MINNEAPOLIS With a 19-31 record and 32 games remaining in their season, the second half will be an uphill battle for the Timberwolves. This is a tired team, an injured team, with 18 of its final 32 games coming against .500 or better teams. It's a long road ahead, but on Wednesday, the Timberwolves were in better spirits than they had been in a long time.
Guard J.J. Barea said the All-Star break served the team well, and after a long January and a tough first half of February, some time away may have been just what the group needed. Now, it faces Philadelphia Wednesday night, a team that without center Andrew Bynum has gone 22-29 this season and could be a beatable opponent.
"I think this break was awesome for us," Barea said. "Now we've just got to get back together and treat it as a new season."
And a new season it may seem like, with small forward Andrei Kirilenko back Wednesday night after missing five games with a strained right quad and Barea back to form after suffering a left mid-foot sprain that kept him limited in the team's final three games before the break. Minnesota is still weeks away from the returns of power forward Kevin Love and swingman Chase Budinger, but gaining Kirilenko and a healthy Barea should make a difference for these Timberwolves.
All-Star weekend wrap-up: Guards Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved played in last Friday's Rising Stars Challenge game in Houston, and though Rubio played like his usual flashy self, it was Shved who stole the show at times, pulling off dunks never before seen from him in his NBA career.
When asked about the performance, Shved was wary of giving too much credence to his flashy play. That's just the nature of a game like that, one that panders to the crowd and shows no sign of defense. Everyone played well, he said, and when asked to assess the weekend as a whole, Shved's answer was not quite what you'd expect.
"A lot of players, a lot of guys playing basketball," Shved said. "We stayed together, talked about basketball and played video games."
Kirilenko, when asked whether he'd seen some of Shved's theatrics before, admitted that he had while playing with him in Europe. That said, the veteran had a few choice words about games like those during All-Star weekend. He said that even though no one else does, he'd have played defense if put in such a game.
"It's tough to play that way when you know nobody's going to help," Kirilenko said. "But again, it's fun for the fans, and we see a lot of young rising stars."
Trade rumors still raging: Guard Luke Ridnour, whose name has been mentioned in trade rumors in the past week, declined to speak to the media after Wednesday's shootaround. As of noon Wednesday, no moves had been made, and Yahoo! Sports is reporting that the Timberwolves continue to shop their future first-round picks (of which they most likely have two in June) to acquire established talent.
The trade deadline is Thursday at 2 p.m. CT.
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