Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Pacers
The Timberwolves arrived in Fargo for tonight’s exhibition game in an interesting position. Of the 17 players who made the trip, only four players from last season’s roster will be suited up as the Wolves square off against the Pacers at the Fargodome.
With Ricky Rubio, Malcolm Lee and Luke Ridnour all not available tonight, a lot of new faces will be getting playing time on the court as the 2012 preseason kicks off. That means there will be several areas to watch for in tonight’s game, most notably team chemistry and how the team looks defensively in its first matchup against an opponent.
All Training Camp, the Wolves have said they’ve felt like a cohesive group despite most of the players on the current roster coming from different teams last year.
“The biggest adjustment is playing with new teammates,” forward Chase Budinger said. “Getting used to where guys want the ball, how you play one guy towards another, and also just getting back into the rhythm of coach [Rick] Adelman’s system. Passing and cutting and working with one another.”
Budinger said miscues in an opening preseason game are to be expected, particularly defensive execution, missed coverages and turnovers on the offensive end. That comes with shedding the offseason rust and returning to NBA-game form.
Center Nikola Pekovic said the team continues to get acclimated defensively, and being able to see a different opponent tonight will go a long way toward improving in that department. If the Pacers’ regulars like All-Star center Roy Hibbert get minutes tonight, this first game against Indiana could be a physical opening night for this Wolves squad.
“It’s good, but it’s still we will see how we do tonight,” Pekovic said. “It’s our first game after a long time, and we will see how it’s going to be.”
Forward Andrei Kirilenko said the team has shown it has chemistry both on and off the court through Training Camp, but tonight will be the first step in seeing how different combinations work together.
“Right now it’s only words, it’s only on paper, but the more practice we get together we feel we’re getting on the same page,” Kirilenko said. “I think this team can go far and all the guys here are pretty young, except for me. There’s room for improvement and I hope we’ve improved on the team as well.”
Roy Gets First Game Action
Wolves guard Brandon Roy will be getting his first game minutes since making his comeback this season with the Timberwolves. Roy missed last season with knee problems but will play and is projected to start tonight in Fargo against the Pacers.
He went through his first pregame routine in more than a year this morning and afternoon, and he said he’s looking to get into a rhythm early.
“The biggest part is just going at it at Training Camp and seeing where I’m at,” he said. “After going through that I’m really confident. I’m just looking forward to playing, man, competing against another team and just starting to start the process of getting back and seeing where my game condition is.”
Roy said thinking back over his last two years in the NBA, the last time he felt as good as he does heading into a season was before his fourth year in the league. He said heading into his last season with Portland in 2010-11 he felt banged up.
So far this camp, his teammates are seeing a Roy that resembles the type of player he was before his retirement.
Roy said his minutes tonight will be determined by the coaching staff, though he thinks he might get more time in this preseason matchup than in years past in order to get his legs and timing back.
With back-to-back matchups in Indiana and home against Chicago on Friday and Saturday, he said it’s up in the air how his playing time will play out over the weekend.
“How it feels tonight after the game will be a big determining factor,” Roy said. “But I’m confident I’ll feel OK.”
- Wolves guard Alexey Shved should see significant minutes tonight with Ridnour and Lee unavailable, meaning he could get time backing up point guard JJ Barea as well as getting some looks at the shooting guard position. The Russia-native has played NBA preseason games before while playing for CSKA Russia in 2010, but tonight is his official debut with an NBA franchise. Budinger’s advice is to stay calm. “I pretty much just told him to have fun tonight,” Budinger said. “It’s the first official NBA game, just go out there, take it all in, play within yourself, have fun and do what you can do.”
- Andrei Kirilenko is also making his return to the NBA tonight. The 10-year veteran played last season in Russia before signing with the Wolves this offseason. He was greeted by a number of players and coaches from the Pacers as he headed into the Fargodome for shootaround and was welcomed back to the league.
- Brandon Roy said the team began feeling the buzz around tonight’s game in Fargo when they arrived last night. Sitting at team dinner, fans approached the players and let them know they’re excited to be at the game. It’s the first time Minnesota has played in Fargo since 2002. “It’s always cool to reach out to fans who might not be able to have a chance to come watch us at the Target Center,” Roy said. “It’s always good for players to come here, have a good time with it but also play hard and put on a good performance for people who are going to pay to come see us.”