The four veterans brought in by Timberwolves coach/boss Tom Thibodeau before the start of the 2017-18 season have proved to be sizable assets.
Jimmy Butler is a hard-nosed star and a character likely to say anything, in the manner of Kevin Garnett. Taj Gibson is also hard-nosed and a better player than I imagined.
Jamal Crawford still has it as a shooter and has lived up to his reputation as one of NBA’s great guys. Jeff Teague has a quiet manner and has put together a good season.
Butler has been out since tearing a meniscus on Feb. 23 and is pushing to get back for the closing days of the 82-game schedule. And he is needed, since even with three victories, the Wolves have demonstrated mostly awful play in the past five:
They crawled past the shorthanded Knicks on Jan. 23, no-showed vs. the 76ers, lost incredibly at home to the Grizzlies, received 56 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and still struggled to put away the worst team in the East (Atlanta), and won at Dallas on Friday in a game that was the Medusa’s Head of basketball.
Overachieving Utah is here on Sunday night. The fans might not get a chance to cheer for their favorite point guard, since Ricky Rubio missed Friday’s game for the Jazz because of a tight hamstring. It was only the fifth game missed for Rubio.
Teague left Friday’s abomination in Dallas because of a sore hip. He has missed 11 games this season.
Rubio, 27, is averaging 29.9 minutes, 12.8 points, 5.4 assists and shooting 40.8 percent (.333 on threes). Teague, 29, is averaging 32.8 minutes, 13.8 points, 7.0 assists and shooting 44.3 (.373 on threes).
Teague must deal with the we-love-Ricky faction and also the delusional types who think Tyus Jones, 21, is ready to be more than a backup.
Jones has played in all 77 games and averaged 17.8 minutes. On occasion, he is exiled to Thibodeau’s version of Elba — including when he was blown by a couple of times early vs. Memphis and played only five minutes.
Overall, Teague has been an upgrade. So have Butler, Gibson and Crawford. That’s why the Wolves have 44 victories with five left, rather than the 31 in 2016-17.
• Mustafa Adam, an Augsburg linebacker in 2016 and 2017, is facing surgery after a cancer recurrence. Fellow students are trying to assist at gofundme.com/stafastrong.
• Money aside, Gorgui Dieng has to be unhappiest Woofie. Averaged 30 minutes in previous three seasons; now a 17-minute afterthought.
• Look for a big rebound for Saints in American Association standings after 48-52 flop in 2017. I know that’s crucial for ticket sales at CHS Field.