Kevin Martin eager to get back up to speed despite Achilles
The Wolves hope to gel during a key week of practice, and an ailing Kevin Martin intends to lead them.
By PHIL ERVINFS North
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota's recent rash of injuries aren't the only impetus to exercise extreme caution with
A sore left Achilles tendon is certainly no torn ACL, but Martin's personal history and 10-year veteran status would seem to dictate taking great care with the Timberwolves' newly acquired, No. 1 outside scoring threat.
Yet they're all reasons he was back at practice Tuesday, not resting once again.
"I'm a guy that early in my career had too many injuries, so right now I have to be out there," Martin said. "I don’t like taking any time off, but this team, on paper we look pretty good, so we have to get going a little bit, and I have to be out there for that."
After missing the Timberwolves' past two preseason games to get the tendon behind his left foot up to snuff, Martin worked out at about 90-percent capacity at the Target Center Lifetime Fitness center. The strain was never going to keep him out long, but memories of 96 missed games from 2007-11 due to four separate ailments drove him to return as soon as team doctors and coach Rick Adelman would allow.
He didn't have to do much persuading; Minnesota wants Martin working alongside his fellow starters as badly as he wants to be suited up and participating.
"We need to get those guys on the floor together," Adelman said.
Martin left last Wednesday's game at Toronto about six minutes in and didn't return. He wore street clothes during Thursday's matchup with Milwaukee in Sioux Falls, S.D., and dressed but did not play Saturday against the Raptors.
Alexey Shved, a point guard by nature, got the nod at shooting guard in Martin's stead. The results were what's expected from a second-year, second-unit player still gaining comfort with working off the ball: a few nice plays here and there, but nothing overwhelming.
The same could be said of Minnesota's entire preseason thus far. Though not as scathing as he was in accusing his players of "going through the motions" after Saturday's 104-97 loss to Toronto, Adelman said Tuesday those in his charge still have a long way to go.
Starting with the starters.
"It's totally different" when Martin's on the floor, Adelman said. "He's such a scorer, he's very difficult for (opposing teams) to guard. I think a lot of things we're doing is because of him. I think it's important with him and Kevin Love they're out there on the court together and (point guard) Ricky (Rubio) figures out how he's gonna get each of them the ball."
That's a top priority during a week of practice Adelman plans to treat very similar to training camp. That means more 2 ½-hour-long practices like Tuesday in addition to scrupulous video review.
In addition to reacquainting Love with Pekovic and Rubio after Love missed most of last year with hand and knee issues, the Timberwolves are hoping to get those three returners on the same page with Martin and fellow free-agent acquisition Corey Brewer.
Having played for Adelman twice before, Martin doesn't struggle with the corner sets and team defensive concepts he hears preached during practice.
But reacting to his new teammates' habits is a completely different chore.
"I know this system like the back of my hand," said Martin, whom Adelman tutored in Sacramento and Houston. "But I don't know the players at all, so I think that's why it's important for me to get out there this week and practice and also play in these last three preseason games as many minutes as Rick wants me to so we can build that continuity going into opening night."
In his one true preseason exhibit, Martin drew mixed reviews. He played 25 minutes, 53 seconds and scored 16 points in the Timberwolves' preseason-commencing loss to CSKA Moscow. But those totals came on 5-of-15 shooting -- certainly not the efficiency a career 44.3-percent shooter can exude.
Any lineup absence, no matter how trivial, is met with unwelcome eyes in the Minnesota locker room. Chase Budinger's meniscus surgery already has affected the Timberwolves' wing rotation, and Pekovic, Love and Rubio all missed significant time last season.
Martin himself is no stranger to sitting out. He suffered a strained shoulder in 2011-12 (17 games), a wrist fracture in 2009-10 (32), an injured ankle in 2008-09 (30) and a strained groin in 2007-08 (17).
He described his status as day-to-day, acknowledging the Achilles is still "pretty sore." But there's a big difference between soreness and pain, Martin said, and he's just fine playing through the former.
He'll be ready to go by Sunday and the Timberwolves' neutral-site date with Boston in Montreal, he said.
And while the last thing Minnesota desires for any player is an overly hasty return, the coming days are too important to be too careful -- especially with a disgruntled coach who Tuesday labeled the next week of practice as tantamount in importance to the remaining exhibition contests.
"I think the first two weeks of preseason is a feeling-out process," Martin said. "As we saw Saturday night, that should be the end of the feeling-out process. This week in practice, (Adelman is) gonna start to find his rotations, start to find plays that work, and also, our final three preseason games, we have to get some time playing with each other, the minutes that we're going to play during a game.
"Right now, I would say preseason's over, and it's time to get back at it and play your game and play how we're gonna play opening night."