MINNEAPOLIS – When the Timberwolves tip off against the Pacers at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Fargo, N.D., they’ll look radically different than the team that took the court last season. Sure, three of Wednesday’s five starters – Kevin Love, J.J. Barea and Nikola Pekovic – started for the team at times last season, but only one other player competing Wednesday, Derrick Williams, was with the Timberwolves last year.
That’s in part because Ricky Rubio (obviously), Luke Ridnour and Malcolm Lee are sitting with injuries. None of the three made the trip. Other than those three, which push the total number of returning Timberwolves to seven, the rest of the players taking the court on Wednesday will be making their debuts with the team.
Thirteen players (including six training camp invitees) who could earn minutes on Wednesday were not with the team in 2011-12. That includes two starters – Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy – as well as players like Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved, Lou Amundson, Greg Stiemsma and Dante Cunnigham, all of whom have guaranteed contracts with the team and should get significant minutes.
Amundson spent last season with the Pacers, where he averaged 3.5 points and 3.7 rebounds in 60 games. As of Tuesday, coach Rick Adelman said he hadn’t picked Amundson’s brain too much about his former team, but the big man did have a few words of advice for his new teammates.
“It’s a physical team, and that’s kind of how that Eastern Conference is, so we’ve got to set the tone right from the beginning, that to be successful and win, we’ve got to be physical and be strong defensively,” Amundson said. “I think this is a good team to start out with as a measuring stick to see where we are.”
Wednesday marks the Timberwolves’ seventh game played in Fargo, where they’ve compiled a 2-4 record. They haven’t played there since Oct. 8, 2002, however, and all six previous games there were played between the team’s inaugural season, 1989-90, and 2002.
The Pacers will boast a very similar lineup to last season’s. Although they, too, made significant roster moves, their starting five of Roy Hibbert, David West, George Hill, Paul George and Danny Granger remains intact. They’ll be a tough team to go up against early in the preseason, especially after they finished with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference and swept the season series with the Timberwolves last year.
“They’re a very good team, very physical,” Adelman said. “I have a feeling that we’re going to learn a lot about our team defensively. That’s one area that we have not been very good in, and I think they’re going to learn a lot when we play them. They’ve very physical, they go at you at the basket, but that’s what it’s all about.”
The game will not be televised or broadcast over the radio. Only the two preseason games at the Target Center, on Saturday against the Bulls and on Tuesday against Israel’s Maccabi Bazan Haifa, will be televised.