Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Jazz
With a solid road win against Cleveland on Monday, the Wolves are looking to build on that success and get another win before the All-Star Break. The team standing in their way is Utah, a divisional foe.
“We win the last game, and I feel really good for us because I think we played good all 48 minutes,” Nikola Pekovic said at shootaround today. “When we were down, we were still coming back, and tonight is going to be a difficult matchup for us. Utah is a really good team, and we should expect a difficult job. We want to take this game before the All-Star break.”
The Wolves’ last game against Utah, where they lost 106-84 and shot a season-low 35.5 percent, is in the past. Pekovic maintained that NBA players must have short-term memories when it comes to losing.
“The league is like that,” Pekovic added. “You can’t turn around, you can’t look back. Every two or three days is a new game. If you think about the previous game, you can’t be conscious of the next game. This is a new beginning for us.”
Veteran Andrei Kirilenko, who is currently sidelined with a strained right quad and will not play tonight, noted that the Wolves played well at the beginning of the year even with multiple injuries. He wants Minnesota to get back to that formula.
“I think we’re doing a little bit better,” Kirilenko said. “But we still have a lot of mistakes, especially finishing the game. We play a great game to the point of 35, 36 minutes, and then something goes on with us. Losing the ball, making the wrong decisions, but I guess it’s a process. Right now we are trying to get back that chemistry and that feeling from the first 20 games.”
Guard J.J. Barea is currently hampered with a left mid-foot sprain, but he played limited minutes in Cleveland on Monday and said he will give it a go tonight.
Standing in Minnesota's way is former Timberwolves center Al Jefferson.
“He’s tough,” Derrick Williams said. “He’s 6-foot-11, he can shoot the 15-footer, he can post up... he can do a little bit of everything. Guys like that, we have to play the best defense that we can. He’s one of the best players in the NBA with post ups and [isolations], we just have to be ready for them.”
Shved is Houston-Bound
As his fellow countryman and teammate Alexey Shved leaves tomorrow for Houston’s All-Star Weekend festivities, Kirilenko looked back on his experiences in his first trip to All-Star Weekend 10 years ago.
“I think it’s a great experience,” Kirilenko said. “I was very happy and excited when I was first chosen in the rookie game. Your heart is beating if they will pick you, and you are involved in all the activities. Seeing all the players, how nice and open they are, it’s a welcome to the league.”
Kirilenko felt his confidence grow after his own nomination in 2002, and he thinks Shved’s will, too.
“I think being there gives you a lot of confidence,” Kirilenko said. “It already gives you an idea how the game is going to be and what schedule you are going to face. In addition to being an All-Star, for him as a rookie, I think it’s a great feeling. A great idea that he’s going to be here for a long time. I think it’s a great achievement for his career.”
- Williams on last year’s last-second win over Utah with a Luke Ridnour floater: “We made open shots, shots we know we can make and Luke made a tough shot at the end, a floater over a shot-blocker in the end. And it really helped lead us into the break.”
- Pekovic on his plans over All-Star Break: “I’m going ice fishing tomorrow, coming back Friday, and then I’ll just be here. We will see. I have done it two or three times, I caught a few northern pikes and perch.”
- J.J. Barea and his injury progress, along with his All-Star Break plans: “[I’m feeling] better. Still sore, but better than yesterday and the day before. Just have to get through this one tonight and then go to Puerto Rico and put it in some hot water, hot sand, and then I’ll be back ready to go.”
- Kirilenko on watching games at home with his family: “Especially with my kids around, they say ‘Daddy, you have to be there,’ I say ‘I know.’”