MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota recalled rookie Malcolm Lee from their NBA Developmental League affiliate on Tuesday, but anxious Timberwolves fans hoping he is the answer to the team’s woes at shooting guard will have to be patient.
After spending last week in Sioux Falls, S.D., Lee practiced with the Wolves, staying after for extra work with assistant coach Bill Bayno and fellow rookie Derrick Williams. He pronounced himself ready to play as soon as possible, but coach Rick Adelman said they would take it slow with their second-round draft pick as he continues to recover from a torn meniscus in his left knee.
“He went down and had a nice stint down there,” Adelman said. “But you just can’t grab somebody and throw them in there because somebody else is going to have to sit down.”
Lee played in three games for the Skyforce, averaging 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 25.3 minutes. He has yet to make his NBA debut, due to surgery he had on Dec. 30. Lee has not played in an NBA game this season after being chosen out of UCLA.
“He got through it and he played pretty good,” Adelman said. “We’ll just evaluate him this week to see if his knee is stronger and if he’s doing fine. We’ll just keep monitoring it to find out what’s best for him.”
Lee said his knee was about 90 percent healthy. There’s still some occasional swelling, but that is expected. This is the third time he’s had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knees and he said he is recovering exactly the same has he did the previous two times.
“It feels good just to be back in the mix and out here in Minneapolis,” Lee said. “It felt like Sioux Falls was a good week of progress. I’m just ready to go now.”
The 6-foot-5 Lee impressed during training camp with his defense and athleticism, so much so that the Timberwolves signed him to a three-year contract, a level of security not commonly given to second-round picks. They desperately need a shooting guard to provide them with some steady minutes and shot-making, a hole that has been exposed during their four-game losing streak.
Luke Ridnour has been starting at shooting guard alongside point guard Ricky Rubio. He returned to practice on Tuesday after missing the game Monday in Orlando for personal reasons, but he’s been in a shooting funk. He is 9 for 35 in his last four games, and he has had difficulty guarding bigger guards.
The team hoped second-year swingman Wes Johnson was ready to play the position, but he’s been getting more of his starts at small forward lately and has struggled mightily to have any impact on the offensive end. Martell Webster is still working his way back from back surgery and has been spotty as well, while Wayne Ellington has only been used sporadically.
The Timberwolves host the Charlotte Bobcats, losers of 15 straight, on Wednesday. But the Wolves turned the ball over 51 times in two home losses last weekend and Rubio and JJ Barea combined for 12 turnovers in the loss at Orlando on Monday.
“Four games ago we won five out of seven and everything was fine and now the world’s coming to an end,” Adelman said. “We have to go out and win a game, and then we’ll win the next game. You have to have resiliency. If you’re going to cave into the situation, you’re going to be in trouble.”