MINNEAPOLIS – Rick Adelman didn’t want to say it too loud lest he jinx himself, but it’s official: the Timberwolves on Monday were completely healthy. As of this afternoon, everyone was practicing, and only Malcolm Lee is unlikely to play in Tuesday night’s game against Israeli team Maccabi Bazan Haifa.
Lee missed most of last season after tearing the meniscus in his left knee in December, and even after seven months of recovery, a D-League stint and 19 games with the Timberwolves, he was deemed unable to participate in summer league in Las Vegas in July. He then reported healthy to training camp the first week of October before tweaking his groin in Mankato, and had not practiced since. On Monday, he participated in the full practice, but he’s still easing his way back into the routine.
“I think it’s just a matter of letting him get back into the game,” coach Rick Adelman said.
“He’s got to get in game shape so he can show us something. Right now, it’s more important that he just gets healthy.”
Lee admitted that the entire process has been frustrating, and he said he’s never dealt with such a long succession of injuries before. But for what it’s worth, the groin feels better, and the knee is still doing well. For now, Lee will need to prove himself, and do it fast. The prospect of spending the winter in Sioux Falls, S.D. with the Timberwolves’ D-League affiliate is not an appealing one.
Finding an offensive rhythm: In the early days of training camp, defense seemed to be Adelman’s biggest emphasis. That’s what the Timberwolves needed to work on, he said, emphasizing a team effort and Andrei Kirilenko’s prowess. But now, two weeks in, the defense has looked good. It’s only the preseason, of course, but the team has been consistent, and it’s beginning to look like the focus needs to shift to offense.
“Our defense has been there, but our offense needs to start free flowing,” Kevin Love said. “But that has a lot to do with having those different rotations.”
I feel like I should put an asterisk by all preseason stats, but right now, they’re the only representation of this team’s defensive abilities. So here goes: In these first three games, the Timberwolves have allowed 70, 96 and 75 points, for an average of 80.3 per game. These first games were played against the Bulls and Pacers, so for a fair comparison, last year’s Timberwolves gave up an average of 110.3 points against those teams in three regular-season games. Obviously, there are some differences between the Bulls (DERRICK ROSE) and Pacers of last year and this year, but still, the numbers hint at improvement.
Maccabi Bazan Haifa: The Timberwolves’ next opponent made headlines last season when it hired former Syracuse coach Bernie Fine, but he’s no longer with the team. However, his was likely the only name one would recognize of those affiliated with the Israeli team. Even Montenegrin Nikola Pekovic, who played professionally in Europe for years, does not know much about the team.
Haifa’s roster comprises of six players from the United States and five from Israel, and its coach, Brad Greenberg, was in the Trail Blazers’ front office when Adelman coached the team. Three of its veteran players have NBA experience: Donta Smith, James Thomas and Cory Carr.
This team is not to be confused with Maccabi Tel Aviv, where Lior Eliyahu, whose rights the Timberwolves acquired in the trade that brought them Chase Budinger, plays. Maccabi Bazan Haifa played Golden State on Thursday, losing 108-100. Their top scorer that night was Smith, a small forward out of Southeastern Illinois who played with the Hawks from 2004-06.