HOUSTON – Minutes after the Timberwolves’ 120-102 loss at Houston ended, Rockets superstar James Harden was at the visiting team’s locker room, seeking to visit injured four-time All-Star and U.S. Olympian Jimmy Butler.
Harden and teammate Chris Paul were among the many — Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau and Butler’s teammates — who surrounded him after Butler collapsed to the court after planting his right leg as he went to pass the ball. He suffered a knee injury.
A magnetic resonance imaging exam Saturday will tell the injury’s extent.
“You always worry about a guy like Jimmy because he’s such a warrior,” Wolves teammate Jamal Crawford said. “When you see a guy like him hurting, not being able to put weight on his leg, it bothers you. Hopefully, you wish for the best. He was just in pain. I was just checking on him. It was good to see the Houston Rockets check on him as well. It’s still a brotherhood. You never want to see anyone get hurt.”
Harden returned to the Rockets’ locker room because Thibodeau hadn’t addressed his team but came back down the hallway to visit with Butler later.
“Obviously, you have relationships because of Team USA, All-Star stuff,” Thibodeau said. “Chris and James are fierce competitors, but also really high-character people.”
Andrew Wiggins turned 23 Friday, the same day Wolves late coach/president of basketball operations Flip Saunders would have turned 63.
The only other time Wiggins played in the NBA on his birthday, he stopped Harden and moments later dunked a Ricky Rubio lob pass at the other end while Saunders coached vs. Houston that night.
“I just remember the play,” Wiggins said. “I didn’t remember which game it was, but I remember it was my rookie season here.”
Welcome back, Bulls
Former Wolves guards Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn return to Target Center on Saturday for their only visit this season after they were traded to Chicago in the draft night deal that brought Butler to Minnesota.
“It’s going to be great,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “I can’t wait for [LaVine] to get a great reception. He deserves it. He’s one of Minnesota’s finest and he has brought a lot of excitement to this organization, including slam dunk-contest champions, and affected a lot of lives here.”
Now that LaVine is back playing ball after he underwent season-ending knee surgery last winter, longtime Seattle friend and mentor Crawford hasn’t spoken to him much recently.
“Usually the guys from Washington, they hear from me when things aren’t going well,” Crawford said. “If they’re going through something, I’m always there to reach out. If things are going well, I stay out of the way.”
• A member of Kansas’ 2008 NCAA title team, Wolves center Cole Aldrich returned over All-Star weekend to his alma mater, which retired his No. 45 jersey during a victory over West Virginia. “Great atmosphere, great weekend,” he said. “They haven’t forgotten me. It hasn’t been that long. Just like you guys will miss me someday.”
• Wolves guard Jeff Teague went home to Indianapolis, Wiggins to Toronto, Crawford to Seattle and veteran Taj Gibson stayed in shape by swimming in the ocean during an All-Star break trip to Jamaica. “I love the break, but I hate the break because when you get back, you still have to get your rhythm,” Gibson said.