Andrei Kirilenko will be returning to the home and the arena in which he spent a decade of his playing career. For 10 years, AK47 was a fixture for the Utah Jazz and he called Energy Solution Arena home. Now, for the first time ever, he'll be heading into that arena and be ushered into the visitor's locker room and wearing a different uniform, playing against guys he once called teammates.
AK admits it will be pretty strange, especially going into that visitor's locker room. He also said that he'll probably know every fan in the first twenty rows all around the arena--that's how familiar he is with everyone in Utah. Paul Millsap says he's curious to see if AK will receive the "Jimmer treatment" or the "D-Will treatment" upon his return, aka cheers or boos.
Tonight's game is the begins a stretch of three games in which the Wolves will be facing all Northwest Division opponents: Utah on Wednesday, Denver on Thursday and the Trailblazers on Saturday.
The Wolves are 2-2 against division opponents thus far this season (wins over the Nuggets and Thunder; losses to the Nuggets and the Blazers).
Minnesota comes into Wednesday's matchup 14-13 on the season, 5-9 on the road and 6-4 in their last ten games. The Jazz are 15-17 as we move into the New Year, 9-4 at home, 3-7 in their last ten games and losers of their last three games.
Utah was last year's 8th seed in the Western Conference, but they've struggled to start this season. There core players from a season ago have (for the most part) stayed intact. Gone is Devin Harris (to Atlanta), but they've replaced him with Mo Williams and added former #2 pick Marvin Williams to their forward depth. Despite having all their best players back--and arguably getting a little better than they were a season ago (talent wise) the Jazz have struggled to start the season and have really hit a rough patch lately as losers of 7 of their last 9 games.
If Utah's struggles continue for another month, I wouldn't be surprised if they're heavily involved in trade talks come February. Could definitely see them moving a guy like Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson for some backcourt help--currently starting Randy Foye at shooting guard (what else needs to be said).
The Jazz do have some great young players in Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter and they're certainly going to be a great team if they can add to that core, but as they sit right now, their roster seems to be very unbalanced with too many good big men and not enough minutes to go around, with a lot of subpar backcourt players.
Let's move on to the injury report...
The Minnesota Timberwolves will continue to be without Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee who are all out for extended periods of time as they either nurse their way back following surgery or are currently just nursing an injury. If you'd like to know more about them, you can find HOWLs full injury report under the Team Report header on this site. Ricky Rubio is also listed as questionable for this game. Reports are saying it's more than likely he won't travel with the team on this short two-game road trip (Utah & Denver) as he continues to deal with back spasms. The hope would then be that Ricky would be good to go, when the Wolves return home on Saturday vs. the Blazers. Ricky's injury is likely the result of overcompensating for his knee as he simply hasn't played basketball in over nine months. He should be good to go this weekend, though.
For the Utah Jazz, the Williams' may not be available in this one. Mo Williams is listed as 'out indefinitely' with a severely sprained right thumb. If you remember last season when the Wolves played the Clippers, Mo had some very good games vs. the Wolves, so having him out in this one is good news for Minnesota. Marvin Williams is dealing with some pain and swelling in his knee. He's currently listed as day-to-day and he didn't play in the Jazz's last game. He'll be a likely gametime decision in this one. Lastly, Raja Bell hasn't been with the team all season as he refuses a buyout, but has fallen entirely out of favor with head coach Tyrone Corbin.
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups in this one...
If Marvin Williams (9.2ppg, 3.6rpg, 0.9apg) is able to play, expect him to start at small forward in this one.
Kevin Love's shot was much improved in the Wolves' last game as he went 8-for-20 from the field and finished with 23 points. Adelman says Love's shot has looked great during the Wolves' last two practices (Monday & Tuesday). They'll need him in this one as last season, it seemed that every time the Wolves faced the Jazz, Paul Millsap would always 'turn it on' against the Wolves and outperform the two-time All-Star. Millsap has never been an all-star, but has put up some good numbers in his career, if he enters free agency this summer, he'll be coveted by a number of teams.
If Minnesota wants a win over these guys, couple things they need to do: (1) For the first time (maybe all season) the Wolves have an advantage in the backcourt, here's hoping for a big game from Alexey Shved, J.J. Barea and/or Luke Ridnour (2) The Jazz's strength lies in their frontcourt prowess, it should be some good battles between Love & Millsap/Favors and Pek vs. Big Al. Gotta contain the big guys for the W.
That's all for now, tipoff is set for 8pmCT and a full gameday recap can be found on this site following the final horn. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!