Practice Report: Monday, Oct. 22, 2012
The Timberwolves had a full house at practice today. According to coach Rick Adelman, all of the team’s players aside from Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love were active on the basketball court in preparation for the team’s next preseason game on Wednesday in Winnipeg against the Detroit Pistons.
One player who continues to be a focal point on the injury report is point guard Luke Ridnour, who has been on and off the court since training camp dealing with back spasms. His status for Wednesday is still up in the air depending on how he looks over the next couple days, but today at the LifeTime Fitness Training Center he looked like he was getting back to form.
“He looked a lot better,” Adelman said. “He says he feels a lot better with conditioning. He went through the whole practice and said he feels pretty good.”
That helps a lot when it comes to point guard rotations, particularly as the regular season nears and the Wolves continue to adjust to at least a month without forward Kevin Love on the floor. Having Ridnour available will help with timing, chemistry and efficiency working with the rest of the regulars.
Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko said once the point guards get more time rotating onto the court, the rest of the team will be able to benefit from the different attributes each brings. Ridnour brings strong outside shooting skills when he’s healthy, while JJ Barea brings more driving and penetration in the lane.
“They’re all aggressive with the ball,” Kirilenko said. “And I think it’s a good variety for us.”
Adelman said he’ll try to play Ridnour both games this week (Wednesday against the Pistons in Winnipeg and Friday against the Bucks in Green Bay) but will make those decisions based on how Ridnour is feeling.
After those two preseason games, the Wolves open up the regular season Nov. 2 at home against the Kings.
One thing that was evident in last Friday’s 92-81 loss to the Bulls was the difficulty stopping Chicago in the paint without center Nikola Pekovic on the floor. Pekovic missed the game with a hand injury, and in the process the Wolves had difficulty making up for his strength and physicality down low.
“He just takes up so much room. That really hurt us around the basket in Chicago,” Adelman said. “But he puts a lot of pressure on them. There’s a big difference when he is and isn’t in the game.”
Without Love, Pekovic’s presence becomes that much more important. In his absence, center Greg Stiemsma got the start and finished with nine points and seven rebounds. His niche is shot-blocking as well as being able to extend the defense with his ability to hit shots near the elbow. The key is having both Pekovic and Stiemsma healthy so they can complement one another when they rotate on and off the court.
“[Stiemsma] can protect the rim for us, rebound. He’s smart,” Adelman said. “But he’s just not as strong as Pek and doesn’t’ have the force inside the Pek does. He really affects shots around the basket and ahs a good instinct for it.”
The Wolves continue to focus on how Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham will work together and fill the void left by Love’s hand injury. Adelman said Williams needs to continue to be more aggressive, particularly being more active when he’s on the floor with Pekovic.
“He’s playing hard; he can’t just be a spectator on offense,” Adelman said. “He has to be a factor.”
Rebounding is a key for whoever carries the bulk of the minutes at power forward. When Love is available, he racks up the boards—last year alone he averaged 13 rebounds per game in 39 minutes of work a night. Adelman noted in 48:39 of playing time between Williams and Cunningham on Friday, the two compiled six total rebounds.
On the defensive end, Adelman said he’s growing. He just needs to be consistent on both ends of the floor.
“It’s decision making,” Adelman said. “Sometimes it just happens for guys. We have to have a real positive result from him and DC.”
- The Timberwolves underwent their annual media training session after Monday’s practice, a short tutorial on answering questions from the media throughout the season. Kirilenko, who has been in the league 10 years, said it’s a good way to prepare, especially when you’re new to the league. “It’s very interesting to see how the media relationship can affect different perspectives—positive, negative. I think it’s very beneficial, especially to the younger guys,” Kirilenko said.”
- The Timberwolves will have a full slate during their day and a half in Winnipeg on Tuesday and Wednesday, beginning right when they get off the team plane Tuesday evening. Alexey Shved and Chris Johnson will take part in a community project and kids clinic at the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre just after arrival. On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning the team is scheduled to host coaches and youth clinics headlined by members of the Wolves’ staff, NBA legend Clyde Drexler and members of the Harlem Globetrotters. Crunch and the Slam squad will also be on hand for events, and the Larry O’Brien Trophy will be available for viewing. The preseason game is part of the NBA’s Canada Series 2012 schedule, which also included the Raptors vs. Knicks game in Montreal on Oct. 19.