Wolves' Kevin Martin returns to practice, says he's at 90 percent
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Martin's return to practice Tuesday was a refreshing boost for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Martin, out for the last week with an injured right Achilles tendon, said he was limited and is still feeling lingering soreness, but wanted to test out how it would hold up in the week ahead.
"Throughout the long week hopefully the soreness stops, but it's time to get where you have to fight through things like this," Martin said. "It's getting there. It feels a little bit better."
After a ho-hum 2-2 start in preseason play, the Wolves are in the midst of a key eight-day stretch, filled with two hour-plus practices, before their next exhibition Sunday against the Boston Celtics.
A prized offseason acquisition for the Wolves, Martin was brought in to bring a potent scoring threat to the starting lineup. But his transition to his new team was briefly derailed when he left the Wolves' second preseason game on Oct. 9 in the first quarter after soreness flared up his Achilles.
Martin has missed two straight games, including a 104-97 loss to Toronto on Saturday that left coach Rick Adelman fuming about a lack of energy and effort he has seen in the preseason. Alexey Shved took over Martin's starting spot in his absence, but Martin was adamant he will be back in the lineup for the next game, which is critical for the Wolves early in the year.
Getting to know the playbook isn't a problem for Martin, having been on a Rick Adelman coach team in four of his nine NBA seasons in stops at Sacramento and Houston. The issue is finding a rhythm with fellow starters Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic.
"I know the system like the back of my hand, but I don't know the players at all," Martin said. "I think that's why it's important for me to get out there this week in practice and also play in these last three preseason games, as many minutes as Rick wants me to, so we can build that continuity going into opening night."
Martin's knack for creating and capitalizing on shot opportunities was notably lacking against Toronto. The Wolves shot just 36.4 percent from the floor, 26.1% coming out of the first quarter. Shved had only three points in Martin's role at the two-guard.
"It's totally different," Adelman said of the makeup of starting-five when Martin is available. "He's such a scorer. He's very difficult for them to guard. A lot of things we're doing are because of him. I think it's important that he Kevin Love are out there on the court together, and Ricky figures out how he's going to get them involved."
Martin is being cautious with the injury, which he said feels at about "90%," but as long as the soreness does not develop into obvious pain again he expects to be active in what he called a "big week" of practice for the Wolves.
• When last we saw Adelman, he was venting his clear displeasure with his team's output so far in the preseason following the loss to the Raptors.
Adelman's mood was improved Tuesday, but he admitted his squad's performance has still been up and down: "It was better, but it still has to be better," he said bluntly.
• Martin, no stranger to Adelman's approach and tactics, said the veteran coach's frustration has gotten through to the team in the wake of his post-game comments.
"You've just got to understand him as a coach," Martin said. "He's not going to get in your face, rah-rah. But when he speaks in a certain way you know when it's business time. After Saturday night's game he spoke as a business, matter-of-fact guy. So we came in here ready."
• Recovering surgery he underwent Sept. 30 to remove a quarter of his left meniscus, forward Chase Budinger is slated to continue his rehab in Pensacola, Fla. for at least the next couple weeks. Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders recently visited Budinger in Florida to check on his progress, according to a league source.
A return date still has not been set, but the Wolves are hoping his recovery window is in the six to eight week range.