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Grizzlies missing three players tonight; Dunn excited for NBA debut

The Timberwolves open the Tom Thibodeau era tonight in Memphis against a Grizzlies team that will be noticeably shorthanded.

The Grizzlies determied at Wednesday's shootaround that five-time All-NBA defensive selection Tony Allen won't play because of an injured knee that just isn't ready yet.

New Memphis coach David Fizdale already had said newly signed Chandler Parsons (knee rehab) and veteran forward Brandan Wright (ankle) won't play, either.

The Wolves had everyone healthy and all participated in this morning's shootaround in Memphis.

The Wolves opened the season at FedExForum two years ago with a 105-101 loss in which they started Ricky Rubio, Corey Brewer, Andrew Wiggins, Nikola Pekovic and Thad Young.

That also was Zach LaVine's first NBA game, but he didn't play a second that night.

Those days are long gone.

Tonight is rookie Kris Dunn's first game and you can bet he'll play, off the bench with the team's second unit.

"All my life," he said at shootaround about waiting for his first NBA game. "I've been playing the game for so long, been watching so many NBA games. Now the time is here."

A year ago, Thibodeau was one sabattical, taking a season away from the game by studying other franchises after the Chicago Bulls fired him.

Asked if he remembers where he was on opening night this time last year, he said, "I don't. I think I was somewhere. I may have been in Charlotte."

The Wolves and Grizzlies play each other four times in less than a month. The Wolves won a preseason game at Target Center last week, the Grizzlies visit for the Wolves home opener on Tuesday and they play again in Memphis on Nov. 19.

Thibodeau talks about continuing Flip Saunders' legacy

After practice Monday, Wolves president of basketball operations and coach Tom Thibodeau added his voice to the chorus of people remembering the impact Flip Saunders had on the organization.

Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of Saunders’ passing, which came less than five months after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

The two were friends, and they shared a connection to the late Bill Musselman, who coached Saunders at the University of Minnesota and hired Thibodeau to be a part of his first staff with the Wolves decades ago.

Monday Thibodeau praised Saunders for putting together the young core talent of the team’s roster. “It’s great,’’ he said. “Obviously we all miss him. And he was one of a kind, and his vision for the team…. He had spoken to me about what he was trying to do. So I had a good understanding of it. I never thought I would end up here, but when he was telling me about it, it made a lot of sense to me. And then, getting here, and seeing the players and their character, you could tell they put a premium on that as well.’’

It is a vision that Thibodeau now has in his hands. “We just try to do the right things each and every day,’’ he said. “I think [Saunders] put things in motion and a lot of the guys feel very close to him. His memory is alive and well with all of us. We want to make him proud. Me being here before and also my connections to him through Bill Musselman, it’s sad that he’s not here. But his memory lives on and we’re going to do the right things for him.’’

One other note from today.

Thibodeau was asked a good bit about his defense. The Wolves needed to improve mightily in that area, as we know, and Thibodeau came to Minnesota with the reputation as a defensive coach.

So far so good.

With the preseason in the books, the Wolves finished in a tie for second in defensive rating – a stat that measures the number of points allowed per 100 possessions. Atlanta finished first at 91.2. Minnesota and Detroit were tied for second at 92.1.

We all know that putting too much emphasis on the preseason is a mistake. Still, there appears to be some improvement.

“It’s just fundamentals,” Thibodeau said. “Both offensively and defensively. That’s how we’re building our foundation. And then, the repetition. We have to execute on both ends of the floor. So we start with individual fundamentals, then go to team fundamentals, try to work at it every day. There is a long way to go. The preseason is finished. It will go to another level of intensity now that we get to the regular season. So we have to be ready for that.’’

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Timberwolves at Memphis

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Wild at Buffalo

    6 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey

    7:07 pm on BTN PLUS

  • Gophers men's hockey at Clarkson

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey

    7:07 pm on BTN PLUS

  • Gophers football at Illinois

    11 am on BTN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers men's hockey at St. Lawrence

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • New York at Minnesota United FC

    7 pm on Ch. 29

  • Dallas at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Sacramento

    9:30 pm on FSN/NBATV, 830-AM

  • Vikings at Chicago

    7:30 pm on ESPN, 100.3/1130

  • Memphis at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Buffalo at Wild

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

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