Practice Report: Thursday, March 8

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic was dressed and participated in practice on Thursday at Target Center, and he said he plans to play Friday against the Lakers.

Pekovic missed the past two games with a sore right foot, and although Thursday’s practice was more of a light workout without contact, Pekovic spent time after practice doing some semi-contact drills with assistant coach Bill Bayno in the paint. He said the foot is still a little sore but there is no inflammation and he plans to play.

He said the toughest part is sitting out and doing rehabilitation instead of playing.

“Trust me, when you’re injured it’s more difficult than when you’re playing,” Pekovic said.

Pekovic could be a big factor on Friday as Los Angeles will bring bruising center Andrew Bynum to town. Bynum, listed at 7-foot-0 and 285 pounds, is averaging 16.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game this season. He’s averaging 17 points and 10 boards against in his two games against the Wolves, which were both Lakers wins.

Coach Rick Adelman was optimistic Pekovic would play in both games this weekend. Minnesota also hosts New Orleans on Saturday night.

“I think so, I hope so,” Adelman said. “They say he’s getting better. He said he feels good. I’m hoping tomorrow, because we’re going to need him tomorrow.”

White Out set for Lakers game

As the Wolves finished up practice on Target Center’s main court Thursday afternoon, workers began lining up free white t-shirts on each seat in both the upper and lower levels. Ticket holders will find a complimentary Timberwolves shirt waiting for them when they arrive for Friday’s game.

Given that the Lakers are coming in having lost two straight games against sub-.500 teams, forward Derrick Williams said the team will need to use the White Out to provide energy as they face a hungry L. A. squad.

“They’re going to be in an angry mood,” Williams said. “We need to match that intensity. They’ve lost a few in a row, and we’ve won a few in a row. They don’t want to lose three in a row, and we don’t want to lose at all.

“We’re going to have that White Out, and our energy is going to be pretty high.”

Johnson steps up vs. Blazers

Though forward Wes Johnson’s shot hadn’t been consistent this year heading into Wednesday’s game against Portland, Adelman said Johnson had continued to do things in the other phases of a game that has helped the Wolves off the ball. His defending and his rebounding have been key for the Wolves throughout the season regardless of if his shot was falling.

But when Johnson is on? Look out.

“It’s a huge difference when you get Wes making it or how (Martell Webster) made it in Portland. That happens, we’re a really tough team to play now,” Adelman said. “Our guards can score, Kevin (Love) can score and now you’ve got that other guy who can score. The more you have, the better team we are obviously. It sure opens up the court for us.”

Johnson exploded for 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the Wolves’ 106-94 win over Portland, not only hitting the offensive boards for put-back dunks but also finding his stroke from 3-point range. He shot 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

Adelman said the big thing is confidence.

“He’s just got to stay with it,” Adelman said. “What I’ve liked about him is he’s struggled and stuff but he’s still defending, he’s still rebounding, he’s still playing. There are other parts to the game.”

Lee likely to be recalled from Skyforce

With Wolves guard JJ Barea leaving Wednesday’s game against the Trail Blazers with a sprained left ankle, Adelman said rookie Malcolm Lee will likely be recalled from the Sioux Fall Skyforce of the NBA Development League.

Barea left the game in the second half and did not return after hurting his ankle and trying to tough it out through the subsequent offensive possession. Lee has played in three games for the Skyforce since being sent to Sioux Falls prior to their March 1 contest with Bakersfield. He scored a season high 18 points against Erie on March 3 and is averaging 10.5 points and 4.2 assists in six games in the D-League this year.

Adelman said the team is taking Barea’s injury day-by-day to see how he progresses. Barea has missed 16 games this season with ankle and hamstring injuries.

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