Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler often claims he doesn’t have a very good long-term memory, but apparently there are some things he doesn’t forget.

 

 

At Wednesday’s morning shootaround in Denver, he remembered an encounter he had with Nuggets star big man Nikola Jokic in the 2016 Olympic Games.

“I still owe him,” Butler said. “He busted my lip in the Olympics, so don’t think I’ve forgotten about that. He did, on a screen. He caught me with one of those chicken wings. It’s OK. I don’t forget, though.”

Butler's U.S. team played Jokic's Serbia team twice in Brazil. The U.S. won 94-91 in a preliminary-round game and 96-66 romp in the gold-medal game.

The Nuggets’ multi-dimensional center, Jokic has come off the bench the last two games after he had missed seven games before that because a sprained ankle. Nuggets coach Mike Malone told reporters yesterday that it won’t be long before Jokic is back in the starting lineup.

That very well could be beginning tonight in an 8 p.m. tip Central time.

Butler, meanwhile, has been on a tear here in December: He's averaging 25.8 points on 49.4 shooting with 6 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the month's first nine games.

Nuggets shooting guard Gary Harris (elbow contusion) is expected to play after he didn’t practice Tuesday, but point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is not expected to because of a sprained ankle.

Veteran Paul Millsap remains out until February or March because of a wrist injury. He and Wolves starting point guard Jeff Teague played together for years in Atlanta. “I know he’s looking forward to getting back on the floor,” Teague said.

Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said injured reserve forward Nemanja Bjelica is “a lot closer” to play after he has missed the last 13 games because of that mid-foot sprain, but he wasn’t more specific than that.

Bjelica hasn’t played since the day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 22 against Orlando.

When asked if Bjelica might play on this three-game trip that starts tonight in Denver and ends on Christmas night in Los Angeles, Thibodeau said, “I think he’s getting close. He did some 3-on-3 yesterday, so we’ll see how it goes. He has been ramping it up pretty good. I think we’re getting a lot closer now.”

Rookie center Justin Patton has played five games with the Timberwolves’ G League team in Iowa and the Iowa Wolves have just Saturday’s game between now and Dec. 29.

When asked if Patton is close to being recalled to the NBA, Thibodeau said they’re taking it “day by day.”

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Butler in starting lineup for Wolves vs. Portland

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Bjelica looking to return Saturday after 14-game absence