OKLAHOMA CITY – Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders started his big lineup Monday in Oklahoma City for the second consecutive night, even though he admits it’ll take practice time and adjustment from all involved to successfully adapt.
Saunders started centers Gorgui Dieng and Nikola Pekovic beside each other — with Dieng at power forward — and moved Thaddeus Young to small forward against a Thunder team missing injured superstar Kevin Durant, just as he had done in Sunday’s loss at Atlanta.
Saunders called Sunday’s initial experiment some good and some bad, but Young responded with an active 26-point, seven-assist, six-rebound performance in what he called his first small-forward start in four or five years.
“It kind of caught me off guard,” said Young, who learned of Saunders’ intentions at Saturday’s practice. “I had to re-train my mind, thinking of moving to the 3. It’s an adjustment, but I’m a guy who makes adjustments.”
Young must adjust to the change in forward spots. Dieng must adjust to playing more out on the floor as a power forward now. And everybody must adjust to having Pekovic back after 31 games away.
“It gives me the opportunity to see the floor more,” Young said. “Being on the wing, you can see all the guys cutting and you can see the whole floor, so you’re able to make plays. But it’s still the same feel. I’m still going to try to find some way to get down there and bang with the guys.”
That frontcourt responded Sunday by moving the ball well. Young had seven assists, Dieng four, Pekovic one.
“You want to try to put your best players on the floor,” Saunders said. “You want to find opportunities for your players, no matter what position they play. It’s a work in progress. We haven’t had any time to practice it all, so it’s hard to judge something. Let’s see what we can do when have some practice time.”
Williams' hip hurting
Saunders called veteran point guard "pretty questionable" for Wednesday's home game against Boston, based upon the way Williams was moving with a bad hip late in Monday's 1-for-10 shooting performance. Williams injured his hip in Sunday's loss at Atlanta.
Martin return nears?
Veteran guard Kevin Martin returned to shooting workouts Monday for the first time in nearly a week now that he had fluid drained from his surgically repaired wrist, and said he’s hopeful he can return for Wednesday’s game against Boston.
“It feels better now than it did when I started practicing two weeks ago,” said Martin, out since November. “Getting it drained helps a lot.”
Martin smiled when asked how he shot it Monday, an indication he shot his 100 attempts very well.
“It was a good day,” he said. “That’s one thing I can do is shoot.
‘‘I’ll give it one more hard day of practice and see how I feel.”
Getting their chance
Saunders said reserve Chase Budinger and probably rookie Glenn Robinson III will have to play more now that Robbie Hummel is expected to miss the next four to six weeks after he broke his shooting hand Sunday in Atlanta.
“We only have like 11 healthy guys,” Saunders said. “Other guys will get opportunities.”
Hummel adjusted to life Monday with having his right hand protected by a cast.
“I had trouble brushing my teeth and eating,” he said. “I’m not good with my left hand.”
The Thunder is scheduled to fly to New York Tuesday afternoon for a game against the Knicks on Wednesday, just after a monster snowstorm hits. The situation brought back memories for Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who was a Wolves guard when that unforgettable Halloween 1991 snowstorm hit Minnesota just before opening night at Target Center.
“That’s the first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning,” Brooks said to a venerable Minnesota reporter. “I remember there were only a few people there and you were one of them.”
• Forward Shabazz Muhammad traveled to Vancouver to see a specialist about his outer oblique strain. Why Vancouver? Muhammad’s agent, Bill Duffy, also represents Steve Nash and the doctor who has treated Nash’s strains through the many years is in Vancouver.