Wolves' injury list not getting any smaller in season's final weeks
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MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Timberwolves wind through the final weeks of what has largely been a disappointing season, their injury list isn't getting any shorter.
Center Nikola Pekovic was able to undergo increased activity in practice on Saturday, coach Rick Adelman said, but his status for the Wolves' Sunday matinee against the Phoenix Suns is still doubtful.
Pekovic started the first 44 games of the season before his year became been derailed by a lingering right ankle injury. His ankle healed up enough to allow him to return for a seven-game stretch earlier in March, but the pain eventually built up again and has kept him sidelined for the last three games.
One silver lining spawned from Pekovic's recent absent has been the breakout of rookie Gorgui Dieng, who has put up double-doubles in all three games in the starting lineup.
Adelman joked with Pekovic that Dieng could be making a run to take over the starting spot for good. That didn't go over all that well.
"I asked him on the plane the other day if he'd ever heard of Wally Pipp," Adelman said, referencing the former Yankees first baseman who yielded his spot to a certain rookie. "That was a big mistake, because he'd never heard of Wally Pipp, and he'd never heard of Lou Gehrig. The lesson kind of lost its meaning."
For now, Dieng is the only center the Wolves have available. Adelman noted that backup Ronny Turiaf has not gotten any closer to making his return from a bruised right knee. Turiaf hasn't played since Feb. 19.
And now there could be a new name on the injury report Sunday. Guard J.J. Barea sat out practice with a sprained left ankle, which he said has bothered him for the last week.
Barea underwent an MRI that came back negative. While the sprain has remained, he was adamant he would at least attempt to play against the Suns.
"It's better today. And, hopefully, it will be better tomorrow," Barea said. "And I'm going to get a good warmup, a good workout before the game, and see how it feels."
If Barea isn't able to play, the Wolves will be low on options at point guard, especially with reserve guard A.J. Price still on the mend from surgery last week to remove his appendix. In the case that Barea is unavailable, Adelman said rarely used guard Alexey Shved would fill his role at the point with the second unit.
While Barea insists he's been dealing with the sore ankle for a while, Adelman is convinced he knows the root of the injury.
"I think he did it when he grabbed the rim in Dallas. He's not used to coming down that far," Adelman joked, referencing the diminutive guard's out-of-nowhere attempt at a put-back dunk against the Mavericks.
That wasn't the cause, but Barea still laughed about the notion. Even two days later, Barea is still awed by how much elevation he got on the play.
"I surprised myself, I'm telling you. It was like, 'what am I doing up here?'" he said, grinning.