Wolves Friday: Kevin Love won’t play versus Heat
MINNEAPOLIS — Two of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ defining characters were absent from practice Friday.
Rick Adelman celebrated the birth of a new family member. Kevin Love mourned the loss of one of his.
Love left town Friday morning to be with his family in Portland, Ore., following the death of his maternal grandmother, Carol Lee Craig. The All-Star power forward won’t make it back in time for Saturday’s matchup with the Miami Heat.
Assistant coach Terry Porter — who fielded questions in Adelman’s stead — said as much immediately after practice.
“I wouldn’t think he’d be able to play tomorrow,” Porter said. “I don’t think he’s probably going to be back by then.”
Adelman, meanwhile, was in the Twin Cities with his son (and Minnesota assistant) David Adelman, whose wife was expecting their first child Friday.
The Timberwolves’ head coach will be back when his team takes on the two-time defending NBA champions, Porter said.
Porter wasn’t sure who would start in place of Love, though he mentioned Dante Cunningham and recently acquired Luc Mbah a Moute as possibilities. No matter who receives the nod, Minnesota looks drastically different without the league’s No. 1 rebounder and No. 6 scorer at its disposal.
“There’s going to be a lot of changes,” Porter said. “One guy isn’t going to be able to fill that void. Everybody is going to have to pick up the scoring part. Everybody is going to have to pick up the rebounding part. From that standpoint, we have to know that we have enough guys to step in and try to contribute.”
Count shooting guard Kevin Martin (23.2 points per game) and center Nikola Pekovic (15.5) as candidates to shoulder more of the point-production load. It’ll also be incumbent upon Pekovic and whoever starts at the four to work the glass at both ends — in consecutive losses to Detroit and Chicago, the Heat were out-boarded by a combined 95-61.
Miami may be without guard Dwyane Wade, who missed Thursday’s loss to the Bulls with an illness and has sat out five games this year due to either sickness or nagging injuries.
But the Heat still has a guy by the name of LeBron James. Without its own superstar to counter, Minnesota could be in trouble.
“We’re gonna miss him, for sure,” point guard Ricky Rubio said of Love.
Rubio said he hadn’t spoken with Love since Craig’s passing, which the Timberwolves said occurred Wednesday night while they were in Mexico City to play the San Antonio Spurs.
“It’s sad,” Rubio said. “We just want to respect his privacy. It’s his own time, you know? It’s a sad time for him, and we just want to leave him alone with his family.”
Loco sojourn: Although Porter and players were careful not to delve too far into detail regarding Wednesday’s postponed game in Mexico City, small forward Corey Brewer characterized the scene succinctly.
“That’s all you can say — crazy,” Brewer said.
It was a chaotic turn of events as Brewer, his teammates, the Spurs and everyone else inside Mexico City Arena were asked to evacuate after a generator malfunction caused smoke to blanket the playing floor while the teams warmed up. NBA and arena officials discussed possibly starting the regular-season contest — technically a Timberwolves home game — later Wednesday night or Thursday but opted to move the game to the Target Center at a future, still-unspecified date.
Porter said he was more confused than anything when the Timberwolves exited the venue and hung out in or around the team bus.
“They were obviously trying to figure what exactly it was,” Porter said. “It wasn’t anything crazy. Just be thankful there wasn’t 20,000 people in the stands when it happened. Obviously, with it happening pregame, you were able to get everybody out of there and try to find out exactly what went on.”
Having traveled from Oklahoma City directly to Mexico City after playing the Thunder on Sunday, Minnesota wound up with a five-day layoff between games. All those air miles cause a different kind of fatigue, but the Timberwolves’ legs are fresher than they’ve been in a while, Rubio said.
Especially after playing their first 19 games in a 32-day span.
But not being able to play in front of several thousand enthused Mexican basketball fans was a downer, according to Rubio. “We feel bad, because we felt the energy from the fans, from everybody. Put a great effort to make that happen, and we were ready to play. I didn’t realize what happened, because I was in the locker room, and then suddenly they say we have to get out on the buses. I’m thinking it was something they did before the game just to get everything ready, but it wasn’t. It was kind of sad.”
Limiting LeBron: It’ll likely be Brewer who gets the first swipe at the NBA’s MVP of the past two seasons. Minnesota’s lanky small forward has guarded James before and, like every defender in the league, concedes it’s a task fraught with built-in futility.
Stopping James has become clearly impossible during his 10-plus seasons of pro hoops.
“I’ve just got to make everything tough, make him take jump shots, contest,” said Brewer, who will likely take on James in shifts along with Mbah a Moute and possibly Cunningham. “You’ve just got to make him work for everything he gets. You’ve got to make him take jump shots; you don’t want him going to the rim.”
James currently ranks third in the league in scoring at 25.7 points per game and is shooting 58.4 percent from the floor. He’s scored less than 20 points in just three games this season and is shooting 3-pointers at a 45.9-percent clip.
“Video-game numbers,” Rubio called them.
“He reminds me of a center who can play a point guard,” Rubio said. “It’s just amazing what he can do, and we’re gonna try to be ready for that. Corey’s been doing a great job guarding those kind of players, but it’s a team thing, because he can’t be stopped by only one player.”
Budinger progressing: Small forward Chase Budinger told reporters his knee is “coming along” as he exited practice Friday. Budinger has been out since before training camp after undergoing surgery on the same left meniscus he tore last season.
Shortly before updating local media on his progress, Budinger could be seen trying out a couple soft, one-handed dunks on the main Target Center floor.
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