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Wolves preseason pregame: Tyus Jones to start vs. Thunder

The Wolves open their seven-game preseason schedule tonight against Oklahoma City at Target Center.

This one's on radio, if you want to hear the dulcet tones of team play-by-play guy Alan Horton. But, like the revolution, it will not be televised.

Thunder superstar Kevin Durant plays his first game since last February. He has been back for all of training camp after he played just 27 games last season because of that fractured foot that wouldn't heal.

ESPN's Marc Stein is in town for Durant's first game. Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins is here, too, working on a Wolves piece.

Asked after shootaround this morning if tonight is something of a milestone for him, Durant said, "I haven't really looked at it like that, to be honest. Since the first day of camp I've just been trying to grind it out with my teammates. I don't think about me being injured, I just want to pick up where I left off. I haven't played an NBA game in a long time, just like these guys haven't played in a long time. I try to look at it like that and not put too much pressure on myself."

Don't expect either Durant or Russell Westbrook to probably play any more than 20 minutes tonight in what's the Thunder's preseason opener too.

Tonight also is the debut of new Thunder coach Billy Donovan, the former University of Florida coach who replaced fired Scott Brooks during the off-season.

Wolves boss Flip Saunders met with Donovan about his team's coaching vacancy in spring/summer 2014 and obviously didn't get as far with Donovan as OKC GM Sam Presti did.

Saunders coached Donovan with Rapid City in the CBA in the late 1980s and the two have remained friendly since then.

"You know, I've known Flip for a long time," Donovan said. "I've had great respect and admiration for him. He has always been a great guy...I feel terrible for him and his family, for what he has been going through. I've known Flip for a long time. He has been wonderful to me."

The Wolves will start two 19 year olds, two 20 years old and a 39 year old -- Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins and Kevin Garnett -- and the old guy after shoot still sounds taken with the youngsters.

Jones is starting at point guard Ricky Rubio, who is being held out because of what the team lists a minor quad strain.

He uses the word "great" when talking about the prospects for such a young bunch.

"Just the potential, not just the talent level but the IQ of these guys," Garnett said. "Their love for basketball, their passion to be good and want to be good. I'm very, very impressed. The work ethic of these guys is unspeakable, just to sit back and watch them work. More importantly, they're young and they enjoy being young. Its' cool to be around. They keep me young and keep me fresh and keep me on my toes. They're just a good group to be around so far."

One last thing: LaVine talked at shoot about flying to Oklahoma City in July for a night's work shooting a Foot Locker commercial with Durant. He said he didn't get much of a chance to visit with Durant because Durant came and went, but Durant praised LaVine and the young Wolves.

"I'm a huge fan of his," Durant said. "An athletic kid. He's going to be a really good player. I remember me coming in at 19 years old at the same age trying to learn. I felt like a deer in the headlights so I can relate. They have a really exciting team, man, and he's a huge piece of that."

Sam Mitchell: Starting job is Zach LaVine's to lose

Sam Mitchell told his former SiriusXM NBA Radio pals today that he "absolutely" plans to start Zach LaVine over vet Kevin Martin at shooting guard.

He also told reporters that Ricky Rubio will not play in tomorrow night's preseason opener against Oklahoma City at Target Center.

The radio network had former NBA star Eddie Johnson and Mitchell's former broadcast mate Justin Termine in town and at practice for interviews with Kevin Garnett, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine, among others, that will air Wednesday from 6 to 8 pm.

Here's the audio.

Mitchell has said these last few weeks that his job is to develop talent, which certainly suggested he might start LaVine at shooting guard.

But Mitchell told SiriusXM NBA Radio that he told LaVine that decision is written in pencil, not pen, and that the job is his to lose or give away.

Mitchell told Martin of the decision before the Wolves began camp practices last week. We'll see what that means for his future here. He's in the same position as Corey Brewer was last year -- able to opt out of the final year of his contract after this season -- and Brewer was traded in December.

Until today, Mitchell had only said opening night is a long way off when asked about who'll start where, although he made it pretty clear he's committed to the team's youth.

Rubio only did some work on the side at today's practice. That means he hasn't participated much in the last three practices and was held out of Monday night's scrimmage as well because of a quad strain the team's training staff considers minor.

Mitchell said it doesn't make sense to push it this early in the season, which means he will start rookie Tyus Jones at Rubio's point-guard spot against OKC.

The Wolves will start two rookies (Towns and Jones), two second-year players (LaVine and WIggins) and a 39 year old (Garnett) tomorrow night.

Everybody else other than Rubio and Nikola Pekovic is expected to be available to play.

A couple other things:

* Third-year swingman Shabazz Muhammad walked out after practice today with agent Rob Pelinka, who also reps Jones. Muhammad apparently switched agents over the summer, from Bill Duffy (who has Wiggins and LaVine among many, many others) to Pelinka.

* Mitchell, Rubio, Towns and Muhammad are among those Wolves attending tonight's Lynx WNBA Finals game.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Lynx at Indiana

    7pm on ESPN2, 106.1-FM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey


  • Gophers football at Purdue

    2:30pm on ESPN, 100.3-FM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey


  • Timberwolves vs. Chicago (preseason)

    6pm on NBATV, 830-AM

  • St. Louis at Wild

    7pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Lynx at Indiana

    7:30pm on ESPN, 106.1-FM

  • Timberwolves at Toronto (preseason)

    6:30pm on 830-AM

  • Timberwolves vs. Toronto (preseason)

    6pm on 830-AM

  • Wild at Phoenix

    9pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

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