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.
Flip Saunders' illness that kept him from this morning's shootaround has kept on keeping on, and he will not coach tonight against Denver at Target Center.
Top assistant Sam Mitchell will coach tonight instead as the Wolves try to end that 11-game losing streak.
Chase Budinger remains ill as well and will miss his second consecutive game. Robbie Hummel missed the shootaround and also will not play.
Two other things:
* Veteran Mo Williams is starting for Zach LaVine tonight. That's the only lineup change made after Flip promised after Saturday's game that there probably would be some changes.
* Andrew Wiggins today was named the West's Rookie of the Month for December. He's 2-for-2 in that award this season.
There's something going around the Timberwolves, but it's not the mumps.
Chase Budinger is out ill for tonight's game against Denver, for the second consecutive game.
Robbie Hummel also is ill and did not participate in Monday's morning shootaround. He is considered questionable for tonight's game, when the Wolves will try to end their 11-game losing streak.
Even coach Flip Saunders is sick. He wasn't at shootaround, either, but is expected to coach tonight. If he doesn't, top assistant Sam Mitchell would take over, I presume.
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.
Greetings from Target Center, where the Wolves are about to host Sacramento.
You have to wonder whether Wolves coach Flip Saunders was secretly hoping the league would take disciplinary action against Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins and Boston’s Marcus Smart got into it going for a rebound during the Kings loss to the Celtics last night, a play that ended with Cousins throwing Smart to the floor and being ejected from the game. It was the Kings’ ninth loss in 11 games.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, the big center will be in uniform tonight.
And that presents some difficult matchup problems for a Wolves team still without Nikola Pekovic.
“He is a difficult player for us to guard,” Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. “We’ll try to do a lot of different things. We’ll throw a lot of things at him. He’s a handful. He has the ability to play both inside and outside, and he makes free throws now. And he’s a great passer. You have to throw different things at him, hope you can frustrating him a little bit.’’
Meanwhile, Wolves guard Kevin Martin did some shooting again today – he was doing a bunch of shooting after practice yesterday. His right wrist, surgically repaired Nov. 25, continues to feel good and his return could come sooner or later.
It’s been five seeks since surgery, four weeks since he started his rehab. He said before the game tonight that it’s not out of the question that he would return in two weeks, should his progress continue. Saunders had said a game or two in the D-League might be best for Martin before returning to the Wolves lineup. But, talking to Martin, it sounded like he isn’t too hot on that idea.
Saunders also said that center Nikola Pekovic, who missed his 22nd straight game tonight, will have an MRI on his sore ankle next week. If it comes back clean, Saunders said Pekovic – who has been doing some running on a treadmill, might be worked back into practice.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you after the game.
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.
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