Practice Report: Monday, Jan. 7, 2012

Alex Conover
Web Editorial Associate

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While the Timberwolves will have to prepare for Kevin Love’s absence for several weeks, they did receive good news today in that Ricky Rubio is on track to play tomorrow against the Atlanta Hawks.

Rubio, who hasn’t played since Dec. 26 due to back spasms, is pain-free and looking forward to getting back on the court.

“I feel good, a little tired,” Rubio said after practice Monday. “A week without practicing, but I don’t have pain in the back or pain in the knee. So I feel good.”

Assistant coach Terry Porter agreed that Rubio looked fine at practice, and he added that the young point guard’s game minutes are yet to be determined.

“He looked pretty good,” Porter said. “Once he got loose, he didn’t have any issues with the back. His movement seemed to be good, so there isn’t any concern, really. It’s just always the next day and how his back responds after a workout.

“It’s going to be hard to tell [how many minutes he’ll play]. We’ll just have to wait and see. I think that’s something him and coach will talk about. I think it’s going to be at the number he was when he left... something in the 20-22 [minutes] range.”

Rubio played in five games this season after rehabilitating his knee from surgery in March. Before being sidelined with back spasms, he averaged 4.2 points and 4.0 assists over 18 minutes per game.

Wolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn also said center Nikola Pekovic didn’t participate in practice on Monday as a precautionary measure regarding his left hip strain suffered on Saturday, but he is expected to play against the Hawks on Tuesday night.

Love’s Prognosis

After re-injuring his hand against Denver on Jan. 3, Kevin Love saw a doctor Monday and likely will speak with New York hand specialist Dr. Andy Weiland sometime this week. Kahn is still not sure what the next course of action is for Love.

“Kevin saw a local doctor today, literally within the hour,” Kahn said, “but we don’t have anything definitive yet. He’ll still confer with the doctor in New York, but we don’t have a game plan.”

Practice Report: Ricky Rubio

Weiland is the same one who saw Love about his first hand injury earlier this season.

“This is the doctor that did his left hand a couple years ago,” Kahn said. “It’s the doctor he consulted with before determining the protocol for the previous break, so I think that this doctor will be involved. I think that this doctor is unavailable today, so I think tomorrow or maybe Wednesday at the latest. I think it is important that we let this doctor weigh in. I’m sure we’ll talk internally, and if there’s a change, we can tell you.”

When asked if he was looking at making a trade to balance out the roster in Love’s absence, Kahn said that there is some level of working the phones, much like any other team before the looming February deadline.

“Do I have anything cooking? No,” Kahn said. “We’re talking—as you can imagine—to a number of teams about possibilities. It’s very difficult to make significant trades in the month of January. If you look back historically, they almost don’t occur. The league is a deadline-driven league.”

A Big Opportunity for Williams

With Love sidelined for several weeks, second-year forward Derrick Williams will have a chance to emerge in Minnesota’s lineup. If he keeps playing like he did in the fourth quarter against the Blazers—where he scored 18 points as part of a late comeback effort—it will only help his cause.

“I think that if he were to step up and to play as he did in the fourth quarter the other night on a more consistent basis,” Kahn said, “in every way, then that would be a big help.”

Williams has started nine games this year for Minnesota, averaging 8.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. His 18-point output on Saturday night was his largest point total since scoring 23 against Golden State on Nov. 23.

“Sometimes when you’re a young player, consistency is something that every coach wants to him to get,” Porter said. “Every night the same effort, same type of productivity. He just has to take one game at a time; the important thing now is to be aggressive with the opportunity he gets. Coach [Rick Adelman] mentioned that as far as his ability to rebound, he seems to be doing that a lot better lately.”

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