Wessel: Luke Ridnour is the Timberwolves' version of an iron man
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS -- In a season that has been derailed by an almost surreal amount of injuries, the only member of the Minnesota Timberwolves to play in every game is also its oldest player -- the selfless Luke Ridnour, who has once again gone underappreciated in his third season in Minnesota.
Ridnour, who celebrated turning 32 during Wednesday's 97-93 loss to the Utah Jazz, has started all 50 games this season despite a bad back that requires a heat wrap and a cushion to sit on whenever he comes out of the game. Often times that back flares up and he has to ride a bike to loosen up, all while still averaging 31.1 minutes per game.
The senior member of the locker room -- he is five days older than Andrei Kirilenko -- has suited up every night while his teammates, some of whom are as much of a decade younger than him and have a lot less miles on their legs, have missed a combined 190 games.
"He has been tough," coach Rick Adelman said. "He is a tough, tough guy. People don't look at him that way. But he is tough. He takes on the challenges, does the best he can. The last few games he has been knocking down shots for us".
And Ridnour has played at a high level while happily making sacrifices for the good of the team whenever he can. He is averaging a career-high 12.1 points and has led the team in scoring in three of the last four games while rarely playing point guard, his natural position. Instead, he has filled the role of shooting guard -- a position the Wolves perpetually have no depth -- despite his NBA-scrawny 6-foot-2, 173-pound frame.
"I give him a lot of credit," Adelman said. "He never complains. He hasn't played point (guard) hardly all year long, except for one stretch with Alexey (Shved) in the game. He does a great job."
Playing shooting guard also takes an extra toll on his body, having to guard guys who often have six inches and 40 pounds on him, making him, understandably, a bit of a liability on defense at times, but he still gives it everything he has.
"It doesn't matter to him," Kevin Love said. "You ask him to guard Kobe, he guards Kobe. You ask him to guard Russell Westbrook, he guards Russell Westbrook. He'll do whatever you ask of him."
You never hear a peep from him, either. In a league that is essentially fueled on narcissism and me-above-team attitudes, Ridnour stands out as one of the rare guys that just seems content playing the game he loves for a living. Pretty refreshing.
And getting all of this out of Ridnour only costs the team $4 million per year. That is less than backup point guard J.J Barea, sophomore disappointment Derrick Williams and Brandon Roy, who pocketed a cool $5 million for limping through five games.
And yet despite all of this self-sacrificing and dedication, Ridnour seems underappreciated in town. Two of his teammates when asked before the game didn't even realize Ridnour is the only guy in the locker room to play every game this year. He just floats under the radar, the way the family man wants it to be, not wanting any added attention, wanting only to once again help a team get to the playoffs.
"The other stuff doesn't really matter to me," Ridnour said. "I just want to help the team win."
But unfortunately it doesn't look like that playoff return will happen in Minnesota, not this year at least, and with Ridnour's name popping up in trade rumors all over the place, he could be very likely be wearing a new uniform by next Thursday's trade deadline.
The Wolves now have a week off for the All-Star break before returning home for a game against Utah -- their last before the trade deadline. Ridnour's tenure in Minnesota could be up before we know it.
There has been a revolving door of players with questionable character and work ethic the last decade or so at Target Center. Ridnour has been quite the opposite. And, although he has never wanted attention, he certainly deserves more than he has gotten, especially if he is a former-Wolf a week from now.