MINNEAPOLIS A month into the season and just 15 games into Alexey Shved's NBA career, the Timberwolves wouldn't think twice about drawing up a play to get the ball to the guard late in the fourth quarter.
It's the ultimate statement of confidence, but it's also deserved; Shved has scored more than half of his career points in the game's final 12 minutes and seems to thrive off playing from the bench.
"All my career I'm playing from the bench, and this is like if you come from the bench, you need to put some energy into the game," Shved said. "This is not so important it's important to start the game, but it's more important to finish the game. I like playing from the bench."
Adelman's treatment of Shved is not unlike how he handled Ricky Rubio as a rookie, when he let the young point guard play in the most crucial minutes of nearly every game. Neither has the nerves that would affect his play down the stretch, and with their level of play at the end of games, Adelman is fortunate. He can play Shved and eventually Rubio, too for all 12 minutes without worrying. Not about their nerves, not about their level of play, and also not about their exhaustion.
"The fourth quarter is, the pressure's on, but it's a lot easier quarter to go the whole way because you have three timeouts," Adelman said. "You've got some breaks there. you break right away, three minutes into it, and then another one six minutes into it. And the game slows down a little bit in the fourth quarter. The pressure's there, but it's easier to play."
Rickywatch 2012: Rubio will travel with the team to Philadelphia and Boston for the Timberwolves' back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday. He will not play in either of the games, Rick Adelman said on Tuesday, and in this case, there's good reason to believe him.
When Rubio was cleared to practice, I swore I wasn't going to make a prediction about his return date, because I figured I'd be almost guaranteed to be wrong. That said, I'm going to predict this: Adelman is telling the truth. Of course everyone in Minnesota is now hyper-sensitive about early, surprise returns after Kevin Love's shenanigans on Nov. 21 against the Nuggets, but hear me out:
Missing eight and a half months (we're coming up on nine Dec. 9) with a torn ACL is a completely different beast than sitting for five weeks with a broken hand. You can't compare a career-altering injury to one that's merely frustrating for a month or so, and so to say "Kevin did it, so why won't Ricky?" is utterly simpleminded in this case.
Plus, with Love, it was less a case of blatant lying than it was fortuitous news received before the game. No one came out and said "Kevin Love will not play against the Nuggets this week" a day or two before the game; Love just got word from his doctor in New York that he was cleared to compete. He told the media that he'd be sending x-rays and getting word on how much more he could do. It was just that no one expected that it would be that much more, that he'd be cleared to play.
In Rubio's case, it's just a matter of getting him back into shape. He's gotten his clearance, but unlike Love, he can't just jump back in. His conditioning isn't there yet, which is the biggest issue, and he's been practicing for a grand total of TWO days.
So no, my money is on no big surprises on the East Coast this week. But that's as much of a prediction as I'm going to give.
Getting healthier: Love has recovered from his stomach illness and was back on the court Monday after sitting out Sunday's practice. Malcolm Lee, who sat out Friday's game and Sunday's practice, was also back on the court, but Andrei Kirilenko remained sidelined with the back spasms that have been plaguing him for a week.
Kirilenko will not be available for Tuesday's game against the 76ers, and Adelman said he was unsure if the small forward would even travel.
"I think we've got to be aware that he's not healing quickly, and we certainly can't throw him out there and have something happen," Adelman said.
But even with Kirilenko out, the Timberwolves still fielded 12 players for practice on Monday, more than they have in a good while. Adelman said they made strides in the work they did and seemed more upbeat about what the team accomplished than he has been after any recent practice.
"We started with 12 and ended with 12," Adelman said, laughing. "That's baby steps, but at least it happened."
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