MINNEAPOLIS – J.J. Barea will sit for Friday night’s game against the Pacers at Target Center, and when the team flies out to Chicago afterward, Barea will remain behind.
The point guard suffered a left mid-foot sprain during the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s win over Orlando, and for the past two days, the team has been vague about his status. It’s still not clear when Barea will return, but we know this much: He won’t be in Chicago for the Bulls game Saturday, and he’ll be evaluated Sunday to see if he can fly to Dallas for Monday’s game against the Mavericks.
With Barea out, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said he’ll lean on Malcolm Lee and Will Conroy as Luke Ridnour’s backups. In an ideal world, Adelman would likely prefer to play Ridnour as much as possible, but given his back problems throughout the preseason, it will be necessary for Conroy and Lee to eat up some minutes. Adelman also said he’s uncomfortable moving Alexey Shved to point guard, citing matchup problems, among other things.
“If I tried to play him at the point, I don’t know who I’d put at the two because I don’t know who I’d put at the three, so we’ll just go with the young guys and see what we can do,” Adelman said.
Losing Barea for more than a few games could be a large setback for the Timberwolves. The backup point guard has been at his best so far this season, and he was averaging 9.3 points and 4.3 assists before the injury.
“J.J.’s more aggressive,” Adelman said. “He’s been in the league longer. He’s got a pretty good feel for what we want to do offensively, too. That’s the thing that hurts you the most. You’re playing with two young guys out there, and you’re going to have to get them some calls, but I think J.J. has just a better feel.”
Barea has been sidelined with plenty of these small injuries since arriving in Minnesota. Adelman hypothesized during the preseason that last year’s problems were caused by the shortened season and Barea coming into it in less than optimal shape, but still, the injuries persist. The team went 11-14 in last season in the games Barea missed, and with Rubio out early this season, he’s even more integral to Adelman’s scheme.
At least at this point, the coach can see some humor in the whole thing. Not only did Barea call his own timeout after the injury – “He just walked by me,” Adelman said. “I guess he was done for the night. I had to change it from a 20 (second timeout) to a full.” – but Adelman also offered him some advice about chasing down loose balls afterward:
“I told him, I said the only one that could have got that ball and saved it was maybe the sprinter, (Usain) Bolt.”