MINNEAPOLIS — Coach and president Flip Saunders has yet to divulge exactly what, if any, role J.J. Barea will play for the Timberwolves this season.
"I’ll tell you that in two weeks," Saunders said after practice Wednesday, referring to the start of the regular season.
But the veteran guard himself already has identified it. "I think my role is I’ve just got to be ready," Barea said. "Whatever they need me to do, whatever Flip needs me to do, I’ll be ready to go."
That readiness probably means accepting a new set of duties. And it could mean doing so in another city, depending what happens between now and Minnesota’s Oct. 29 opener at Memphis.
But Barea reiterated to FOXSportsNorth.com he can still play an important role in Minnesota, despite wide speculation he’s on his way out the door. Barea’s been the subject of trade rumors since last season, and with Saunders signing Mo Williams this offseason, it’s likely down to either him or second-round pick Glenn Robinson III for the team’s 15th and final roster spot.
In order to glean some return for him, Saunders could trade Barea by the Oct. 27 roster deadline. Or he could negotiate a buyout of the final season on his contract, worth $4.5 million.
Or Barea could do enough to convince Saunders to hold onto him, at least for the time being.
"No question, I’m up for everything," Barea said. "Whatever it takes to help this team out, whatever it takes for me to be out there helping this team out."
That likely means playing more shooting guard than he has since signing with the Wolves in 2011. Barea did it some in Dallas and says he’s more than willing to do it again amid the point-guard logjam of himself, Williams, Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine.
Saunders said Wednesday he’ll deploy some more two-guard sets this year, which could afford Barea more of an opportunity.
Barea, however, knows the climb to playing time is steep.
"That’s how it is, but I know this is a long season," said Barea, Rubio’s primary backup at the point the past three seasons. "There’s going to be time for everybody. We’ve just got to find a way to get everybody in the right situation to help the team out."
Counted upon as a scoring and basket-attacking threat, Barea’s 8.4 points per game and 38.7 field-goal percentage last season were his worst since his rookie year. Coach Rick Adelman often used him in late situations (with mostly negative results), but Barea struggled to find a rhythm as his minutes and entry points in the game became unpredictable.
Williams appears the frontrunner to spell Rubio. So it’s up to Barea to earn a steady spot in the rotation this time around, the last year before he’ll become an unrestricted free agent.
"Right now, we’ve got everyone jostling for position, fighting, and we’re mixing teams up to see who plays good on what teams," Saunders said. "Does anybody have a tendency to win more than other people when they’re on the floor? Just combinations."
Martin practices: Kevin Martin (groin) went through Monday’s entire practice at about 80-percent capacity, he said. Saunders is hopeful the 11th-year shooting guard will be ready to suit up for Friday’s preseason game against Milwaukee in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Martin strained his left adductor muscle in a scrimmage and has yet to play in the Wolves’ two preseason games. He didn’t participate in any contact till Tuesday’s workout.
Martin said he’s dealt with the same "tricky" injury before, in his second year in the league. It didn’t cause him any lasting pain nine years ago, and he doesn’t expect it will this time.
"We’re going to get it right," said Martin, 31, "and hopefully my next one is nine years from now when I’m playing with my kids."