At the news conference introducing Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Jerryd Bayless, Covington said he had already spotted ways in which he could help the Timberwolves defensively.
That was evident in the second half of Wednesday’s 107-100 win over the Pelicans. Gorgui Dieng was on the perimeter guarding forward Nikola Mirotic and Covington was up the court yelling, “Hand up, hand up.” Mirotic drained the ensuing shot.
Maybe that’s a bad example, but it’s the process and not the result that counts.
Covington showed his defensive toughness in playing over 41 minutes and frequently communicated with his teammates on defense.
Saric impressed the crowd with his hustle. It’s going to take a while for the new Wolves to acclimate themselves to their new offensive and defensive systems, but in the interim they plan on contributing as best they can while their heads absorb the information.
“You need some kind of time to get it,” Saric said. “I think maybe five, six, seven days, our offenses will be easier for me. But I got good help from my teammates on the court, and the coaches tried to show me what to do.”
One way Covington and Saric made inroads with their teammates, the fans and their coaches was thanks to their hustle. There were multiple times in the first half when the crowd responded to Saric going hard after loose balls while Covington’s effort was obvious on the defensive end. The Wolves edged the Pelicans 47-46 in total rebounds and surrendered just 10 on the offensive end after giving up an average of 14 per game coming into Wednesday.
“They just play hard,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Even if they’re not quite sure on something, they make up with it for their hustle, and hustle goes a long way. You can make up for mistakes by just playing as hard as you possibly can. So they made deflections, they made hustle plays, brought energy to the group, and you have to do whatever you can to win.”
For Covington, that was making sure he communicated on defense.
“You’ve seen a bit of it,” Covington said. “I had guys out there that were talking. We were all on the court and flowing very fluidly. So that’s what I bring to the table, and that’s what I’m going to bring each and every night I step on the court.”
Saric said he had a great experience in his first game and added he was hoping he would get more minutes in the rotation as he became more comfortable. He played 20 on Wednesday and was accustomed to playing an average of 30 per game in Philadelphia.
“After what happened the last couple days it was a shock to me,” Saric said. “But at the end of the day, this is basketball. I come out. Really enjoyed the play of these guys. They’re amazing. Good teammates down there and it was a great pleasure to be on the court.”
Thibodeau mentioned that he was trying to call sets and offensive actions that were similar to the things Covington and Saric ran in Philadelphia.
Saric said he and Covington have been able to get some advice from Bayless, who remains out with a knee injury. Bayless has been traded during the season once before in his career.
“I know this is the first time they’ve been through this. You’re taking your life and uprooting that in an hour — it’s difficult,” Bayless said. “For me, I’ve been through it, so I kind of knew the things that come with that. For younger guys, I think that’s the toughest part is trying to figure out that whole thing with clothes, and your car, and just getting your life back in order.”
The basketball, they expect, will take care of itself.
“Just being out there with those guys,” Covington said. “That’s when I’ll get fully comfortable.”