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Thibodeau sticking with eight-man rotation for now

The combination of Nemanja Bjelica’s injury and Shabazz Muhammad’s recent struggles have meant major minutes for healthy starters.

This isn’t new, of course. But Bjelica’s left midfoot sprain — he missed his ninth straight game in Sunday against Dallas at Target Center — and Muhammad being out of the rotation has prompted Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau to go with just eight men in recent games. Asked if he was comfortable with that going forward, he said, “Yup, yeah. And it will be situational with the other stuff.’’

And that means minutes — lots of minutes — for the starters.

In the four games leading up to Sunday, Wolves guard Jimmy Butler led NBA players in average minutes (40.8). Andrew Wiggins was 11th (37.6), Karl-Anthony Towns 12th (37.4) and Taj Gibson 13th (37.3).

Butler, for example, has played 40 or more minutes in three of those games, averaging nearly 41 minutes a game in that stretch.

On Sunday, Butler played 41 minutes, Towns 38, Wiggins 36, and Jeff Teague 36 and Gibson 34.

“We’ll see, we’ll see,’’ Thibodeau said when asked whether he’d like to get Butler’s minutes down. “We’re concerned with the wins. That’s what we’re concerned with.’’

After the most recent game, a victory over the Clippers in Los Angeles, Butler noted that he’d have to talk to the coach about the minutes he was playing.

After practice Saturday, Wiggins said the minutes were fine. “I’m only 22,’’ he said. “I can run forever. For now.’’

Talking after Sunday’s shootaround, Gibson said he was willing to do whatever the coach asked.

“Whatever is needed for the team I’m ready to do it,’’ he said. “We have a lot of guys ready for opportunity. But until their number is called we have to wait and see. Thibs is the coach. Whatever he says, you have to go out and do it. You have to be a professional and play hard no matter how many minutes we play.’’

Through 26 games the Wolves bench was averaging 13.1 minutes per game, last in the league, and the lowest number since Memphis averaged 12.4 during the 2009-10 season.

The Wolves’ bench played 56 minutes Sunday, with only Gorgui Dieng (24 minutes), Jamal Crawford (20) and Tyus Jones (12) seeing action.

Wolves rookie Patton impresses in pro debut with Iowa

Timberwolves rookie center Justin Patton played his first pro game tonight, debuting with a 15-point, 7-rebound, 4-blocked shot performance that started slowly and just kept getting better for the G League's Iowa Wolves.



The 16th player selected in last June's draft, he didn't play until Friday because of a broken bone in his foot sustained when he slipped on a court wet spot in late June and had surgery a few days later.

He played 16 minutes off the bench in a 104-98 victory over Utah's Salt Lake City team and went 5-for-9 from the field, 5-for-5 from the foul line and was a minus-15.

His debut brought out Timberwolves/Iowa Wolves owner Glen Taylor and Timberwolves/Lynx CEO Ethan Casson. Patton said he had about 20 friends and family members who made the trip to Des Moines from his hometown of Omaha about a two-hour drive away.

Here's some quotes gathered by the Strib's Joe Christensen, who's down in Des Moines working on a story. The photo here on the blog is by one of our best, Carlos Gonzalez.

From Iowa Wolves coach Scott Roth: "I’m a little shocked to be honest with how well he did. His first four or five minutes, you could see the timing and the rust, and I just figured that was going to continue maybe for another game or two because it’s been such a long layoff and with bigger guys it’s harder to get back into a flow. To have the line he had -- 16 minutes, 15 points and four blocks and really impressive. I think he’s got just a great future. If he continues to work, stay healthy, his size, his athletic ability and his love for the game, I think will shine through. This is just one little baby step for him. He has got a lot of work before he’ll go back.
"He’s going to be on that pace (16 to 20 minutes a game) for about 10 days or so, and we’ll see where he’s at. Once he gets re-evaluated and we see how his body’s going to react to playing, they’ll tell me and we’ll ramp it up. They’ll tell me to play him X amount of minutes and that’s what we’ll do."
From Patton himself: "It was good. Everyone was doing a good job of getting me acclimated to the game and that’s why we started off a little slow. I think it was just good to get everybody on the same page. You know, I haven’t played with these guys before and this was all the steps of being a great team, me helping them and them also helping me. We’ve all got a job to do, and I feel like today we did it and got the W."
When asked if he was rusty early on, he said, "Oh yeah, of course, I mean it was my first time playing basketball in a long time, so I would say there was a little rust there. But my teammates did a good job of helping get me involved  and I got there and I feel like it was a good game."

Final, 12/10 1 2 3 4 F
Dallas 7-20 24 24 21 23 92
Minnesota 16-11 23 24 24 26 97

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