MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Timberwolves don't seem to be getting any healthier as the grind of a shortened NBA season ramps up and its limiting coach Rick Adelman's options to tinker with his starting lineup.
Forward Michael Beasley and guard J.J. Barea won't travel with the team to New Orleans and Atlanta this weekend because of injuries that could cause them to miss several more games.
Beasley has not played since Jan. 6 because of a sprained right foot. Barea missed four games this season with a strained left hamstring and now is out with a sprained left ankle suffered against Chicago on Tuesday night.
After taking Wednesday off following three games in three nights, the Wolves had only nine healthy players in practice Thursday. Kevin Love missed the session for personal reasons but is expected to be with the team against the Hornets on Friday.
"We just have to adjust as we go," Adelman said. "That's just the way it is at this point."
Adjustment has been the theme so far this season. The lockout prevented the new coaching staff from working with and evaluating the roster most of the off-season, and there has been precious little practice time since the beginning of the break-neck regular season.
Centre Brad Miller (knee), swingman Martell Webster (back) and rookie guard Malcolm Lee (knee) all had surgeries before the season and have not been available. Miller did some light work in practice Thursday, but all three are at least a few weeks away from being able to play.
Beasley, the Wolves' best option to create his own shot late in games, injured his foot against the Cavs and has missed the past three games already. Barea, the team's prize free agent signing, has been hobbled since the second game of the season.
Love and rookie Ricky Rubio have played well, but Adelman is still searching for the right combinations in the starting lineup and off the bench to give his team the best chance to win. The starters — Love, Darko Milicic, Wes Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Luke Ridnour — have come out of the gates slowly in each of the last three games, digging a 24-point hole against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.
After the game, Adelman said he was considering a change to the starting lineup to get more energy at the beginning of games, but injuries are handcuffing him.
"We'll just have to see," Adelman said. "I'm considering everything right now."
Starting faster is no doubt the priority for the Wolves (3-7).
"We are starting like, waiting for it," Rubio said. "We have to punch first. I mean, in this league, if they punch first, like Chicago did, you are in trouble.
"You are 24 down and then you start playing, like we did. But in the end, you are in trouble if you are not controlling the game. And if you are 24 down, it's so hard to control the game."