SAN ANTONIO – Jimmy Butler’s return to the Timberwolves lineup meant coach Tom Thibodeau had to do some adjusting to his starting five and second five from how those units played in the preseason.
Butler took Derrick Rose’s spot in the starting lineup while Rose dropped down to the second unit after playing much of the preseason with the first.
“[Rose] has the versatility to play with both groups,” Thibodeau said. “So he’s gotten comfortable playing the off guard; his natural position is the point. I think you can mix and match with those guys.”
With the first unit, Rose was an off-ball guard while Jeff Teague took care of main ballhandling duties, something he was likely to continue with Tyus Jones also getting minutes off the bench.
“I got to play the same way,” Rose said. “Thibs wants me to be aggressive in the second unit. I’m able to have the ball a little bit more and just play the way I normally play. The court is spaced out with the second unit, so I’m able to drive and just kick out.”
Rose said Teague, like him, is an aggressive guard, and that’s a trait he and others were trying to instill in Jones.
“Jeff is aggressive. Tyus, we’re trying to make him aggressive,” Rose said. “Guards now in this league, it’s cool to organize the game and run the team, but you got to play a little bit aggressive. We’re trying to do that with Ty, forcing him to shoot in practice.”
There was no Tony Parker, no Kawhi Leonard, no Manu Ginobili on the floor for the Spurs. Most of the names that helped them to prominence in the Western Conference are gone, whether through retirement (Ginobili), a trade (Leonard) or signing elsewhere (Parker).
But coach Gregg Popovich is still there, and Thibodeau said a key to the Spurs maintaining their continuity as a winning team was guard Patty Mills, who is going to have to take on a large role for the Spurs with promising young guard Dejounte Murray out for the season because of a torn ACL.
“[Mills] is such a great competitor, and he’s done it the hard way,” Thibodeau said. “You have a respect for guys who go as hard as he does … that’s a trademark of this team. The character of the guys they bring in is a big part of what makes them who they are.”
Breakfast’s on KAT
Karl-Anthony Towns bought breakfast Tuesday for about 165 staff members of the Wolves, to show his gratitude to those who work for the team.
“They’re the unsung heroes of our organization,” the center said. “For them to do what they do on a daily basis and give the fans what they really want, it’s a very hard job. People don’t give enough recognition to those people. I just wanted to recognize the people who don’t get the credit, the big contracts, make the millions of dollars but are the ones who make those contracts happen.”