Updated: 11/21/2012 5:52 PM KSTP.com By: Ben Musel
"Everything in its right place" … maybe not quite the right place, but the Timberwolves are closer to being whole again. Tonight, the team will have Center Nikola Pekovic and Guard JJ Barea back in the lineup after having missed 2 and 5 games, respectively. They play a Denver team that matches up very well against a healthy Wolves squad, let alone this one. Between Pekovic, Barea and the newly signed and practiced forward Josh Howard, the minutes will be more evenly distributed and the team gains a lot of positives.
Guard Malcolm Lee and Center Lou Amundson’s minutes will most likely dip back below the 10-minute threshold and while they are both very serviceable NBA players neither should be seeing the kind of burn they’ve been getting with all of our injuries. Amundson has played 14 or more minutes in the last 3 games while Lee has played 12 or more minutes over the last five games - highlighted by 35-minute performance against Charlotte. Lee’s play was admirable in a game that came down to the last second before Kemba Walker hit a very Jordanesque jumper to win the game.
Both players will most likely go back to more of a reserve role. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lee was still starting and just carried a much lighter load. It seems to me like Shved is flourishing in that sixth man type of role. Having Pek back will be key. He is an offensive presence and backup Greg Stiemsma actually scores when playing the other team’s second unit. Lou Amundson’s role on this team is hustle, heart and extra fouls to give.
Having gotten a few practices under his belt, Howard should have a better idea of what is needed from him and while he doesn’t shoot the three ball nearly as well as Forward Chase Budinger does, he is a better defensive matchup than Forward Derrick Williams. People will debate whether or not the Wolves should have signed a rookie rather than a veteran, but I believe that Howard’s defensive presence makes him a very valuable asset to a team that implementing a new philosophy that never would have worked during the Michael Beasley/ Wes Johnson/ Darko Milicic days. Team Defense didn’t exist in the years between Kevin Garnett’s tenure and this current version of the Timberwolves.
This squad may still be waiting on their most important players to hit the floor, but I have a feeling that they’ll get back to winning close games now that Coach Adelman has the luxury of putting Did Not Play: Coaches decision in the box score. Having some depth back and having the ability to play the hot hand or tinker with lineups is something this team has had trouble with lately. Tonight, there is more of a return to normalcy and the team won’t have to run players into the ground just to put five bodies out on the court.