MINNEAPOLIS — The good news: J.J. Barea was present at Timberwolves practice Thursday. The bad news: He didn’t participate.
After falling near the scorer’s table in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s win, Barea retreated to the locker room, where he was diagnosed with a left mid-foot sprain. No word was given at the time about his probable return, and there wasn’t much new information on Thursday. Barea declined to speak to the media, but according to coach Rick Adelman, he’s day to day, a question mark for Friday, and that’s about it.
So add Barea to the injured list, which right now comprises Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. At least with them, we have some kind of timetable; in fact, Adelman spoke briefly about the duo on Thursday.
Love is still unable to participate much in practices with his broken right hand, and his workouts are limited to pre-practice conditioning. Rubio, though, is continuing to progress, and though Adelman was cagey about whether he’s moved on to lateral movement, he did admit that the point guard was dancing earlier in the day.
“He’s doing more and more and more,” Adelman said. I think they just have a timetable, and they’ll move him up when he does a little bit more. It’s just good to see, he’s a lot different than he was a month ago.”
Love is still looking at a six- to eight-week window for his return, so somewhere between Nov. 28 and December 12. That’s not too far off from Rubio’s target, and Adelman confirmed that, as far as he knows, the point guard is still on schedule and looking at a return sometime in December, most likely.
Three degrees of separation: I mentioned in my story Wednesday night the poetic justice of the backup center situations in Boston and Minnesota, as the Timberwolves and Celtics essentially switched big men this offseason. The Timberwolves signed Greg Stiemsma, who’s proving an asset early on, and the Celtics nabbed Darko Milicic after the Timberwolves amnestied him in July. Milicic — well, let’s just say he’s not yet earned mention as an asset.
But the Stiemsma-Milicic indirect swap is only one layer of the relationships that tie Stiemsma to the Timberwolves. He spent time with the team in the summer of 2010, when he was essentially Al Jefferson’s workout dummy. The two trained together in the Twin Cities and also flew to Boston for a week to work out, and that’s when Stiemsma first started to pick up the NBA-caliber skills that got him to where he is today.
“You realize that a guy like Al Jefferson is still in here working on his post moves in the summertime, working hard, getting after the weight room,” Stiemsma said. “You have to know that this is your job, and you have to do all those little things that some other guys aren’t doing just to be at the highest level.”
The connections go even further. When Stiemsma first stuck in the NBA, it was in Boston last season, as the backup to none other than former Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett. The two developed a close relationship — Stiemsma said he thinks his number should still be in Garnett’s phone — and the older player became something of a mentor.
“KG, I can’t say enough positive things about my experience there with him, all the things he taught me, more or less taking me under his wing,” Stiemsma said.
It was Stiemsma’s attitude, he believes, that ingratiated him with Garnett, who’s one of the game’s most intense players. Whatever it was, his approach, work ethic, humility, it seemed to work, and Stiemsma said he learned as much from Garnett directly as he did by example.
So just to recap: The Timberwolves and Al Jefferson give Greg Stiemsma his first taste of the NBA lifestyle. Stiemsma uses those lessons, in part, to land a spot on the Celtics, next to Kevin Garnett, whom the Timberwolves traded for Jefferson in 2007. Garnett teaches Stiemsma even more, and the 27-year-old becomes something of a sought-after free agent in the summer of 2012. The Timberwolves amnesty Darko Milicic, perhaps one of the league’s laziest players, and go on to sign Stiemsma. Millicic ends up in Boston, in the same locker room as Garnett.
And so the Greg Stiemsma causal chain leaves the Timberwolves with a pleasant surprise and Garnett with what must be his worst nightmare.