Created: 12/31/2012 10:52 AM KSTP.com By: Ben Musel
KSTP.com Timberwolves writer Ben Musel attended Saturday night's game vs. Phoenix and after doing post-game interviews, came away with this:
“This year, the chemistry on the team is different” -Nikola Pekovic
On a night when three former Timberwolves were in town -- Sebastain Telfair, Michael Beasley, and Wesley Johnson -- center Nikola Pekovic wasn’t reminiscing about the past, but was looking to the future.
“I am just trying to do my job, screen and roll hard,” Pekovic said in the victorious locker room.
With guard Alexey Shved setting the table, Pekovic and forwards Kevin Love and Andrei Kirilenko tore apart the interior of the Suns' defense.
They needed to on a night where they only had three healthy guards on hand.
“I think coach does a good job with rotations, giving us the rest that we need and mixing it up,” said guard JJ Barea. “We just got to deal with it right now.”
One worries that team chemistry will be lacking when there are so many injuries and a lineup that is constantly in flux. That is until you hear something encouraging like Love mentioning that he and forward Derrick Williams have been doing extra work with Shawn Respert, one of the player development coaches.
You could actually see that work pay off in Williams’ very efficient 10 points in 14 minutes. He hit two quick three-pointers and overall was fluid, perhaps playing his best game in weeks. The same can be said of forward Dante Cunningham on the defensive side of things.
“It was great defense,” Barea said of Cunningham’s pivotal steal towards the end of the game.
Cunningham seems to be the glue amongst a roster full of glue guys. So far that has been the reason why this team has a winning record despite a rash of injuries -- the team adapts well to whatever situation they find themselves in.
Shved has been adapting well to the situation that he’s found himself in and Love knows why:
“I think just playing with the Russian national team and having A-K (Kirilenko) right here with him... it’s really been great for him.”
It has been great for Shved and great for the team -- half of Shved’s assists against Phoenix ended up in Kirilenko’s hands. The bond between the two has been formed and now you can see the same thing happening with the team as a whole.
They may not see Chase Budinger until March or Malcolm Lee this season and Brandon Roy’s situation looks cloudier every day, but the team soldiers on. One third of the way through this season and you get the sense that this team that only returned six players from last year’s roster is starting to gel. Lou Amundson and Greg Stiemsma preforming duets in the locker room after the game lends weight to the theory and so did Pekovic’s admission that the teams spends a lot of time together off of the court.