New starting shooting guard Kevin Martin returned to Timberwolves practice Tuesday after essentially missing three games last week.
He did so not because his sore Achilles’ tendon is all better, but simply because it is time.
“I know this system like the back of my hand, [but] I don’t know the players at all,” said Martin, who was united with Wolves coach Rick Adelman for the third time in his 10-year NBA career when he signed as a free agent in July. “That’s why it’s important for me to get out there to practice and also play in these last three preseason games.”
The Wolves collectively returned to practice Tuesday after Adelman gave them Sunday off and conducted a lengthy Monday film session following Saturday’s 104-97 preseason loss to Toronto that left Adelman perturbed.
They have five days of practice — sort of like another mini-training camp — before they play those final three preseason games, starting Sunday in Montreal against Boston.
So Martin practiced for the first time in a week, estimating he participated in about 90 percent of the afternoon session even though he said his Achilles’ remains sore but manageable.
That’s an important distinction, he said.
“As long as there’s no pain there, you can always play through soreness,” Martin said. “I don’t think I’ll do any more damage. I can read my body well from being in the league 10 years. Right now, I felt good. I wasn’t limited in my movements. I have to be out there.”
Adelman used preseason’s opening stretch of four games in six nights to play everybody healthy — that included Martin for one game and six minutes more — on his team’s 18-man roster.
He intends to use this week of practice and the remaining three games to familiarize his best players with each other and solidify his lineup rotations once Martin returns to the first team and shooting guard Alexey Shved returns to a bench role.
It also means determining who — veterans Othyus Jeffers and A.J. Price, rookies Lorenzo Brown and Robbie Hummel — will win the team’s final two roster spots if big man Chris Johnson is waived.
“I told them we have to figure out who’s going to be on the team, what’s the best makeup, what rotation are we going to use,” Adelman said. “These practices this week are just as important as the three games next week. That’s what I told them today. We’ll find out.”
And doing all that means balancing the state of Martin’s sore heel with the need to integrate him with fellow starters Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Corey Brewer.
That process started again with Tuesday’s lengthy practice.
“Totally different,” Adelman said of life with and without Martin. “He’s such a scorer, and he’s very difficult to guard. A lot of the things we’re doing are because of him. It’s important he and Kevin Love are out there on the court together so Ricky figures out how he’s going to get each of them involved.”
Presumably, some newfound continuity with his team will put Adelman in a better mood than Saturday night, when he flatly told his players after the loss to the Raptors that their approaching season will become simply whatever they make of it.
“You just have to understand him as a coach,” said Martin, who played for Adelman in both Sacramento and Houston. “He’s not going to get in your face, rah-rah. But when he speaks a certain way, you know it’s business time. After Saturday night’s game, he spoke as a business, matter-of-fact kind of guy. He wasn’t happy at all. I think we understand where he feels our team is at and if you’re a smart player in this league, we should realize where we’re at as a team.”