(Sports Network) - The Minnesota Timberwolves knew coming into this season
point guard Ricky Rubio would still be recovering from an ACL tear in his
Not having one of the younger and more dynamic floor generals in the game is
obviously a big blow, as Rubio is expected to miss the first six to eight
If things couldn't get any worse for the Timberwolves, All-Star forward Kevin
Love won't be around either for almost two months because of a fracture to his
third and fourth metacarpal in his right hand. The injury occurred during a
workout and Love released a statement regarding the setback.
"I had a postpractice commitment and decided to work out at my home with my
personal trainer before heading to Target Center. While doing various pushups,
including knuckle pushups, which are part of my regular workout routine, I
hurt my hand. I immediately knew something was wrong and called head athletic
trainer Gregg Farnam.
"Although I'm disappointed that this injury happened, I will work extremely
hard to stay in shape and return to the court as quickly as possible. We have
added a lot of depth to our roster this season, and I have complete confidence
in my teammates and coaching staff that they will step up and we will be
successful during this time. I'm looking forward to supporting our team and
helping out any way I can until I get back on the court."
Love led the team with 26.0 PPG in 55 games and also grabbed a team-best 13.3
rebounds. He has been selected to the NBA All-Star Game in each of the past
two seasons and led the league in double-doubles (48), was second in minutes
per game (39.0) and rebounds per game.
Missing a pair of starters right off the bat would hurt any team, but it just
means that other players have to be ready to step up when their name is
called. As Love said in his statement, Minnesota added some new pieces to the
squad over the summer and is hoping to end a lengthy playoff drought. The
Wolves haven't been to the postseason since 2003-04 and have finished no
better than third in the Northwest Division since then.
Second-year forward and second overall draft pick Derrick Williams is a player
who can benefit from the absence of Love. Williams played in all 66 games last
season and has big expectations for the upcoming campaign. Williams, though,
understands how important Love is to this team and that players must
contribute in his absence.
"We were a little surprised at first," Williams said of Love's injury. "It's
tough, but at the same time we have a lot of players who can do a lot of
things. We'll be looking for K-Love and Ricky to come back pretty much at the
Williams continued to reiterate how Love's injury has an immediate impact on
the rest of the team. Williams even said he can get better as a player and
teammate with Love out, and the chance to step up can only boost his
confidence. But at the same time, other players have to contribute and not one
man can lead the team.
Well, Love is actually that man and now it's up to some new faces to help out.
Brandon Roy hopes a new beginning in the Twin Cities will start right away and
has been plagued by knee issues the past few years. Roy, a longtime Portland
Trail Blazer, is expected to start with his new team. Russian sharpshooter
Andrei Kirilenko joined the Wolves in the offseason, too, and bolsters
Minnesota's outside shooting and inside game.
With Michael Beasley and Brad Miller gone, the Timberwolves will rely on
Williams, Kirilenko and center Nikola Pekovic in the paint. While Rubio, who
averaged 10.6 points, 8.2 assists (fifth in the NBA), 4.2 rebounds and 2.22
steals (third in the NBA) in 41 games a year ago, continues to strengthen his
knee, Luke Ridnour will run the floor. Ridnour averaged a career-high 12.1 PPG
Wolves head coach Rick Adelman saw his team lose 13 of 14 down the stretch
last season and ultimately miss the playoffs again. When Love and Rubio return
they could be a bit rusty, but look for this team to finally end their
postseason drought in 2012-13. The Wolves won't win the Northwest and are
looking at a seventh or eighth seed in the Western Conference.
2011-12 Results: 26-40, fifth in Northwest, Missed playoffs.
ADDITIONS: G Brandon Roy, SF Chase Budinger, F Andrei Kirilenko, F Dante
Cunningham, PF Louis Amundson, C Greg Stiemsma, G Alexey Shved
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Luke Ridnour
SG- Brandon Roy
SF- Andrei Kirilenko
PF- Kevin Love
C- Nikola Pekovic
KEY RESERVES: PF Derrick Williams, SF Chase Budinger, C Greg Stiemsma, G JJ
Barea, F Louis Amundson
FRONTCOURT: With no Love at the power forward spot, Williams' role becomes
even more important. The durable Williams was the only T-Wolve to play in all
66 games last season and is an athletic specimen who can block shots and make
things happen on the break. Williams said his confidence will gain an edge now
that his teammates will be looking for him to contribute right away, and will
be a valuable piece off the bench when Love returns.
Kirilenko is a savvy veteran who can lead the team in scoring on some nights,
and will have a chance to burn his former Utah Jazz teammates being that
Minnesota is in the same division.
Pekovic doesn't bring much flash down low, but is a physical player who can
command double teams and open up the outside shot. The Timberwolves need more
athleticism in the paint besides Kirilenko.
BACKCOURT: Rubio said he is "dying" to get back on the court and still has a
ways to go in his rehabilitation. Rubio started running and said he feels
good, but it's a slow process and will take things day by day. Rubio is
excited to play with Roy and hopes his knees can hold up for the long haul.
Roy was an elite scorer with Portland until chronic knee issues ended his
marriage with the team. Now he has a second chance to prove he still has some
gas left in the tank. Roy, of course, is an excellent ball handler with sharp
Ridnour filled in admirably when Rubio went down and will run the floor once
again until the Spanish star returns in about two months. Ridnour enjoyed a
career year in 2011-12 and showed what he can do when given an opportunity.
BENCH: Players like Williams and Ridnour will be coming off the bench when
Love and Rubio return, but for now they've been injected into the starting
lineup. The Timberwolves have a talented bench with forwards Chase Budinger,
Dante Cunningham and Louis Amundson, center Greg Stiemsma and young guard
Alexey Shved. With Love on the mend, expect Williams, Cunningham and Amundson
to see plenty of action. Rebounding will be key from this bunch because Love's
play on the glass is uncanny. Budinger has a good shot from outside and is a
solid role player, while Stiemsma will spell Pekovic at times. Budinger also
played under Adelman in Houston and will help the transition offense. J.J.
Barea and Shved will be at Minnesota's disposal in the backcourt.
COACHING: Injuries plagued Adelman's first stint with the Timberwolves, and it
appears that will happen again for the first two months this season. Until
Love and Rubio get back healthy, the Wolves will have to get by with some new
additions in Roy and Kirilenko. Adelman is on his way to a Hall of Fame career
and looks to guide this team back to the prominence it once had when Kevin
Garnett ran the show. A proven leader, Adelman can only hope he can maximize
the potential of his players come December, when his two biggest stars are
expected to return. That's when the "real" work begins.
OUTLOOK: Projected to finish no worse than third or second in the Northwest
Division, the Timberwolves can easily grab the seventh or eighth spot in the
Western Conference. That being said, Minnesota may have to dig itself out of a
hole if the absence of both Love and Rubio hinder the team's success. The
nucleus of the squad is still intact and some talented names were added in the
offseason. Roy will be out to prove that he is still a reliable option and
hasn't lost his scoring touch. Kirilenko, Williams and Budinger must play up
to their potential as well. The Timberwolves are used to getting passed over
and now it's time for them to take the next step in becoming a formidable foe
in the crowded Western Conference.
The Sports Network