Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin still on the mend, no return dates set
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MINNEAPOLIS -- A critical five-game road stretch is about to begin for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and it is likely they will be shorthanded for portions of it, if not for the entire stretch.
Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and Kevin Martin (thumb) were both able to do only drill work in practice Friday a few hours before the Wolves departed for Utah, where they will face the Jazz Saturday.
Coach Rick Adelman said he has "no idea" if Pekovic could possibly return against the Jazz, adding, "We'll see how he feels tomorrow."
Pekovic has been out since Jan. 28 with bursitis in his right ankle. It has caused him to miss 10 games, leaving a significant scoring and rebounding void to fill.
The 6-foot-11 center was able to do limited drills in practice for the first time in three weeks on Thursday, but as Friday proved, it could still be several more days until he is cleared for full contact.
"The biggest thing for Pek is how much soreness will he have and what kind of conditioning he will be in, because he hasn't been able to run," Adelman said.
Martin had his injured thumb reevaluated Thursday by a doctor, who confirmed the healing fracture on his non-shooting hand was "progressing well." But Martin was expected to see another doctor Friday to get a second opinion
The Wolves' starting guard has missed four games. Adelman said it is "reasonable" to expect Martin to be cleared to play at some point on the road trip.
Both Pekovic and Martin were scheduled to travel with the team for the entirety of the 12-day trip.
The outlook for center Ronny Turiaf is even more up in the air. Turiaf suffered a bone bruise on his right knee Wednesday night against Indiana and was ruled out indefinitely on Thursday. It is appears doubtful he will be able to play in the next two weeks.
Turiaf, who had been filling Pekovic's starting spot at center, has not been able to practice the last two days. He was with the team when practice wrapped up on Friday, shooting a few free throws but was still sporting a noticeable limp.
Needless to say, the Wolves are going to be hurting at center if Pekovic is unable to make his return in the next five games. Rookie Gorgui Dieng is the only other healthy center the Wolves have available. Heightened responsibility will certainly need to be taken on by Dieng, but Adelman said he is also working through several different lineup combinations.
"He's going to play center some, but you have to think about not wearing him down, not getting him into foul trouble," Adelman said.
If it comes to it, 6-foot-4 guard Ricky Rubio said he could always be an option at center.
"I was trying to get my post move going (today)," Rubio joked.
Injured or not, the Wolves have very little wiggle room to spare when comes to trying to make a late push towards playoff contention. Sitting two games under .500 (26-28), an extended slide on the road trip could prove to be disastrous.