Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 3/31/12
MINNEAPOLIS Dressed in street clothes on the Timberwolves' bench, Nikola Pekovic must be in pain. There's the sharp hurt of the bone spurs in his right ankle, but there's also a duller ache, the pain that comes with sitting and watching, being unable to stop his team from losing. Pekovic never fell. He was never powerless to get up off the court, and the drama of his injury is far less than Ricky Rubio's ACL tear. Rubio's pain was searing and instant, Pekovic's nagging and vague. The same goes for J.J. Barea and Michael Beasley, who are missing time with a thigh contusion and a sprained big toe, respectively. They're at the Target Center, sometimes practicing, sometimes shooting, but never quite ready. And right now, that might be worse. At least Rubio knows what he's facing. He's out for the rest of the season after having surgery on his left knee on March 21. There will be rehab, months of it, and no doubt more pain, but the worst is most likely over, and his path to recovery is one that countless players have gone through before. For Pekovic, and to some extent Barea and Beasley, the final weeks of the season are so much more vague, and with each game they sit, negotiating their injuries becomes ever more complex. It's not that these injuries are unexpected. With the compressed schedule of a lockout season, it's easy to predict that the strain of back-to-backs and travel will plague teams more acutely. Injuries like Rubio's, caused by sharp movement and joints bending in ways they never should, are the downfalls of sports that happen regardless of schedule and exhaustion. These lockout injuries, as one might call them, are harder to work with, and recovery has so little to do with formulas and timelines. It has more to do with pain tolerance and personality, with commitment and even the team's long-term hopes. Take Beasley. He's walking around the Target Center on game nights, dressed in his sweats and even taking shots. Same with Barea, and even sometimes Pekovic. With the glimpses of shootarounds and practices available to the public, they can appear just fine, a little bit sweaty and in the same uniforms as their healthy teammates. Sometimes they're on the brink of fine, teetering on the edge of healthy, but put them in too early, and all the days of rehab and resting are for naught. And with each game that passes, what to do with these injured players changes. Beasley seems likely to return; sore big toes aren't something that can sideline a career, really. Same with Barea, but for the guard who's battled injuries all season, the narrative has changed. Before, it was that he'd sit out a few more days to get fully ready he'd learned his less after trying to return prematurely earlier in the season. Now, though, with 13 games remaining, there's another thought, a final sentence tacked on to discussion of his recovery: I've just got to get through this year, work out hard over the summer and get ready for next year, he said Friday. Get through this year? That's new. So is discussion of the summer, of next season. But with 13 games remaining and the Timberwolves 3.5 games out of the eighth Western Conference playoff spot, next year is appearing on the radar sooner than the team might like. It's not that the Timberwolves don't still have a shot, but it would be irresponsible not to consider the longer-term pros and cons of rehabbing these players and getting them back into games at the end of the season. Even as long ago as last week, Pekovic began to discuss the possibility of offseason ankle surgery. Back then, he talked about returning to the lineup and finishing out the season, but with each game he misses, he'll be more out of shape when he does return. It's been six games and almost two weeks since he took the court, eight days since Barea appeared in a game. Neither will be sharp the moment he returns, and the closer it gets to April 26, the more tempting it might be for the team to cut its losses and prevent further injuries and damage. Timberwolves' coach Rick Adelman doesn't have the luxury that Boston's Doc Rivers has, of an extended time frame afforded by a nearly certain playoff spot. On Friday, Rivers talked about how he's hoping to have Mickael Pietrus, who's suffering from concussions, back for the playoffs. The team should make it that far, and it can wait for Pietrus until it really needs him. Comparatively, the Timberwolves are in a bind. Four of their top six scorers are out, one for the rest of the season. Beasley and Barea seem like they should be able to return, and the verdict on Pekovic is more vague. But this team needs to make a push now if it wants to steal that final playoff spot, and there's no luxury of holding Pekovic, Beasley and Barea out until the postseason. If they're going to keep playing into May, the Timberwolves are going to need those three, and it's become a question of whether the short-term boost outweighs the long-term damage. There's no right answer when it comes to these injuries, and Adelman and his staff may have little say in when the players return. If they're not ready, still in pain and unable to run, move, jump that's the easy scenario. Hold them out. It's when they're almost there, maybe ready, that things will get interesting. The season may depend on the health of Pekovic, Barea and Beasley, but in the end, it might be necessary to look past this one year. That's a tough call to make, and it's hard to envy the coaches and staff who will have to decide.Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Best athlete by state all time
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Arizona's Allonzo Trier cleared to play after drug test comes back negative

Rodgers dealing with sickness ahead of NFC Championship Game

Russell Westbrook responds to All-Star snub

Report: Knicks, Melo to part ways by next season

Report: Pau Gasol out up to six weeks after hand surgery

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Adam Jones to serve as penalty box attendant for minor league hockey team

Report: Paxton Lynch to be given chance to win Broncos’ job

Patriots have a magician perform tricks for players every Friday?

Indiana's OG Anunoby needs knee surgery, out for remainder of season

Tom Brady refuses to discuss Donald Trump: ‘Let’s talk about football stuff’

Report: 49ers could target Kirk Cousins in trade that includes No. 2 overall pick

Best of Yardbarker: Roger Goodell does what we all expected him to do

Eat, Drink, Watch for Jan. 20-22, 2017: Dips, rye, football and Death Race 2050

Box Score 1/20: 37 years ago today, Carter said no to Moscow

NFC & AFC Championship preview: We love scoring

Roger Goodell is a coward, but then we knew that

TailGreater: Picking the conference champions by their signature cocktails

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The NFC Championship’s two most important players

Eight bold predictions for second half of NBA season

Box Score 1/19: Happy anniversary to the 'Tuck Rule' game

Clarification Please: Why college basketball needs to ditch the possession arrow

NBA hotline bling: Derrick Rose gets disconnected

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best of Yardbarker: Roger Goodell does what we all expected him to do

Eat, Drink, Watch for Jan. 20-22, 2017: Dips, rye, football and Death Race 2050

QUIZ: Name the owners of these 50 famous NFL nicknames

NFC & AFC Championship preview: We love scoring

Roger Goodell is a coward, but then we knew that

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

TailGreater: Picking the conference champions by their signature cocktails

The 'What's a Romo worth these days anyway?' quiz

Clarification Please: Why college basketball needs to ditch the possession arrow

NBA hotline bling: Derrick Rose gets disconnected

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker