevin Love's winning three-pointer missed the final horn.
Well, Rick Adelman got a little prickly when I asked if he debated playing a guy like Love 33 of Sunday's first 36 minutes knowing Monday's game against a tough Clippers team awaited. He did get most of his starters out of the game for most of the fourth quarter when the Wolves pushed their big lead back up from 14 points at third quarter's end into the 20s.
“Everybody wants to look at that,” Adelman said when asked about starters’ playing time. “I wanted to win the game. I thought it was important. We’re trying to establish something. I don’t want to play people 45 minutes, but we’ve got to get ourselves to where we know what we’re doing and our bench hasn’t played real well. A lead can evaporate quickly.”
Adelman basically played a seven-man rotation Sunday, mixing reserves Dante Cunningham and J.J. Barea while he rotated his starters in and out of the game. He vowed after the game that those who didn’t play much Sunday – Derrick Williams, Alexey Shved, Robbie Hummel, etc. – will be asked to do more against the Clippers.
The Wolves didn’t have to travel Sunday night. They just went back to their Los Angeles-area hotel and came back to Staples Center the next night against a different opponent. Veteran Corey Brewer said playing time at this point in the season shouldn’t matter anyone.
“We can’t think like that,” Brewer said. “We’re young. We’re young guys with young legs. We’ve got to get it done.”
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