The Timberwolves, in desperate need of healthy bodies, not to mention a victory, were without both of their 2013 first-round picks during Monday’s practice.
Forward Shabazz Muhammad will be out a few weeks because of an abdominal injury, and center Gorgui Dieng missed practice because of an illness.
“We can’t have everybody; it wouldn’t be good to have everybody at practice,” Wolves coach Flip Saunders joked. “It would be too easy.”
An MRI on Muhammad’s abdominal area revealed an external oblique strain that will sideline him for the next two weeks before he’s re-evaulated. Muhammad sat out the loss to the Spurs on Saturday but has performed well since the start of December, averaging 16.9 points and 4.9 rebounds over his past 20 games.
“Those things can be very delicate,” Saunders said. “You don’t want them to turn into anything more serious.”
Dieng had been sick the past few days and dealt with a sore throat on Sunday.
His status for Tuesday’s game against the Pacers is uncertain.
Signs of hope
Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio, center Nikola Pekovic and guard Kevin Martin all participated in practice Monday, though there’s still no timetable for their return.
Pekovic and Martin, who are dealing with ankle and wrist injuries, respectively, were full participants during the nearly 1-hour, 45-minute session. Saunders said Pekovic and Martin won’t be available against the Pacers, but they’ll travel with the team.
“We’re not going to take any gambles on them,” Saunders said. “We’re going to let them come back and get some practices. … They will do something again tomorrow [in Indianapolis]. We’ve got two practices in Phoenix, and we’ll be able to get a good evaluation after a couple of practices.”
Pekovic, who has been out since November, isn’t sure whether he’ll have a stint in the D-League before he returns to the lineup.
“I probably need a few more practices because this one was my first,” Pekovic said. “It was kind of tough so probably a few more practices, and then we’ll decide what’s best.”
Saunders said Rubio, who has been sidelined because of an ankle injury he suffered on Nov. 7, moved “extremely well” despite being limited. He only participated in noncontact drills.
“He’s definitely moving a lot better than he was,” Saunders said. “But as much running as they did today, the big thing will be how will they are tomorrow.”
The Wolves begin a four-game road trip on Tuesday that starts in the Midwest and concludes in the South. If they can’t pull out a victory against the Pacers, Suns, Nuggets or Hornets, the Wolves will set a franchise record with 19 consecutive losses Monday.
They’re on a 15-game losing streak, dating to Dec. 10 against Portland.
“You have to understand where you’re at — we’re not better than other teams right now,” Saunders said. “We’re being competitive, but we’re just not being able to win because our young players don’t have the ability right now to bring it home yet. It’s frustrating, but it is what it is because you have to be realistic in situations, too.”