Timberwolves (1-3) at Kings (1-4)
Scoring: Kings 24th (93.4), Timberwolves 11th (98.3).
Shooting: Kings tied for fifth (47.1 percent), Timberwolves 18th (43.8).
Scoring defense: Kings 30th (108.4), Timberwolves 24th (102).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (50.4 percent), Timberwolves 20th (46).
Rebound differential: Kings 17th (minus-1.8), Timberwolves tied for 21st (minus-3.5).
The links: Timberwolves coverage in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The almanac: On this date in 1991, Magic Johnson announced his first retirement with the stunning disclosure that he had tested HIV-positive. On this date in 1997, the Kings' streak of 497 consecutive home sellouts ended.
Worse, so many of the mistakes have come in the halfcourt, not the result of the Kings playing fast. Mistakes of the wrong pass or the receiver being in the wrong place rather than mistakes of acceleration. So, none of the hoped-for push in the offense and none of the old baskets either.
The Kings are struggling to score despite shooting the ball well, a sure sign they're not getting enough attempts. Wasted possessions. That means the point guard with the terrible assist-to-turnover ratio gets a turn under the microscope that comes complete with a heat lamp. Hey, the defense can't have all the fun.
And not just any point guard. The one who had been a career backup before last season and privately mocked by his former club in San Antonio for a lack of fortitude, then got five years and $32.76 million to re-sign in Sacramento. The implications of Udrih becoming long-term dependable are massive for both sides.
The interesting part of a conversation with him, then, was that Udrih twice brought up the confidence issue himself without being asked.
The real issue, he said, is finding a rhythm after a preseason chopped by a hip flexor. Maybe that comes tonight, when the Kings for sure get Brad Miller back from a five-game suspension, but there's no getting around the fact that Udrih has been a major struggle without yet facing a run of star point guards.
The interview from Wednesday night, after the victory over Memphis:
Question: What's been the big difference between your play last season and so far this season?
Answer: I missed a couple of preseason games. I'm still a little bit rusty. My body feels great, but I just don't have that feeling for the game yet. But I'm still keeping my confidence and I know I can do much better, so I'm going to keep working to get better and better every day. What matters is the win today, we got the first win, so we've got to go from here.
Q: Is it just a matter of the timing, that you need more games to get into sync?
A: Yeah, exactly. Now the season's started and we have a really tough schedule, too. We don't get a lot of practice. We don't practice like five-on-five. Basically just a walk-through, go through defenses, and stuff like. We don't really play a lot of five-on-five. If we do, we don't play 100 percent. More like 60 percent.
Q: Because of the injuries?
A: Not injuries. Because we've got to get some rest. We had a tough trip back there (a four-gamer to start the season), come back, we have a day off, today was shootaround, and shootaround, you don't do stuff like that. But my confidence is still high, so I'm not worried about it. I know I'm going to get it together.
Q: Have the turnovers been especially frustrating?
A: Yeah. I'm a guy that gets frustrated by the turnovers. I don't like to get turnovers. But it's all in that class. It's all grouped together with me not playing in the preseason. I was not out there with my teammates. They maybe don't know where they're going to be. We've just got to get better at reading and stuff like that.
Q: It seems that even though you guys talk about wanting to push the ball, so many of the turnovers have come in halfcourt situations. Does that make it even more frustrating? In other words, it's not because you guys are playing on the run.
A: That's what I'm saying. Sometimes, an inch matters. Sometimes, somebody's standing a little bit too low, too much behind a guy. If he would be like an inch to the right or the left, it should help. That's what I'm saying. We just got to get better, and I think during the games, we're going to get better in that.
Q: Do you see any difference in the way defenses are playing you?
A: No. It's just basically me. I've just got to get the feel for the game back. I'm not trying to look for excuses. I've just got to go through that. (The season) is a long time. It's still the beginning of the season. We've just played five games, and we're playing hard.
Q: So you're sure it'll come?
A: Oh, definitely. I believe so. I have confidence in myself, so I'm not worried about it.