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.
Kevin Garnett was back at Target Center this morning, and once again drawing a crowd.
He was one of the relatively few healthy Brooklyn Nets who were at the team’s shootaround this morning. (The Nets, by the way, will be without guard Deron Williams (ankle), forward Andrei Kirilenko (back), center Brook Lopez (ankle) and guard Jason Terry (knee) for tonight’s game with the Wolves).
The Nets are struggling to find a rhythm, with so many new faces and so many injuries making it difficult for them to get to know each other. The Nets are 3-8, 1-6 on the road and have lost three straight overall heading into this game. The Wolves, meanwhile, have lost two straight.
But back to Garnett, who, along with Paul Pierce and Terry, were traded from Boston to Brooklyn during the off-season.
“It’s always good to come back to Minnesota,” Garnett said, surrounded by both New York and Twin Cities media members. “The Twin Cities have always been like a second or third home. Always enjoyed the fans here.”
Garnett had nice things to say about the Wolves, calling Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love one of the best 1-2 punches in the league. He called the Wolves “electrifying.’’
“They play with a real fast pace,” Garnett said. “Kevin Love is in an unbelievable groove…. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. And trying to slow any of these guys down is going to be a task for all of us tonight.’’
But Garnett deflected any questions about where he is at in his career. When asked if he has contemplated retirement after this season, he said, “Next question.” A question about whether he could see a scenario in which he finished his career in a Wolves uniform got the same response.
Indeed, Garnett said, he is not thinking much about the past or the future. He’s worried about the present. Namely, trying to get the Nets back on track. “You deal with reality,” he said. “You deal with the current (situation). I don’t think outside of whatever I’m doing at the time. And the focus needs to be (there). ‘’
Garnett said he’s maintained a relationship with Flip Saunders, his coach when he was here and currently Minnesota’s president of basketball operations.
Here’s one final Garnett quote: “There is a lot of emotions that come with this building,” he said. “A lot of emotions that come with some of the stuff that’s in here. But, obviously, different time, different personnel, different times.”
In other items:
--Kirilenko met with Alexey Shved Thursday night. The two players, both from Russia, were very close last season, and Kirilenko said he’s been trying to help Shved through his struggles early this season. The two talk once or twice a week. “He’s in a tough position now, game-wise,” Kirilenko said. “But for young guys he has to use every opportunity. If you play five minutes, go hard. If you play 10 minutes, go hard. Play one minute, go hard. And if you aren’t playing, cheer for your teammates. Be positive and wait for a chance.”
--Kirilenko said he’s happy with the Nets, but admits that he sometimes wishes things had gone differently in the summer. Kirilenko opted out of the second year of his deal with the Wolves – one that would have paid him a little over $10 million – to become a free agent after last season. He rejected a multi-year offer from the Wolves at a lesser salary. Ultimately he ended up signing a two-year deal with the Nets that will pay him $3.2 million this year.
--Kevin Love got two stingers in his right arm during Wednesday’s loss to the Clippers, but said this morning that the arm is fine. “It didn’t affect my shooting,” he said of Wednesday’s game. “It was just an off night. But I feel good today.’’
It will be interesting to see the two Kevins tonight. They last faced each other in Target Center two years ago at the end of March, 2012. Love had played amazingly well in the month and there was talk about whether he might ultimately turn out to be the best forward named Kevin to play for the Wolves. Garnett got the better of things that night, scoring 24 points on 12-for-18 shooting with 10 rebounds in Boston’s 100-79 victory. Love scored 22 with 11 rebounds but shot 5-for-18 that night.
It’s my guess that Love will fare better tonight.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you just before the game.
And now, Kevin Martin said, we’ll find out what the Wolves are made of.
This is not necessarily a crucial part of the season. It’s too early, there are too many games left. But the Wolves’ poorly-played loss in Washington has now become a two-game losing streak. And the team’s upcoming schedule is scary, to say the least.
Friday the Wolves played hard, but looked tired. Especially Love who, frustrated with what he thought was excessive force on the part of the Clippers, struggled with his shot.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
--Love thought the Clippers got away with too much. But the Wolves did have a big edge, getting 31 free throws to the Clippers’ 16.
--Still, it was a tough game, with the Clippers getting called for two flagrant fouls.
--What a night by Chris Paul. He scored 16 of his 20 in the fourth quarter, personally keeping the Wolves at bay down the stretch, taking time to smile at the Wolves bench a few times while he did it.
--Martin was nearly as good as Paul. He got his first double-double since 2009, scored a game-high 28 points and scored 15 in the fourth quarter on 6-for-8 shooting.
--It has become pretty clear that teams, having done their homework, are not allowing Brewer to get that fast-break pass as much these days. But Love – who had five turnovers – keeps trying.
--Center Nikola Pekovic continued his strong recent play. He scored 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting. Over his last six games he has shot 44-for-64 (68.8 percent).
--There is still work to be done with the Wolves bench, which was out-scored 32-18 tonight.
That’s about it for now. Have a good night.
Greetings from Target Center.
The Wolves will try to forget about last night’s loss in Washington with a better effort against a Clippers team that had a four-game winning streak ended in Memphis Monday night. The Clippers had yesterday off, while the Wolves are playing the back end of a back-to-back.
Some items for tonight’s game:
--The Clippers will be without top reserve Matt Barnes tonight because of a sore eye. Clippers coach Doc Rivers wasn’t sure pre-game how Barnes minutes would be divvied up.
--Much was made of Rivers having walked nearly to midcourt to call a time out late in the Clippers narrow victory over the Wolves Nov. 11. Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders was giving Rivers – who got the time out and wasn’t called for a technical – about it. To which Rivers said, “Flip, of all people? My gosh. When he was over there talking about it, I said, ‘Flip, you coached from mid-court. Are you kidding me?’ ‘’
--Rivers on power forwards Kevin Love and Blake Griffin. “We were talking about how often they’re compared and how different they are. You couldn’t have two more different players. But when you look at just numbers, they look the same.’’
-The Wolves will be looking to get more out of shooting guard Kevin Martin, who will be trying to bounce back from Tuesday’s 4-for-17 performance.
--Another thing to watch for: turnovers. Washington made the Wolves pay for their turnovers Tuesday. They have to take better care of the ball tonight.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you after it’s over.
Wolves are about to tip it off here in Washington against the Wizards in a game that starts another five games-in-seven days stretch.
And there's all kind of storylines here on a night when rookie Shabazz Muhammad again is unavailable because of a sprained right ankle:
Flip Saunders came in early for the game, arriving Sunday to check out the condo he still owns here from his Wizards' coaching days and to visit his son Ryan, a Wizards assistant coach.
A.J. Price is back in the arena where he played last season and hoped to return this season but the Wizards showed no such mutual inclination.
Also here is Wolves GM Milt Newton, a Wizards' executive until Flip hired him away last summer.
Wizards coach Randy Wittman is coaching against the team he once coached both as an assistant and as head coach and chatted with old friend Flip earlier today.
And Kevin Love is playing against the first guy who ever coached him in the NBA, an experience that Love didn't feel too fondly about when Wittman coached him starting in 2008.
Asked if he still hears Wittman yelling "No!" at him now when he shoots threes, Love before tonight's game said, "I'm past that now. That was a long time ago."
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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