In week two of the Wolves season, the team went from "short-handed" to "having some difficulty fielding a team," a situation that led to at least one disappointing loss.
The hardest thing to accept about the Timberwolves' spate of injuries isn't that there are so many - six, currently - or even that those injuries have sidelined six of the team's top seven players.
It's that so many of them have been freak accidents.
At least Ricky Rubio's knee exploded in the middle of a basketball play. Since then, Kevin Love hurt himself doing knuckle pushups in his apartment, J.J. Barea sprained his foot running into the scorer's table, and Nikola Pekovic sprained his ankle stepping on Vince Carter's foot. Add to that Chase Budinger's torn meniscus, sustained Saturday in Chicago, and Brandon Roy's ongoing realization that his "knees" are no longer really human knee joints, and suddenly the Timberwolves are looking a little thin.
To try to combat this, the team has signed forward Josh Howard, who will plug some gaps but probably not provide major improvements. (Mostly, the Wolves just want ten healthy players on the roster.)
Minnesota began the week with a spirit-lifting home win against Indiana, thanks to a last-second game-winning layup, and though they lost at Chicago the next day, they came back Monday with a big win in Dallas. Wednesday, though, they lost at home to Charlotte - who, while less awful this year, is still pretty bad - thanks to missed free throws and to simply not having very many good players left. Minnesota had to start both Malcom Lee and Greg Stiemsma. Lou Amundson had to play 23 minutes. No matter the opponent, it's hard to win with that lineup.
A few thoughts from week two:
1. Derrick Williams is on the Jonny Flynn / Wes Johnson draft bust track. Williams can't shoot, and can't seem to find a way to finish at the rim. When he gets the ball in the half-court set, everything stops; he appears to be counting to five-Mississippi in his head before either dribbling or passing. He's shooting 32% from the floor, which is terrible for any shooter and doubly terrible for a guy who takes the bulk of his shots from inside four feet. Dante Cunningham has become the Wolves' go-to option at power forward; though Williams starts there, after he comes off the floor the first time, he exists only to give Cunningham a break thereafter.
It's tough to imagine that somehow, the Wolves will have another top-five pick that'll be on his way out the door by the end of his second season, but right now that would appear to be the case.
2. We've seen a lot of Alexey Shved - more than we would have liked. In a perfect world, Shved might be easing into his first NBA season with 12-15 minutes a night. Instead, he's played 26, 33, and 23 in the last three games, many of those in a primary ballhandling role. Not surprisingly, mistakes have been made - he turned the ball over five times against Charlotte, including a key turnover in the final minute.
3. Without Pekovic and Love, the Wolves start to look desperate in the frontcourt. Against Charlotte, Amundson and Stiemsma were terrible - four points between them on 1-8 shooting, and six missed free throws in eight attempts. Amundson's best offensive move is attempting to volleyball-spike rebounds into the hoop; Stiemsma is still inconsistent.
Week three, in some ways, is exactly what the Wolves need right now - time to heal. Minnesota plays just two games, both at home; they take on Golden State on Friday, and then have four full days off, with Denver coming to town next Wednesday.
Given their injuries, the Wolves would certainly have accepted a 5-3 record after eight games. But if they don't get healthy soon, that above-.500 record may soon be a distant memory.