Reiner trying his luck with the Wolves
When Jared Reiner takes the floor Friday at Sioux Falls Arena, the 27-year-old Tripp native will be playing in familiar surroundings.
The situation, however, will be drastically different.
Only three years after Reiner called the arena home as a star for the NBA Developmental League's Sioux Falls Skyforce, Reiner this time will take the floor with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves.
As Minnesota takes on the Toronto Raptors in a preseason game at 7 p.m., Reiner will continue his quest to land what will likely turn out to be only one or two open roster spots.
"I've been getting texts and calls from people telling me they're going to be around," said Reiner, a former Tripp-Delmont star who was the 2000 Gatorade boys' player of the year in South Dakota.
"It's been great, and hopefully there will be a lot of people there supporting me," he added.
As the Timberwolves head into Sioux Falls, Reiner -- one of six Minnesota players with non-guaranteed contracts -- knows there is a chance he won't even get into the game. A 6-foot-11 center, Reiner averaged four points and four rebounds in 11.5 minutes in the team's first two preseason games, but sat out the next three. He finally returned to the court Tuesday at Denver.
Reiner first lost playing time after 7-foot center Oleksiy Pecherov returned from a wrist injury after missing the first two games, but Reiner, who is now in his fourth NBA training camp, is trying to stay positive.
"You just have to control the things you can control," Reiner said. "You try to stay as healthy as you can, minimize your mistakes and let the cards fall where they may. Hopefully, the higher-ups notice the positives you bring."
One of the positives Reiner brings to camp is his size, an area where the Timberwolves suddenly find themselves in a world of hurt. Second-year forward Kevin Love underwent hand surgery Tuesday and is expected to miss six weeks, and to make matters worse for the Timberwolves, 6-foot-10 center Al Jefferson played only six minutes in the second half of Saturday's 101-87 loss to Milwaukee, and is out indefinitely with tendonitis in his Achilles tendon. He did not play Tuesday in a 129-100 loss to Denver.
The injuries to Love and Jefferson might make it tempting -- or even necessary -- for the Timberwolves to keep around another big body like Reiner, at least until the injury situation clears up. Reiner, who hadn't played since Oct. 9, was called upon to play increased minutes Tuesday, when he scored two points and pulled down three rebounds in eight minutes.
"You never know what can happen; when you might get your break," Reiner said. "I've been around long enough to know that you just have to be ready. When you're in the position I'm in, sometimes you get the call and sometimes you don't."
The Timberwolves have 12 guaranteed contracts this year, and are widely expected to maintain a roster of 13 or 14 players, meaning one or two of the six players with non-guaranteed contracts would make the roster. NBA teams must finalize their rosters by Monday.
Last year, Reiner was the last player waived by the Philadelphia 76ers heading into the regular season. Reiner also has been to training camp with Los Angeles Clippers (2005) and San Antonio Spurs (2006), but was released both times before the regular season
However, Reiner has made an NBA roster with a non-guaranteed contract once before. As a rookie out of Iowa in 2004, Reiner appeared in 19 games for the Chicago Bulls, averaging 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds.
Reiner's only other NBA regular-season experience came in 2007, when, in the midst of an all-star season for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, he signed a 10-day contract with the Milwaukee Bucks and ended up finishing the season in Milwaukee. He averaged 1.2 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in 27 games.
Reiner has spent the last two seasons playing in Europe, but said he's choosing not to think about those options just yet.
"I'll burn that bridge if I have to, but right now I'm trying to keep it out of sight and out of mind," Reiner said. "This is where I'm at, and all my energy is focused on getting better every day."
If Reiner does break camp on the Timberwolves' roster, he said it would be an ideal opportunity for him. Not only is it the closest NBA market to his home town, but his wife Jennifer is also from the Minneapolis area. Reiner and his wife were already living in the Twin Cities this summer when Reiner got the invitation to attend camp.
"I had a couple situations I was looking at, but this ended up being the best opportunity," Reiner said. "I'm just trying to keep my fingers crossed and look at it day by day. It would be such great opportunity and I would be so fortunate."