(AP) — Joe Smith sat out of practice again Wednesday with the Minnesota Timberwolves because of an ankle injury that coach Flip Saunders expects will limit Smith’s effectiveness early in the regular season.
“I don’t expect him to have a great impact on the first 10 or 20 games,” Saunders said. “He’s really not going to go through training camp.”
That’s a disappointing development for the Wolves, who signed the 6-foot-10 Smith when it became clear last week that Tom Gugliotta was leaving for Phoenix.
Smith sprained his right ankle in practice Saturday night, his first significant workout with his new team. He hasn’t practiced since and is doubtful for Thursday night’s home exhibition game against Milwaukee.
A slow start to an already abbreviated season could hurt Smith’s chances in free agency next summer. Although he has told the Wolves he is committed to them for the long haul, they still won’t be able to give him a significant raise on his one-year, $1.75 million contract until the summer of 2001 — if he sticks around that long. Other teams will be able to pay Smith big money this summer.
“Right now, it’s at a point where he understands he’s here to play, to improve and to learn,” Saunders said of Smith, whose stock has dropped over the past season and a half. “It’s going to take him some time.”