Kevin Martin was having a bounce-back season – maybe even a career-best season.
The Timberwolves shooting guard was averaging 20.4 points per game while shooting 48 percent from the field and 48 percent from beyond the arc. For a pure scorer who doesn’t contribute much else, he was filling his role exceptionally well.
But Martin’s year has hit a major snag.
Martin must have hurt hit while fouled on a 3-pointer, which he made. From that point, he scored 31 points on 12-of-16 shooting. Not bad for playing with a fractured wrist. Thank you, Knicks defense.
The Timberwolves won that game, but their season outlook isn’t as strong. They’re already missing Ricky Rubio, and Nikola Pekovic is banged up, too. At 3-7, they’re slipping further from postseason contention – which was a pipedream to begin with.
This might push Flip Saunders to trade Corey Brewer. Then again, maybe Saunders declares Brewer even more valuable to Minnesota. Who knows how desperate this team is to compete in the short term?
But the Timberwolves’ long-term prospects are fairly bright, and this should mean more time for Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad and Brewer on the wing. Minnesota will miss Martin’s contributions now, but this will be an opportunity to develop the team’s young talent.
The Timberwolves have used nine starters already this season, second only to the Spurs.
Minnesota will have more trouble establishing chemistry this week.
With Ricky Rubio (sprained ankle) and Thaddeus Young (mother’s death) already out, starting center Nikola Pekovic is on the mend.
Jerry Zgoda of the StarTribune:
Coach Flip Saunders said after Tuesday’s practice that Pekovic is out the rest of the week not because of that troublesome sore ankle but because of a sprained right wrist sustained in Saturday’s loss at Dallas.
Saunders said managing Pekovic’s soreness and pain in his ankle/foot is an ongoing issue, but said his absence for games against the Knicks, Spurs and Kings is due to the wrist injury.
He said Pekovic will be evaluated early next week.
Pekovic’s absence should mean a larger role for Gorgui Dieng, who stepped up with Pekovic out last season.
Four years younger than Pekovic and on his rookie-scale contract two seasons after this one, Dieng better fits Minnesota’s rebuilding timeline. It seemed Saunders, even with Kevin Love’s exit, wanted to keep the door open for the Timberwolves to contended for the for the playoffs this season. But with a 2-7 start, they probably should confront the reality of their situation sooner than later.
Pekovic is one of the league’s most logical trade candidates. If Dieng plays well in his absence, that should only increase Pekovic’s availability.
Until last night’s win in Brooklyn, the Timberwolves hadn’t won on the road since early April, hadn’t outscored an opponent in regulation on the road since early March, hadn’t outscored a 2014 playoff team in regulation on the road since January.
Minnesota should feel good about beating the Nets in Brooklyn without needing an extra period to do it.
So you can understand why Ricky Rubio would have been a little rattled by Nikola Pekovic saying, “We’re going to forget this win.”