Timberwolves lose to Spurs 107-101 but are finally getting healthy
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For the second time in two weeks, the San Antonio Spurs rallied to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-101 on Friday night.
Much was made during preseason about a new-look Timberwolves team that was younger, faster, better shooters and stronger defensively.
A shade under a quarter of the way through the season, the Wolves are an ugly 4-15 and in the midst of a six-game losing streak but are finally getting close to having their full complement of players on the court for the first time.
"We don't know who our team is until we get everybody back healthy," coach Kurt Rambis said this week at practice. "Until Martell (Webster) comes back, until (Nikola Pekovic) comes back, we see what guards play best with which unit. So that is still going to take some time."
Point guard Jonny Flynn (hip) and swingman Webster (back) have been out the entire regular season and Pekovic, the rookie center, has missed the last three weeks with a sprained foot, but all three are nearing their return.
Flynn played a rehab game Friday with the Wolves NBA Development League affiliate Sioux Falls Sky Force. Flynn scored eight points on 3-of-7 shooting with nine assists and six turnovers in 24 minutes.
Rambis said they were going to take a wait-and-see approach to Flynn's rehab stint so it is unclear when he will rejoin the team. Originally he said ideally Flynn would play more than one game in Sioux Falls so there is a good chance Flynn plays Saturday night against the Reno Bighorns.
At that point, Flynn could either rejoin the team for Monday's game in New York or potentially stay and play a third game in Sioux Falls Tuesday before meeting up with the Wolves leading up to Wednesday's home game against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Regardless of when Flynn first suits up for the Wolves, he won't be penciled into the starting lineup by any means. Rambis has made it clear all season long that guys have to earn their spot and that reputation -- or in Flynn's case -- where a player was drafted, has no bearing on what unit they will play with.
"It is up to them to come out and earn their time and earn their right to play with (the first or second) units," Rambis said.
Webster went through his first full-contact practice with the team Friday since undergoing back surgery before the season began in October and will meet with doctors to discuss his return, according to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.
The Wolves are hoping that Webster will be able to add the scoring punch and athletic spark he showed during the preseason before succumbing to back pain that had lingered since a playoff series against the Phoenix Suns last season when he was still with the Portland Trailblazers.
Webster's return will also take pressure of rookie Wesley Johnson who has been in the starting lineup 15 of 19 games and has played more minutes than Rambis probably would have liked this early into his career.
Further, Webster, despite being just seven months older than Johnson, is a five-year NBA veteran and can add a veteran presence to the Wolves that is severely lacking at times—especially when 29-year-old Luke Ridnour isn't on the floor.
Lastly, Pekovic is seemingly making progress on a foot injury that stalled his rookie season three weeks ago against the Knicks. Despite practicing on Tuesday, Pekovic stayed in Minneapolis to rehab rather than travel with the team to Texas but is said to be day-to-day.
"We are still in the infancy stages of this team," Rambis said. "I mean, how many games have we played with these units and we still haven't had everybody healthy to see who we are as a ball club and that's what this time coming up (will show).