Practice Report | March 18, 2014

The injury bug hit Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic during last Friday’s loss against the Charlotte Bobcats, and after missing Sunday’s game against Sacramento, there’s a chance Pekovic could miss some more time.

Right now, the Wolves have listed the bruising center as day-to-day with a sore right ankle. Pekovic suffered from right ankle bursitis in late January that forced him to miss more than a month of action.

The Wolves are hopeful that Pekovic doesn’t miss extended time, as they are already without center Ronny Turiaf who has a bone bruise in his right knee. Perhaps the silver lining in all of this is that rookie center Gorgui Dieng will have the chance to grow from his historic first career start on Sunday.

Dieng was the fourth player since 1991-92 to score more than 10 points, haul in more than 10 rebounds and swat more than four shots in his first career start. What might be more impressive is that he played nearly the entire game after being on the bench for most of the season.

“I think he’s really worked hard every practice, competes every practice. I think him and ‘Bazz (Shabazz Muhammad) have both been the same way,” said Wolves coach Rick Adelman after Tuesday’s practice at the LifeTime facility. “He’s really done that, and like I said, he played 37 minutes and to his credit, he was able to do that. He’s kept his conditioning up.”

Adelman said that Dieng would likely get the start at center if Pekovic can’t go. He did say, though, that could change if the opposition has a big man on the bench that Minnesota’s second unit wouldn’t be able to match. Then it would likely be forward Dante Cunningham at the center position.

“I'm just worried about things that I can control,” Dieng said. “I can get myself ready and just play the game. I don't know what's gonna happen ahead, but Pek coming soon or not, I'm just gonna use this playing time I have right now and do the best I can to help this basketball team.”

If Pekovic is unable to go on Wednesday, Dieng will matchup with Dallas center Samuel Dalembert. On Thursday against Houston, he’ll see All-Star Dwight Howard.

The March Madness Bug

With the NCAA basketball tournament starting this week, there was plenty of chatter after Tuesday’s practice of who the favorites are going into it. Dieng, who was on Louisville’s National Championship squad last season, is obviously rooting for the Cardinals, but he is not happy with their seeding.

“Oh, we got screwed,” Dieng said with a laugh. “We got screwed, but I believe in them. I think they're gonna go back to the Final Four.”

Point guard Ricky Rubio on the other hand hopes that Louisville doesn’t get back to the Final Four. In fact, Rubio is rooting against Florida (Corey Brewer), Arizona (Chase Budinger), Villanova (Cunningham), UCLA (Kevin Love, Luc Mbah a Moute, Muhammad), Gonzaga (Ronny Turiaf) and Connecticut (A.J. Price).

If you haven’t noticed, Rubio is rooting against all of his teammates when it comes to the tournament… but in a friendly way. We think.

“I always go against the guy who has his team, for example when UCLA plays I go with the other team so I can talk bad with Kevin Love and all those guys who are from UCLA,” Rubio said.

Of course, Rubio was a pro by the time he was 15, so he doesn’t have a college team to cheer for. The good thing with his strategy is that he has plenty of teams to cheer for. We’ll take Rubio over the field.

Quick Hits
  • Robbie Hummel was a ball boy for Valparaiso when he was a kid, and he lived and breathed Crusaders basketball. He was not there in 1998 when Bryce Drew his “The Shot” to beat Ole Miss, but he remembers being in third grade and stopping to watch the final seconds after he saw the game on in a teacher’s classroom.

  • Rubio talked about how Love has performed during the season: “He’s doing unbelievable. This season, he’s having one of the best ever, I think. He put up numbers and helped the team to win. That’s the most important thing. But I think he’s doing everything very well.”

  • Rubio on the necessity to stay focused for 48 minutes: “We just try to do our best and sometimes we lost our concentration. That can’t happen. I think that being all season long, so we have to figure out how to play hard every single game. Sometimes, I mean, it’s not your night but there’s a lot of things you can do even if it’s not your night.”

    For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.