Timberwolves starters Nikola Pekovic and Thaddeus Young were missing from the team’s first practice back home Monday after that six-game, 13-day road trip, but Corey Brewer was still here.
Bothered by the same sore ankle that sidelined him for parts of the past two seasons, Pekovic missed Monday’s practice because of what coach Flip Saunders called a “personal situation” supposedly not related to the hurting ankle he said after Saturday’s loss at Dallas has bothered him since Wednesday’s loss to Houston.
Young remained away from the team Monday following his mother’s death last week. Saunders said he would know more on Tuesday whether Young will return in time for Wednesday’s game against New York that starts a four-game homestand.
But Brewer remained present, one day after ESPN.com reported the Wolves were in trade discussions with multiple teams — Cleveland and Houston foremost among them — involving him.
Saunders dismissed the notion Monday.
“That’s all you guys,” he told reporters. “Everyone’s always trying to find something going on.”
Both the Cavaliers and Rockets have trade exceptions large enough to absorb Brewer’s $4.7 million without taking a current player’s contract back in exchange. Doing so would leave the Wolves with a roster spot they could use to sign a point guard to help rookie Zach LaVine and veteran Mo Williams until Ricky Rubio returns from a severely sprained ankle.
But Saunders, also the Wolves president, reiterated Monday he is not searching for a point guard and plans to keep on keeping on with LaVine and Williams.
“We knew coming into the season what we were going to do,” Saunders said, referring to a vision more about the future than the present. “We’re not just going to make a snap decision to help us win four more games if it’s going to hurt us in the long run. That’s the direction we went in. I don’t think there’s great point guards just sitting out there. There are good point guards. But could that change? Anything could change. But we’re going to see how things play out.”
Brewer said he received “like 30 phone calls” Sunday night from friends and acquaintances about the report.
“I’ve heard trade rumors all the time,” he said. “It’s just rumors until it happens. I’ve been traded twice. It doesn’t affect me. I come to work every day, that’s how you become a professional. I wouldn’t have made it eight years in the league if I didn’t.”
Saturday, the Wolves started rookies LaVine and Andrew Wiggins and second-year forward Anthony Bennett, and they played second-year center Gorgui Dieng 26 minutes in a lopsided loss, one night after they got thumped at New Orleans as well.
“It’s hard to go on a 13-day road trip and you lose your point guard the second game and now you’ve got a bunch of 19-year-olds playing,” Brewer said. “Man, I’m just glad we got back in one piece. … We’re still playing hard and we’re still trying to win the best we can.
“Every time I come to Minnesota, I feel like we rebuild, so nothing’s new there. We’ve got a bunch of good young guys. We’re trying to develop those guys because they have to get better for us to be good.”
Young’s return and Pekovic’s return to good health sure would help.
Pekovic scored six points in the two games at New Orleans and Dallas and after Saturday’s game said his ankle is “sore, a lot” and said, “I was feeling really bad.”
That will sound alarm bells for Wolves fans who saw him play 54 and 62 games the past two seasons because of injuries, particularly in his ankle.
“A lot of concern. Pek’s been struggling the last few games,” Brewer said. “You can tell the way he’s playing. He has no lift. He’s going to get it checked on and hopefully it’s not worse than we think it is.”
Update on Rubio
Rubio attended Monday’s practice, coming and going on crutches. Saunders said Rubio will be evaluated again once he no longer needs the crutches.