SALT LAKE CITY – Convenience met necessity for the Timberwolves on Friday, when they summoned G League players Justin Patton, Anthony Brown and Amile Jefferson back to the NBA a day after they had finished a 108-99 loss at Portland with just nine healthy players.
The Iowa Wolves played Utah’s G League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars on Thursday, just a 10-minute drive from the Jazz’s Vivint Smart Home arena.
The minor leaguers were needed for a team that has star Jimmy Butler out injured, waived Shabazz Muhammad on Thursday, at his request, and then played Thursday’s fourth quarter without starting forward Taj Gibson.
“It just worked out,” Wolves coach/president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau said. “We didn’t know what Taj’s status would be. It worked out that they were right here. That’s one of the good things about having an affiliate.”
Gibson said before the game that he intended to play Friday after he sustained a left hip contusion in Thursday’s third quarter.
Patton, Brown and Jefferson participated in their own version of a morning shootaround Friday and were in uniform and available to play the Jazz in a late tip for ESPN.
The Timberwolves have a rare five-day break after Friday’s game before they play again, against Boston on Thursday at Target Center. Asked if the three G League players will return to Minneapolis and practice with the team next week, Thibodeau said, “We’ll see. I want to see where Taj is and where we are.”
He also was asked if Patton, Brown and Jefferson could see any action.
“They could,” Thibodeau said. “We’ll see how it unfolds.”
None of them played Friday.
Patton is the Wolves’ first-round draft pick from last summer who’s on the road back from foot surgery in July. Brown and Jefferson are both signed to two-way contracts. Brown is a wing player who can shoot the three and Jefferson is one of six players in the G League averaging a double-double, and has a knack for the ball.
Jefferson was Wolves guard Tyus Jones’ teammate at Duke and together they won an NCA A title in 2015.
“Always good to see a brother of mine,” Jones said. “In this league, you’ve always got to be ready because a lot can change in a short amount of time.”
Gibson plays on
Gibson wasn’t in the mood to talk about Thursday’s game and the injury that caused Thibodeau to play some unfamiliar combinations in the fourth quarter. But he vowed he’d play Friday and was in the starting lineup.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Gibson said. “Just focus on the game today. Just go out there and play.”
Rookie of the Year?
The Wolves played the Jazz for the third of four times this season, but for the first time since Utah’s Donovan Mitchell really has become something of a rookie sensation.
Mitchell was named the West’s Rookie of the Month for February, when he averaged 21.4 points a game and won the All-Star slam-dunk contest. He also won the award for December and January. The last time the Wolves faced the Jazz was in mid-November.
“He’s had a tremendous year,” Thibodeau said. “Everyone thought he’d be a good player based on his college career. I don’t know if anyone could say they saw this coming. He has shown he does it all.”
• From one point guard to another, Lynx star and FSN contributor Lindsay Whalen interviewed former Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio at the Jazz’s morning shootaround Friday.
“It was good to catch up with him,” she said. Their conversation aired during Friday’s game coverage. It was Rubio’s third game against the Wolves after being traded to the Jazz in the 2017 offseason.