Wolves Combat Injury Woes, Bring In Josh Howard
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Editor's Note: Story updated at 10:40 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 16 to reflect announcement of Josh Howard officially signing with Timberwolves
With injuries mounting and the team in need of a boost, the Timberwolves have signed free agent forward/guard Josh Howard. Howard signed this morning, participated in the team's morning shootaround and is expected to be in uniform against the Golden State Warriors tonight.
Coach Rick Adelman said after Thursday’s practice that the team met with Howard while the team was in Dallas this week. The nine-year NBA veteran spent 6 ½ of his nine professional seasons with the Mavericks before playing parts of the past three seasons in Washington and Utah.
Adelman said the hope is Howard can play against the Warriors at Target Center, easing the minutes burden on veteran Andrei Kirilenko in particular. Kirilenko has played at least 42 minutes in each of his last three games and has posted 44 minutes in each of the last two contests.
“Hopefully he can give us some spot minutes at the start until we see where he is conditioning-wise,” Adelman said Thursday. “When we saw him work out, he looked fine. We have to do the physical, we’ll wait and see.”
Minnesota announced Thursday that it waived Conroy to make room for Howard on the 15-man roster. Conroy averaged 5.0 minutes per game in four appearances this season.
The signing comes in the midst of a series of continuous injury woes for the Wolves. Already starting the season without Ricky Rubio (left knee surgery) and Kevin Love (broken right hand), Minnesota is currently missing JJ Barea (left mid-foot sprain), Brandon Roy (sore right knee), Chase Budinger (torn left meniscus) and Nikola Pekovic (sprained left ankle). On Wednesday, Malcolm Lee left the game in the second half with leg cramps.
In particular, with Budinger expected to miss 3-4 months after undergoing surgery, Adelman said a move to add depth on the wing was necessary.
"When [Chase] went down, and we heard the severity of the injury, we needed somebody at that spot," Adelman said. "We looked at him, and he seemed to be a good candidate."
The result was Minnesota playing with eight players down the stretch of Wednesday’s 89-87 loss to Charlotte, a game in which the Wolves trailed by as many as 16 but came back to tie the game with 12 seconds left. Kemba Walker drained a jumper with 0.7 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Howard was a consistent scorer during his top years in Dallas, averaging at least 18 points per game in three straight seasons from 2006-07 to 2008-09. He scored a career-best 19.9 points per game in 2007-08 and is a career 44.8 percent shooter. He’s also averaged 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists over his career. He was an All-Star in 2007.
Howard averaged 8.7 points per game on 39.9 percent shooting a year ago with the Jazz. He, too, suffered a knee injury in 2010 and was not under contract to start the 2012-13 season.
Wolves forward Derrick Williams said he grew up watching Howard and knows the type of player the Wolves will get with him on the roster.
“He’s a good player,” Williams said. “Plays hard. I’ve seen him on TV, growing up watching him. He plays hard, and that’s what we need: Someone who can guard another 2 guard.”
Wolves center Nikola Pekovic said Howard nicely fills a void in this roster.
"We needed a player, especially with Chase out 3-4 months," Pekovic said. "We just needed somebody who was going to help us. We needed help in these moments."
The 32-year-old Howard was selected 29th overall in the 2003 NBA Draft out of Wake Forest and quickly became an impact player on the Mavericks. In his second season, he started 76 games and averaged 12.6 points per game. He would average at least 10.0 points a night for the next seven seasons.
Adelman said Thursday’s practice was light, and joked that the most contact the team did was talking. But leading up to Friday’s game against Golden State, Adelman said he’s leaving the decisions on which players will play up to a joint decision between the players themselves and the medical staff.
“It’s really up to them, what they did today and how they respond,” Adelman said. “If the medical people think they can play, I think we would probably do it. If there was a question they would reinjure it, then no.”
The Wolves have one more game before a four-day layoff leading into Wednesday against Denver, and being able to rest those players to ensure further recovery is route the team can take. But with so many players on the bench, getting personnel back on the court is a top priority.
Pekovic said he ran and did drills at Thursday’s practice, and the official decision on Friday’s status will be made tomorrow.
“I feel good,” he said. “I’ve just got some pain, but I hope I play tomorrow.”
Roy said prior to Wednesday’s game that he hopes to return on Friday, but he also said he wanted to get some contact work in prior to returning to game action. Barea continues to recover, and he remains questionable for Friday.
“We’ve got the Magnificent Nine, or Eight now that Will is gone,” Adelman said. “I wanted to rest them, so we did spot shooting and free-throw shooting.”
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