MINNEAPOLIS – You’ve really got to wonder if the words “pain” and “hurt” fail to translate well between English and Montenegrin.
Take Nikola Pekovic’s first statement after spraining his ankle Monday night in Dallas: “I’m just glad it’s not bad. I didn’t hurt nothing, just a lot of pain. I’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”
He hurt nothing. But there’s pain. So pain doesn’t necessarily equal hurt? Maybe not in the way Pekovic approaches this. As someone suggested to me on Twitter today, he’s kind of like the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a character who’s hacked to pieces but continues fighting, insisting over and over that “it’s just a flesh wound!”
On Thursday, after missing all of the previous night’s two-point loss to Charlotte, Pekovic’s message was largely the same as on Monday: There’s pain, but who cares? He ran in practice, he said, and he doesn’t feel like he could do anything to make the ankle worse.
“Yeah, I got some chance,” Pekovic said of the odds of his playing Friday against the Golden State Warriors. “I try today. I got some pain, but I’ll see. I’ll talk to Gregg (Farnam, Timberwolves’ head athletic trainer), and I hope I’ll play tomorrow.”
Pekovic said it was difficult to watch Wednesday night’s game, the roller coaster that it was and the eventual loss. And you could tell with just a glance at him and point guard Ricky Rubio, who sat next to each other on the bench throughout, in various stages of nervous meltdown. There were moments they couldn’t watch along with moments they had to stand up, to crane closer, to feel a part of it all. Rubio, out since last March with a torn ACL, is used to that. Pekovic is not.
And so Pekovic keeps up the hope that tomorrow might be his day, that this sprained ankle might mean nothing more than missing one game and change. Coach Rick Adelman, though, was not quite so optimistic.
“I stopped asking,” Adelman said of the injured players’ statuses. “They’ll tell me tomorrow if anybody has a chance. Right now I’d say no. But I think some of those guys did some workouts today; they want to see how they respond tomorrow, and so I really don’t think it’s going to happen. But I don’t know.”
For now, he’s operating under the assumption that Friday will mean no Pekovic, no Brandon Roy, no J.J. Barea. With a four-day reprieve between games – after Friday, there’s nothing until Denver comes in town Wednesday – it’s tempting just to hold everyone out and give them that extra time to recover. Pekovic acknowledged that, but it doesn’t change his goal of returning as soon as possible.
“I don’t have such a serious injury,” Pekovic said. “I just twist my ankle. The pain’s going to be there probably for a while. I was spraining it already before, so I know how it is. I just, you know, if I go tomorrow, I can’t make it any worse. I’m just trying to help.”
The rest of the injuries: Neither was available to talk Thursday, but it’s seeming increasingly unlikely that either Roy or Barea will play Friday. That’ll leave the Timberwolves thin at point guard, with just Luke Ridnour and Malcolm Lee, now that Will Conroy is gone. At shooting guard, there will likely still be some cobbled-together rotation of Lee and Alexey Shved until whenever Roy makes his return.
Lee left Wednesday night’s game with cramps, but Adelman said he’s fine and joked that he supposes he now knows the second-year guard’s minutes limit. He also ventured for a second into the realm of what if – what if Lee had been there to guard Kemba Walker at the end?
At practice Thursday, the team kept things minimal. “Our contact was to talk,” Adelman joked when asked whether Roy was able to get out there and do the things he said Wednesday night he hoped to do. The team did some spot shooting and free throw shooting, but that was about it, and at this point, the goal must be to preserve what the coach is now calling “the magnificent nine” for Friday’s game.