Wolves Tuesday: Pekovic, Shved near return

MINNEAPOLIS – Coach Rick Adelman expects Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved to play Wednesday against the Clippers.

Pekovic, who’s suffered from a right quad contusion, and Shved, who had a sprained left ankle, both left the Timberwolves’ Jan. 17 game against the Clippers with their respective injuries. Neither has played since.

Getting the two back will bring energy to the team, and it should also allow for a bit more variety in lineups, which will help the shorthanded group. Adelman said that Pekovic will start (no surprise), but that he’s uncertain about Shved, whom he was hesitant to insert into the starting five until Malcolm Lee’s season-ending injury forced him to do so earlier in the season. With point guard Ricky Rubio starting now, the coach’s options when it comes to the Russian rookie have increased.

“Losing Pek and Alexey like that, those are two guys who are really important,” Adelman said. “Alexey’s really been a catalyst for us off the bench, and you know what Pek means. You don’t have those two guys, and suddenly you don’t really have the inside game you have before. The other team can prepare a lot better for you.”

The coach admitted that he’s barely thought about his rotations since returning to the team Monday, but he made it sound like Shved might not be locked into either spot, in the starting lineup or the bench. It might just depend on matchups and size, as starting Rubio and Luke Ridnour together, despite their chemistry and ability to play off each other, has the disadvantage of their small size. Adelman also said that he likes Shved off the bench because he’s been so effective playing alongside J.J. Barea.

With the shooting guard and center both healthy for the first time in two weeks and the two 10-day contracts re-signed, the Timberwolves should have 12 healthy players on Wednesday, the most they’ve had since before Kevin Love’s second hand injury.

The downside of the homestand: Much has been made of the timing of Adelman’s return, which coincided with the beginning of the Timberwolves’ six-game homestand. Sitting at seven games below .500, 17-24, Minnesota needs to win a healthy chunk of these games if it wants to get back on track, and though it’s easy to equate home games with easier wins, that might not hold.

Through Monday, the Timberwolves’ six upcoming opponents have a combined 152-115 record and include winning teams in the Knicks, Spurs and Clippers. There’s also the Trail Blazers, a consistent .500 team, the resurgent Hornets and the Lakers, who seem to have their business slightly more in line than they did last week, and so none of it will be easy.

“We can certainly win these games, but the Clippers are obviously a very good team, and of course the Lakers are now getting on a roll,” Adelman said. “I’m glad they gave us them, what, four times, at the end of the year. Could have played them a month ago. Then you’ve got San Antonio coming in, and Portland. New Orleans just won a big game. But our team’s no different than these other teams.”

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