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Goodbye old blog

Friday, December 4th, 2009

This blog is now officially closed.

Go to www.startribune.com/blogs/On_the_Wolves.html to see the new migrated blog with today’s posting that Kevin Love indeed will make his season debut tonight at New Orleans.

Love cleared to play, now it’s “up to him”

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Phil Miller, sitting in for Jerry Zgoda today, reports:

His doctors are satisfied and his coach is ready. Only one more person has to give Kevin Love the go-ahead before he returns to the Wolves’ lineup: Kevin Love.

“I could go out there and compete right now, but as far as going out and feeling good, I don’t know,” Love said shortly after his first full practice since being cleared to play. “It’ll be very soon. Whether it’s tomorrow or next week, we’ll have to see.”

Love, who had surgery on his left hand a few days after breaking a bone in mid-October, has been practicing all week. The hand feels fine — “It got crushed up against the backboard today and felt pretty good,” he said — but after an initial jolt of adrenalin a few days ago, he has begun to realize his limitations, the result of six weeks without strenuous contact on the floor.

“When I get tired, I want to be able to help the team as well, and I don’t know if I can do that right now,” Love said. The Wolves play Friday night in New Orleans, and while he’s not closing the door on facing the Hornets — “It all depends on how I feel at shootaround,” he said — Saturday’s game in Target Center against Utah “might be more realistic.”

The decision “is entirely up to him,” coach Kurt Rambis said. “He’s been doing a lot of running on the side. That’s a certain cardio vascular workout, but the wrestling aspect of basketball is always much more fatiguing. So he’s getting used to the body contact and the banging. He’s getting used to trusting his hand again.”

UPDATE: Love return Friday is possible

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Kurt Rambis said before tonight’s game against Memphis that there’s a chance Kevin Love could play some Friday at New Orleans, if his New York City doctor approves tomorrow an X-ray taken today in the Twin Cities.

Love eyes Saturday return

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Kevin Love is getting that fractured left hand X-rayed one more time this afternoon. He said he is confident this one will show his broken bone is fully healthy and he’ll be cleared to fully practice starting tomorrow.

If he gets the OK, he said a return Friday at New Orleans is probably asking too much, but mentioned Saturday’s home game against Utah.

Still, that would only give him one full practice — tomorrow — before then.

A return Tuesday at Toronto seems more likely. That would give him two full practices and one or two shootarounds before he makes his season debut.

Love will wear a black glove — padded to protect the back of his hand — in games when he returns. He calls it his Brock Lesnar tap-out glove.

Btw, looks like this will be my last real blog posting on this site. I know I said some time ago that the blog would migrate to a new publishing system — one of the last Star Tribune sports blogs to do so — soon.

Well, looks like that time has come.

I’ll post the pertinent new information as soon the migration is done.

Love participates in contact practice, probably still days away

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Kevin Love has participated in some portions of contact practice the last two days and will be re-evaluated by doctors tomorrow or Thursday.

Kurt Rambis said conditioning will be Love’s biggest issue and didn’t indicate that a return to game action is imminent (like, this week).

“He’s doing a great job running, but the wrestling aspect of basketball is very fatiguing and that’s what he’s trying to push himself through now,” Rambis said. “There’s still a mental barrier he’s going to have to push himself through. I don’t know if he’s at that stage yet.”

UPDATE: Just watching some of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge tonight and got my eye on UNC’s Ed Davis. It’s already about time to start watching lottery candidates, isn’t it? And the more I watch the Wolves and the more I think about it, don’t you really need a long, athletic big man who can physically dominate if you’re really serious about rebuilding? I know there’s much invested in Al and KLove, but neither is that kind of physical player. I don’t know if Ed Davis is that guy, but a guy like him? Derrick Favors perhaps?

Avoiding history: Wolves end losing streak at 15 games, 106-100 at Denver

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Huh?

Go figure.

The Wolves hadn’t won since opening night.

The Nuggets hadn’t lost at home since last March (17 straight victories, including 7-0 this season).

So all your previously 1-15 Wolves do is produce a 31-12 third quarter that included an opening 14-0 run and ended their 15-game losing streak one loss shy of tying the franchise record.

The way they walked off the court almost somberly, you would have thought they had just won their 14th straight.

“Shoot, that’s just one win,” Al Jefferson said. “It’s a good win, but we got to keep it going. We don’t want to win one and relax.”

He was almost grumpy in the locker room afterward on a night when the Wolves trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half.

What happened at halftime?

This Damien Wilkins quote says about all you need to know about this season:

“We had a lot of confidence coming into the locker room at halftime. We were only down 14.”

But, seriously, folks…

Actually, he was being serious.

Kurt Rambis put Wilkins beside Ryan Gomes at the starting forward spots because he wanted those two to match up against Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin.

Gomes, playing power forward, took his game outside and scored 27, most by a Timberwolf this season. Wilkins delivered a career high in rebounds with 12 and had his fourth career double-double.

The Wolves now are 2-0 this season when Wilkins has a double-double.

Not only did Rambis tinker with his starting lineup, he also didn’t play Sasha Pavlovic and Brian Cardinal at all and limited Oleksiy Pecherov to just 4:31 of playing time.

The Wolves outrebounded the Nuggets 46-43 and had one more asisst (24-23) on a night when the Nuggest had 19 assists by halftime and just four thereafter.

Wilkins in, Hollins out with record streak at stake against Nuggets

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Tonight’s lineup shuffling — Damien Wilkins in, Ryan Hollins out — at Denver isn’t necessarily the change or changes Kurt Rambis has said he is contemplating.

Rather, it was made mostly for matchup considerations: Ryan Gomes started on Kenyon Martin. Rambis felt Wilkins’ experience would give him a fighting change against Carmelo Anthony.

Didn’t last long.

Anthony has 13 points already in the first quarter — and Nuggets lead 28-19 with a couple of minutes left — and Rambis soon switched Gomes over to try against Melo.

If the Wolves lose tonight, they tie the franchise record for longest losing streak at 16 games.

This has been a subject on sports-talk radio lately, but I’ll also throw it out here:

Who’s going to win more games this season: Vikings (including playoffs) or Wolves?

Wolves head to Denver for Sunday’s game with record in reach

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Phil Miller covered practice today and filed this after the Wolves worked out at Target Center before flying to Denver for tomorrow night’s game.

Saturday was the one-month anniversary of the Wolves’ only victory, and they marked the occasion with “one of the best practices we’ve had all season,” said point guard Ramon Sessions said.
So will it produce an end to the losing streak?
“I hope so,” forward Ryan Gomes sighed. “A win would make a huge difference. There’s this weight on our shoulders right now.”
That’s the weight of 15 straight losses, one short of the franchise record — “a record we really don’t want,” Gomes understated. But it would take an enormous upset to avoid matching that record, set twice before, considering the Nuggets are 7-0 at home. The Memphis Grizzlies or Utah Jazz, who visit Target Center next week, offer much more likely opportunities to break the skid.
Once the streak ends, the Wolves seem genuinely confident that the atmosphere around the team will clear. “I feel like one win would change everything, becasue it would give us our confidence back,” Sessions said. “It would get us over the hump. I think one win could lead to 10 or 15 more pretty quickly. I think you’d be surprised what an effect it would have.”
Kurt Rambis hopes so, too; he’s worried that his team’s effort will begin to wane if there isn’t any progress soon. “Getting a win would keep them positive,” Rambis said. He was a member of the expansion Charlotte Hornets during the franchise’s first two seasons, when they won 20 and 19 games, so the coach understands what the players are feeling.
“I know how much losing wears on guys, how much it has an impact on their outlook about everything,” he said. “Losing can be so overbearing, you don’t even realize how it’s beating you down. But the guys here have done a good job of being positive.
“It’s not to the point where problems are arising, which is good,” he added. “You can just tell that they really want to find a way to win.”

It’s a late one: Suns at Wolves

Friday, November 27th, 2009

ESPN isn’t here for tonight’s 8:30 p.m. game against the Suns.

But a bunch of fabulously looking people are.

Tonight is giveaway night: 5,000 eyeglasses like the ones Kurt Rambis wore long ago as a player were given away before the game. Everyone from assistant coach Reggie Theus (before the game) to the Timberwolves dancers and Kevin Love (he’s wearing them on the bench) have ‘em on tonight.

A few ambitious sorts even modified theirs by wrapping tape around the nose bridge, even though Rambis never had tape on his (it was a piece of plastic that reflected light).

Rambis kept the same starting lineup tonight he has been using (Hollins, Gomes, Jefferson, Brewer, Flynn) but suggested he’s been contemplating a lineup change. Wouldn’t say what, but I’m wondering if it might be Sessions for Flynn.

Sessions has 14 points on 6 for 7 shooting and no assists and Flynn is 2-for-6 for eight points and two assists at halftime.

The Wolves trail 60-39 at intermission, of course.

Franchise worst 1-14 season start after 124-111 loss to Nuggets

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Phil Miller covered the game tonight at Target Center. Here are his thoughts and notes from tonight’s 124-111 loss to Denver.

– Al Jefferson had 14 points and 12 rebounds on Wednesday, but it sure didn’t look like much fun. Kenyon Martin and Nene are a formidable, physical inside presence, and while Jefferson insists his 2-for-11 start had more to do with him than them — “I was just missing shots, that’s all,” he insisted more than once — they certainly made the lane uncomfortably crowded. Jefferson wrestled with those behemoths for much of the 36 minutes he played, so it wasn’t surprising he didn’t seem to agree with Kurt Rambis’ assessment that the Wolves didn’t play with enough energy. He certainly expended plenty of energy of his own. And how will he spend the Thanksgiving holiday? “Practice,” he said. “More practice.”
– Jefferson wasn’t kidding, by the way. Rambis, clearly still piqued by his team’s iffy effort, scheduled an unusual holiday practice for 10 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. That probably wasn’t popular in the locker room.
– Denver coach George Karl moved into a tie for seventh place in coaching victories with win No. 944. He can pass Bill Fitch with a win over the Knicks on Friday. Speaking of which, get a load of the Nuggets schedule. Wednesday was the second game of a five game stretch that goes: New Jersey (win), at Minnesota (win), New York, Minnesota again, Golden State. Total victories among their opponents for those five games: Nine, five of them by the Warriors.
– Corey Brewer had a nice game, taking to heart Rambis’ insistence that all five Wolves attack the boards. Brewer finished with 13 rebounds and 22 points, both season highs. Actually, the Wolves’ rebounding was impressive all the way around, especially considering that they have given up a double-digit rebounding deficit in six of their last nine games. Minnesota outrebounded Denver 55-49, and collected 16 offensive rebounds — four of them by Brewer — to Denver’s nine.
– Don’t be fooled by the final score, the fourth quarter had little relation to the first three. Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Chauncey Billups and Nene all sat out the entire period, which is why Minnesota closed a 23-point gap after three periods to just eight points, 119-111, with 1:10 to play. The crowd was getting into the spirit of the comeback, but they were silenced in a hurry by Aaron Affalo’s three-pointer.
– Karl on news that former Nugget Allen Iverson may walk away from the NBA:  “I am surprised. I think he still has something left to give some team out there. But if that’s his decision, he’ll go down in history, I think, as the greatest little guard ever to play the game. But I have a sneaky feeling somewhere along the way, (because of) an injury or some circumstance, a team might open that window back up.”