Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau seemed to be in a good mood after shootaround this morning. This could be the reason: Jimmy Butler, listed as questionable with back spasms, was able to take full part in the morning workout. It appears Butler will be able to play tonight against Portland at Target Center.
“We’ll see how he feels tonight,’’ Thibodeau said.
If he’s able to go, it doesn’t appear Butler will be under any sort of minutes restriction. Butler dealt with the sore back in the second half of Saturday’s home loss to Phoenix, at one point leaving the bench to get treatment in the locker room. “Basically it locked up,’’ Thibodeau said. “It wasn’t spasms. So, and now it’s loosened up for him. We’ll see if he’s fine tonight. He went through shootaround, and he’s feeling a lot better.’’
Butler returned to play the final 10-plus minutes of the game, but he was clearly playing in pain.
“That’s who he is,’’ Thibodeau said. “He’s always played through things. He’s a tough guy, tough minded.’’
Butler returned quickly from a nasty upper respiratory infection that knocked him out for two games early in the season. And he played through a badly sprained finger on his left (non-shooting) hand sustained in Memphis Dec. 4.
A couple other notes from morning access:
The Wolves’ recent trouble with fouling jump shooters has Thibodeau concerned heading into tonight’s game with the Blazers. Portland’s backcourt of C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard is a potent one. Lillard enters the game seventh in the league with 204 free throw attempts in 29 games. “Lillard is a guy who is real crafty,’’ Thibodeau said. “It puts a lot of pressure on you. You have to be disciplined. They know how to draw fouls. That is a concern.’’
Especially the way the Wolves have been playing of late. Phoenix made 35 trips to the free throw line while beating the Wolves Saturday on a night when the Wolves committed just 19 fouls; the Suns scored their final eight points from the line, including three by Isaiah Canaan with 6.1 seconds left. In Minnesota’s loss to Philadelphia last week the 76ers scored 11 of their 18 points in overtime from the free throw line.
Tonight ends the Wolves’ five-game homestand. After tonight the Wolves will play five of their next six games on the road, including a game on Christmas in Los Angeles against the Lakers.
ICYMI, check out Joe Christensen's report from Des Moines, where he profiled the city that plays host to the Wolves and Wild farm teams. Also, Jerry Z's companion piece on the Albany Patroons of 1987 -- the best minor league basketball team in history?