MINNEAPOLIS – Luke Ridnour has been practicing with the Timberwolves this week after missing much of the preseason with a herniated disk in his back. Although a problem like that for a veteran such as Ridnour – at 31, this will be his 10th season in the league – could be a nagging issue, the point guard has assured coach Rick Adelman that he feels great.
And that’s that.
At this point, it’ll likely take a hard spill to knock Ridnour back onto the bench, Adelman said, and it seems things are progressing toward him being able to start at point guard on opening night. Ridnour isn’t necessarily yet where he’d like to be, but he’s practicing, doing extra work and getting his conditioning and timing back to where they need to be.
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Adelman said he’s noticed more of Ridnour’s shots falling lately as the point guard gets back into the rhythm of the game, and having him healthy by Friday would be huge for the team. It seems like no matter what, the Timberwolves’ roster is loaded with point guards, yet there’s always a concern about who’s going to go at that position. Last year, mass incredulity and Ridnour trade rumors followed the team’s signing J.J. Barea, but by April, Barea was starting with Ricky Rubio and Ridnour injured. Malcolm Lee, who’d just had knee surgery in December and was hardly playing an NBA-caliber game, was backing him up. It was hardly ideal.
Which brings us to the fall of 2012. Rubio is still out. Ridnour is easing his way back in. Lee missed much of the summer with re-aggravated knee issues and much of training camp with a groin problem, and the one training camp invitee who remains on the opening day roster is (You guessed it!) a point guard, Will Conroy.
If Ridnour’s back were to flare up again, there might actually be a very real need for Conroy, who’s played the majority of his pro career in the D-League and overseas. But at this point, Adelman doesn’t know enough about Lee to rely on him, except perhaps in specific scenarios.
“I think right now we would look for Will just because he’s played more (than Malcolm),” Adelman said. “That would depend too on the situation because Malcolm is really good defensively. If you’re going up against guys that give us problems, he might be the guy you go with.”
With no chance of seeing Rubio in the next month, Adelman will have to work with what he has on hand, and while that might seem like a challenge, he’s used to it. Yes, the Timberwolves’ collapse last season was linked to Rubio’s injury, but it wasn’t due to poor point guard play. Barea and Ridnour aren’t Rubio, but they held their own, and really, they were some of the team’s best and most resilient players in the season’s difficult final days.
“I think they’re really important for us to get off to a good start,” Adelman said. “They each give us something different. So I think you know, J.J.’s always been great with changing the tempo of the game. A lot of stuff we’re going to do is going to be the same for both of them, but they each give us something different.”
Extension time: In what was already a foregone conclusion, the Timberwolves announced Tuesday that they’d picked up the third-year options on the contracts of point guard Ricky Rubio and forward Derrick Williams. The deadline to do so is Wednesday, hence the timing, and the only surprise would have been if they hadn’t done so.
Williams will make $4.8 million this season and $5.0 million next year. Rubio is set to earn $3.7 million this year and $4.0 million next.
Brandon Roy’s minutes: After sitting out on Monday, Roy returned to the court on Tuesday for a scrimmage-heavy practice. Adelman admitted he was hesitant to let Roy play at first, but Roy insisted he was fine and performed as such. Adelman described Roy’s knee issue as “a little bit of irritation,” and though with the shooting guard’s history it might seem like reason to pause (or panic), the coach remained optimistic.
Adelman said he hasn’t yet reached a final target for Roy’s minutes, but he’s leaning toward a range from 30-32. The biggest trick, he said, will be to see how long Roy can rest without getting stiff and therefore unable to return to the game.
Starting power forward: Adelman gave no outright indication of who might get the start at power forward on Friday. The leading contenders are Dante Cunningham and Williams, though there’s an outside chance Andrei Kirilenko might start there at some point.
Any decision Adelman makes will be subject to change depending on matchups, obviously. He did offer one hint at his leanings, though: When asked what he’s looking for most at the position, Adelman said that defense and energy will be most valuable. And then he added this:
“D-Will gives us that option where he’s more of a scorer, has more versatility. Dante is such an energy guy, a rebounder, defender.”
My money is on Cunningham.
Baby boomer TV: When asked whether he’d be tuning in to any of tonight’s NBA games, Adelman asked what day it is (Tuesday), and then explained that NCIS is on, so maybe not. Of course it was all in good fun, and you’ve got to know he’ll be at least looking at the scores, but here’s the bigger question: Why are 85 percent of baby boomers obsessed with NCIS? My parents DVR every single episode despite its constant rerun loop. They watch them all, and they’re emotionally invested like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There has to be a larger sociological study here.