MINNEAPOLIS – Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman announced before Friday’s game that Derrick Williams would get the start at power forward over Dante Cunningham. However, Adelman stressed the versatility of the position, saying Williams would be in to play “forward” alongside Andrei Kirilenko.
It’s likely that Adelman wants Williams’ scoring in the game from the start, but Cunningham should get plenty of minutes. Adelman never outright said Williams had earned the position over the past week, just that his starting was best for the team.
Other than Williams and Kirilenko, the Timberwolves’ starting lineup comprises Nikola Pekovic (C), Brandon Roy (SG) and Luke Ridnour (PG). DeMarcus Cousins (C), Tyreke Evans (SF), Jason Thompson (PF), James Johnson (SG) and Isaiah Thomas (PG) will start for the Kings.
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The Pekovic-Cousins matchup will be a good one; both are physical players, and Pekovic should be well equipped to go up against the Kings’ best player. Point guard Isaiah Thomas might have been the most surprising rookie in the league last year. The last man picked in the 2011 draft, Thomas started 37 games for the Kings, averaging 11.5 points and 4.1 assists and making a name for himself other than just the namesake of Isiah.
The Kings have already played once this year, in a 93-87 loss against the Bulls, and it wasn’t pretty. Sacramento shot 40.5 percent from the field and committed 19 turnovers (seven by Cousins), so it’s no surprise they lost, but the game was closer than those metrics might dictate. The Kings won’t be at the top of the Western Conference this season – or even in the middle – so they’re a great candidate for the home opener for a team like the Timberwolves that’s shorthanded and needs to charge out of the gate.
“Tonight is opening night,” Pekovic said. “I know everybody’s ready for this. Because like all week we didn’t have a game, and everybody’s really excited about tonight. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be ready.”
Kevin update: Love confirmed Friday morning that he will be traveling with the team even while he’s injured, which will undoubtedly be good for chemistry and morale. He also noted that he’s still unsure whether he’ll visit his New York City-based doctor next week when the Timberwolves are in Brooklyn for a Monday game against the Nets. That decision has yet to be made, and he might wait a few weeks for that next visit.
Love also briefly discussed James Harden’s five-year, $80 million deal with the Rockets. It’s been only nine months since Love’s own extension, for fewer years but at a similar yearly rate, was completed, and he knows what hammering out such an agreement takes.
Love said he thought Harden would definitely get the four-year deal in the $60 million ballpark, but he was surprised at the fifth year and $80 million sum.
“They were willing to make the investment in him, and he’s a franchise-type player,” Love said. “I’m very happy for him. I was surprised with the idea that he was only going to get $54 million – only, I say only $54 million – from Oklahoma City, and he ended up getting $80.”
Post-Sandy basketball: It doesn’t look like there’s any reason to worry about the status of Monday’s game in Brooklyn, which with the cancellation of Thursday’s matchup will be just the second game played in the brand-new Barclay’s Center. Right now, Friday night’s Knicks-Heat game at Madison Square Garden is on, as is Saturday’s Raptors-Nets game at the Barclays Center. In fact, New York’s MTA is already making plans to get public transit from Manhattan to Brooklyn for Saturday’s game.
Excitement = money: According to a story on the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s website Friday, the Timberwolves have sold 10,000 full-season equivalents this year, their highest since 2004-05, when the team was coming off a trip to the Western Conference Finals. Season ticket increases have been a trend throughout the league this year, and after last year’s surge in attendance in Minneapolis, it’s good to see the trend continue.
Last season, the Timberwolves were 15th in the NBA in average attendance, with 17,490 fans per game. That was a 17.7 percent increase over the previous season.