The minutes were mounting, but Wolves interim coach Ryan Saunders stayed with Derrick Rose down the stretch Sunday night.
He had to.
Rose was on fire, first of all. After scoring just two points on 1-for-6 shooting in the first half, Rose had taken over and was on his way to a 29-point half. And the pesky Suns were threatening an upset. With a home win desperately needed, Saunders rode with Rose, who played all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter and 22 ½ of 24 minutes in the second half.
“He was great,” Saunders said after the game. “He got to his spots, he got it going. He gave us a huge boost. And, obviously, he played heavy minutes, all at once. So he was really good. We needed all of it.”
Saunders was rewarded with Rose’s game-winning jumper with 0.6 seconds left, a shot that broke a 114-114 tie in a game in which starting point guard Jeff Teague played just 7 ½ minutes because of an illness.
But how will Rose’s 37 ½-minute night affect him going forward? Rose has dealt with pain, particularly in his ankle, on and off this season.
Rose missed most of the next two games after his 41-minute, 50-point performance against Utah on Oct. 31. In late December, after playing 38 and 39 minutes in consecutive games, he missed six games.
Saunders said he’d wait and see how Rose felt Tuesday.
Rose said he didn’t think he’d have to sit Tuesday in a rematch in Phoenix.
“I mean, I wasn’t pushing the ball the way I normally do,” he said. “I was taking my time. And it was more in sets, with Jerryd [Bayless] bringing it up, and me in the corner. I had time to jog down and get adjusted and go from there. It was a different style of play.”
Saunders said the addition of Jerry Sichting — now in his third stint as a Wolves assistant — was a natural move when it came to filling a hole on the coaching staff.
They’ve known each other a long time. Sichting spent a decade with the Wolves in Flip Saunders’ first stint as head coach. And Ryan Saunders worked with Sichting as part of Randy Wittman’s staff in Washington.
“Whenever a change happens, people need to step into other roles,” Saunders said. “Some responsibilities might be left open. You want to fill the spot with the best person. Jerry’s been in the league a long time. We look forward to him contributing.”
At this point, early in Saunders’ tenure as interim coach, he said there has not been a lot of specialization among members of his staff.
“Two weeks in, it’s all hands on deck with things,” he said. “But I want to take ownership in terms of overseeing things. Eventually we might move to being more focused. But, for the most part, we’re all in this together.”
Most issues are hashed out as a group, with Saunders inviting opinions, but ultimately making the decision himself.
“I’ve always welcomed debate, in terms of respectful debate within a group,” he said. “Using everyone as a resource is important. But, at the end of the meeting, it’s my decision.”