Timberwolves president of basketball operations and coach Flip Saunders signed NBA veteran Tayshaun Prince in August to a one-year contract and a role that wasn’t specifically determined down to the finest details but which he probably never thought would lead to him start the season’s second game and play 29 minutes.

“No, I didn’t, but I signed here expecting to do whatever they need me to do,” said Prince, who has begun his 14th NBA season. “One of those games was the last game, where I needed to play a little bit long and Coach left me out there because of things we had going on the defensive end. Believe me, I know there will be games where I’ll play 29 minutes and I know I’ll have games where I’ll play 12, 13 minutes.

“It’s just a feel and a read of how the game is going, and it was just one of those games I had to be on the floor longer.”

Wolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell is starting Prince and Kevin Garnett because of the defensive acumen and structure they give a young team, even if it might sacrifice some scoring and spacing offensively. Prince played 14 and 29 minutes in the team’s first regular-season games and Garnett played 13 and 22 for a team that was among the NBA’s worst defensively last season. It’s among the league leaders in opponent’s field-goal percentage (first) and defensive efficiency (third) this season, admittedly after just two games.

“It’s only two games, we can’t get excited about it,” Prince said. “But it is something to build on. It’s something to look at and say, hey, this is possible, we can do it. The question will be consistency, obviously.”

Part of the CBA club

Portland coach Terry Stotts was present for Monday’s memorial video tribute to Saunders because Stotts’ team was Monday’s opponent. The two men coached against each other when Stotts was an assistant in Albany, N.Y., and Fort Wayne, Ind., and Saunders coached the La Crosse, Wis., team in the early 1990s.

“There is a CBA fraternity, whether it’s George or Flip or me or Eric,” Stotts said, referring to future NBA coaches George Karl and Eric Musselman who toiled in the CBA as well. “There’s a CBA bond. That was a special time because everybody wanted to get to the NBA.”


Wolves rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns credited a long discussion with his mentor, Garnett, before Friday’s game at Denver for his 28-point, 14-rebound performance. Towns drove to the basket and scored repeatedly and afterward gave credit to the pointers Garnett gave him.

“First off, I’m going to have to talk to him about giving away secrets to the media,” Garnett said Monday. “Secondly, I thought what I showed him, he applied right away to the game. That’s his makeup, man. The dope thing about him is he’s able to apply it right away, what I’m teaching. It’s kind of refreshing, to be honest, because sometimes you have to go slow. Sometimes you have to show it three, four times with guys, which is fine because you have to be patient. But he gets it right away and he was able to apply it.”


• The Trail Blazers endured a 43-minute halftime in Phoenix on Friday when the Suns honored two-time league MVP Steve Nash. Stotts said before the game his team would be on the floor for Saunders’ tribute. “I think we need to show our respects,” he said.

• Rookie Tyus Jones and injured Nikola Pekovic were the team’s inactive players for the third consecutive game to start the season.