A year ago Thursday, guard Isaiah Canaan suffered one of the most gruesome injuries you can while playing basketball — a fractured ankle.
Playing for Phoenix, Canaan went up for a layup and landed awkwardly, as his left leg bent in an unnatural position. Nearly a year later, Canaan said he's thankful to be playing again. He played 13 minutes and had three points and one assist Wednesday night after signing a 10-day contract with the Timberwolves.
"With everything I went through this past year, I'm just blessed to be out there, being able to play again at a high level and just blessed with opportunities," Canaan said.
The Wolves have a need for someone such as Canaan with three point guards still on the mend: Jeff Teague (left foot injury), Derrick Rose (right ankle) and Tyus Jones (left ankle).
Wednesday didn't mark Canaan's first game back from the injury — he played in 19 games before Phoenix waived him in November — but it is an opportunity for him to show his skills and perhaps parlay that into a more secure contract.
The Wolves will be Canaan's fifth team in his six NBA seasons. He said this week has been "emotional" as the anniversary of his injury approached.
"It's more mental than anything, telling yourself that you can do the things you were used to doing," Canaan said. "And not try so much to worry about what's going to happen. Or try to replay what happened and what made you get injured in the first place. Just blocking those things out, going out, playing basketball and let everything else take care of itself."
Canaan entered Wednesday averaging 8.4 points per game and shooting 35 percent from three-point range for his career.
Wittman back as adviser
Former Wolves coach Randy Wittman has rejoined the organization in an advisory role, Saunders said. Wittman, who had Saunders on staff when he was coach of the Wizards, will be advising Saunders, a first-time head coach.
"He's an ear for me," Saunders said. "Another basketball mind to bounce things off of. I'm comfortable with him, known him for a long time."
Okogie a 'Rising Star'
Rookie guard Josh Okogie was that guy Tuesday night — the guy whose phone goes off in the middle of the movie. Okogie was out watching the movie "The Upside" when he got a phone call from his agent, who told him the NBA had selected Okogie to be a part of its Rising Stars game over All-Star weekend on Feb. 15. The event features 20 first- or second-year players —10 international, 10 from the U.S. — who will face each other.
Okogie, born in Nigeria, will play for the World team. Okogie, who typically plays with a lot of energy and intensity on the floor, might have to dial it down for the game.
"It's definitely going to be interesting, trying to find a way to play not so hard," Okogie said. "I might just look like the old one out there."
Okogie added he hasn't hit any sort of rookie wall yet, but said: "There damn sure is a lot of games. They just keep coming, but it's nothing I'm not ready for."