Practice Report: Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Alex Conover
Web Editorial Associate

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A large part of Minnesota’s win over Boston on Monday night was the contribution from Dante Cunningham, who scored 19 points—including 12 in the fourth quarter—to help ice the victory.

Aside from his offensive production, the Wolves also value Cunningham on the defensive end.

“He stays within himself for the most part,” coach Rick Adelman said of Cunningham’s recent success. “He makes the open shot, he makes all the hustle plays. Last night he got so many plays where he got his hands on the ball, he was in the right spot all the time, I threw him out in situations that I’m not sure he’s used to. He played the three-man, he played the four-man, he plays bigger or smaller guys. He’s the most active guy we have.”

Cunningham’s role this year is larger than on past teams, as his 24.8 minutes per game is the most playing time he has gotten in his four-year career.

“He’s playing a lot more games than he has in the past and a lot more minutes,” Adelman said. “It’s a long season, he would play some in Memphis and then he wouldn’t play for a while. With us it’s all the time, and guys have to get used to that... the minutes and the everyday play.”

For a guy who has been on four teams in four seasons, a consistent role where he is relied on is comfortable for Cunningham.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve done anything differently,” Cunningham said. “I just think I’ve been given a little more opportunity and a little more time here to develop on the court consistently. It’s a lot easier to get a rhythm when you go out and play.”

Monday wasn’t the first time Cunningham has come up big in the fourth quarter, either. While he has only started eight games this year, Cunningham often finds himself closing out games in the final moments, showing his value to coach Adelman.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say [I’m] a closer, just a solid defensive presence,” Cunningham said of his time at the end of games. “You’re at the same pace, you’re not worried about anything else. You really can’t overthink it, if you’re worried about making a big shot or a shot in general, you just have to be in the game and do what you’ve been doing the whole time.”

Love: Will He or Won’t He Return?

With a little more than two weeks left in the season, Kevin Love’s return is still very much up in the air. Some fans want to see the star forward return and play in the last few games, while others would prefer that he just play it safe and recover for next season.

Coach Adelman had nothing further to add, choosing instead to worry about the healthy players that he knows are active.

“I’ve gotten to the point where if he plays, great, if not we’ll deal with the guys I have here,” Adelman said. “We’re trying to finish the year, and I’m telling the guys to stay with it. Even if we’re losing, make a commitment to getting better. As a team, as a player, and if Kevin is there, great. But I have no control over it. You take each game and try to figure out how to get better as a team.”

One positive out of the situation is that chances have been granted to players like Cunningham and Derrick Williams to prove themselves at a position that would normally be occupied by Love.

“You have to look at if it’s worthwhile doing or not doing,” Adelman added. “This is an important time for Derrick, an important time for Dante, even Andrei [Kirilenko]. Trying to figure out what it looks like if I throw Andrei at the four-spot. There are times we will have to do that, especially defensively.”

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