Practice Report: Monday, March 26





Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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The Timberwolves took every precaution to help the roster heal and rest during Monday’s practice at the LifeTime Fitness Center, which is why guards Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea, forward Kevin Love and center Nikola Pekovic all did not participate.

Barea missed Sunday’s game with a right thigh contusion and Pekovic has been sidelined with bone spurs in his right ankle, while Ridnour and Love have battled significant minutes over the course of this condensed season. Coach Rick Adelman said heading into back-to-back games at Memphis and Charlotte beginning Tuesday, he’s not sure which combinations of players will be available. After practice, the team announced Barea did not make the two-game trip.

"It's just been one of those seasons. A lot of guys have been hurt a lot, and JJ just getting back and starting to play really well and then having to miss one," Ridnour said. "But I think he'll be back and ready to go."

Meanwhile, Love has moved into the center position with Pekovic out and has still put up big numbers despite changing roles. He said he feels comfortable with the move, and it's showing. He scored 51 points while starting at center against Oklahoma City and put up 30 points and 21 rebounds against Denver.

"I'll do whatever coach needs me to do, play whatever position," Love said. "If he throws me out there to play point guard, I'll do that. I don't know, I haven't had much experience [at center] this year, but if coach puts me out there with derrick at the forward, I'm ready to go."

Forward Michael Beasley said he played in Love's shoes on Sunday against Denver to give his sprained great toe on his left foot a little more room. He said he continues to ice it and receive treatment, and he said he will play tomorrow at Memphis.

"I can definitely play," Beasley said. "Limited like last night, but I'll definitely play hard the minutes I get."

Beasley had a visible limp after Monday's practice but said with 16 games remaining he's going to do everything he can to help the Wolves stay in postseason contention.

"We trying to make a playoff push, and I feel like I can do a little more to help that," Beasley said. "And the only way I can help is if I'm on the floor.

Staying in playoff contention

The Wolves picked up a big 117-100 win over Denver on Sunday, keeping them 2.5 games back in the Western Conference playoff hunt. Adelman said the team needs to believe even with the injuries piling up that they still are very much in contention.

Houston currently holds the eighth spot, and Minnesota holds a 3-1 tiebreaker over the Rockets. Minnesota is 1-1 against Denver and Phoenix, two teams sitting in the ninth and 10th spots in the West.

“I’ve asked the players to believe that, and I believe that’s what we have to do,” Adelman said. “You know, there’s teams around this league that have had injuries, and they go out and they win games. And that’s what we have to do. We have to try to win in Memphis and win in Charlotte, and I think we need to get some type of winning streak going here and close the gap with these other teams because you look around there, and Utah's playing well, Houston's been playing well, Phoenix has been playing very well since we beat them. So I think it's just something the players have to believe that we can do.”

Lee getting extended minutes

Wolves rookie guard Malcolm Lee is seeing more time on the court with the team’s recent injuries. He backed up Luke Ridnour at point guard on Sunday against the Nuggets while Barea was inactive.

Lee played 14 minutes and scored the first regular season basket of his NBA career in the second quarter against Denver. He finished with three assists and one rebound. Lee said he is comfortable on the floor and is trying to make his imprint on defense.

“I pretty much know all the sets and stuff,” Lee said. “It’s just getting a rhythm and just knowing my teammates and just playing with them.”

At 6-foot-5, Lee has the size and the athleticism to guard players in both the shooting guard and point guard positions. Assistant coach Terry Porter said Lee is capable of playing both positions in the future.

For the moment, however, Lee is tasked with helping at point guard. If Barea misses more time, Lee is next in line when Ridnour needs a breather.

“As a basketball player you just need to be prepared,” Lee said. “I’m just trying to be prepared and take advantage.”

Love said Lee has continued to work since his knee surgery earlier this year and has put himself in position to contribute when the team needs him.

"He's a guy who's stayed ready and continues to work hard," Love said. "He's ready to play, ready for an opportunity, and we love having him on the team. He's a big combo guard that's gonna have a lot of success."

Others picking up minutes

Adelman said he’s been impressed with how forward Anthony Tolliver and guard Wayne Ellington continued to keep themselves ready to play despite fluctuating minutes over the past two months.

Ellington played 59 total minutes in February, averaging 6.9 minutes per game. But in March with Rubio’s season-ending injury, he’s seen that total jump to 20.3 minutes per night. He’s averaging 8.0 points per game in March and is hitting 50 percent of his shots.

Tolliver averaged 8.9 minutes per game in February but is now averaging 19.4 minutes per night in March. He’s tallying 7.3 points per game, is hitting 55.6 percent of his shots and is adding in rebounding and defense when he’s on the court this month.

“I give Anthony Tolliver and I give Wayne a tremendous amount of credit for the way they’ve stayed with it, and they’ve kept themselves ready,” Adelman said. “They’re in great shape right now. They’re feeling good, and they’re playing well.”

Love helps launch ‘Hoops for St. Jude’ Week

The Timberwolves announced today that forward Kevin Love is one of seven NBA players who have teamed up to raise funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, one of the world's premier pediatric cancer research centers, during "Hoops for St. Jude" Week (March 26-30).

Love, Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay, Dwight Howard, David Lee, Dwayne Wade and Denver head coach George Karl have joined together to serve as ambassadors for kids of St. Jude and will join the league and teams to raise awareness and recruit fans to support the hospital and its mission of finding cures and saving children. Love has served as a spokesman for St. Jude and helped in fundraising efforts during each of the past three seasons.

"I'm pleased to once again be involved in supporting St. Jude," Love said. "I've had the privilege of touring St. Jude and visiting with patients. I'm excited to continue my support and encourage basketball fans to join our Hoops for St. Jude team and donate to St. Jude." Fans can join Kevin Love and the Hoops team during the five-day celebration by logging on to www.stjude.org/hoops and donate to St. Jude or bid in the online auction. All funds raised will help children battle cancer and other deadly diseases.


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