Notebook: Wolves rule out Kevin Love for Saturday match-up with Miami
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MINNEAPOLIS -- With the defending NBA champion Miami Heat in town, the Minnesota Timberwolves are refreshed after an unscheduled five-day layoff between games.
But they will be without leading scorer and rebounder Kevin Love when they meet the Heat on Saturday, the Wolves confirmed Friday afternoon.
Love was absent from Friday's practice after he left the team early that morning to be with his family following the death of his grandmother late Wednesday night.
While Love's status was still up in the air at the time, the Wolves approached practice, their first since getting back from Mexico City, as if they would be down a key piece of their lineup.
Assistant coach Terry Porter, filling in for head coach Rick Adelman, who was also away from the team Friday to attend the birth of his son David's first child, was unsure who would take Love's place in the starting lineup. That decision will be left to Adelman when he returns to the team Saturday as expected.
Dante Cunningham (5.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg) seems to be the likely candidate, already Adelman's go-to in-game sub for Love. Porter also suggested recently acquired forward Luc Mbah a Moute could be an option as well, but admitted it would take a steady platoon effort to fill the void.
"There's going to be a lot of changes," Porter said. "One guy isn't going to be able to fill that void. Everybody is going to have to pick up the scoring part, everybody is going to have to pick up the rebounding part. From that standpoint, we have to know that we have enough guys to step in and try to contribute."
The absence of Love's NBA-leading 13.6 rebounds per game is where the Wolves could be the most affected. The rebounding margin is one of the areas, on paper, Minnesota has the advantage on the Heat, who as the league's worst rebounding team (35.2 rpg) were beat on the glass a combined 95-61 in back to back losses this week to Detroit and Chicago.
Guard Ricky Rubio is no stranger to having to adjust to Love being unavailable, having done so for the majority of last season. But it still puts added pressure on Rubio and Co. in a high-profile test against an obviously dangerous Miami squad.
"We have 15 more shots, so I think I'm gonna take five of them," Rubio joked when asked about the differences on offense without Love.
Recovering from long road trip
The Wolves haven't played a game in an almost a week, but having spent the bulk of that time on the road, the layoff has been both a positive and negative.
A generator malfunction that flooded the Mexico City Arena with smoke spoiled the Wolves' visit to the USA's southern neighbor to face the Spurs Wednesday. Instead, Minnesota's week ended up including a loss to Oklahoma City on Sunday followed by side trip to Mexico. The Wolves have been out of town since last Friday when they left for Dallas.
The game's postponement, which will be made up at the Target Center at a still to be announced date, added another bizarre twist.
"That's all you can say - crazy," forward Corey Brewer said. "Our home game was in Mexico City, so that's a little weird, and then we don't get to play. At least we get to come back home and play them."
On the bright side, the Wolves got a needed reprieve from a grueling stretch in their schedule, coming off losses in six of their last eight games. They also had time for two extra practices, a rare commodity in an NBA schedule loaded with back-to-back games.
"You can break it both ways," Rubio said. "I always try to take the positive way ... We tried to get our legs fresh after a long trip in Mexico -- even though we didn't play -- and we're gonna try to get fresh and ready for tomorrow, too."
• The Wolves may not be the only ones missing a key player Saturday. Miami's Dwayne Wade is questionable after missing two straight games due to illness and nagging injuries.
• Chase Budinger was again on the court post-practice taking jump shots and even sprinkled in a quick dunk or two. Budinger is recovering from left meniscus surgery he underwent on Sept. 30. The Wolves forward isn't ready to set a date for his return, but in an upbeat tone noted it's "coming along."