He will have to see how his ankle feels after practice Thursday. But all indications point toward Tyus Jones’ return Friday in New York vs. the Knicks.
Jones, who missed 13 games after spraining his left ankle in Philadelphia Jan. 15, returns to a Wolves team that, coming out of the All-Star break, is inching back to health.
“I still feel really good,” Jones said after Wednesday evening’s practice. “I’m not saying I’m for sure playing on Friday. But if [Thursday’s] practice goes well that will be the goal. We’ll see how [Thursday] goes.”
The Wolves were hit especially hard at the guard position, with Derrick Rose in and out of the lineup with ankle issues, with Jerryd Bayless missing a game with a sore toe and with Jeff Teague missing eight games at one point with a left foot issue.
Rose played the final two games before the break — both Wolves victories. Presumably the time off would only make his ankle better. The same could be said for Teague, who played the three games before the break, getting better with each successive outing before scoring 27 points in the Wolves’ victory over Houston.
Jones’ return would further bolster a bench that could look a little different for the stretch run. With Andrew Wiggins missing the final two games before the break with an illness, Luol Deng came out of mothballs to play very well, scoring 25 points with 17 rebounds in the two games Wiggins missed.
Deng’s strong play should earn him more time in the rotation even with Wiggins’ return. For Jones, it is an exciting prospect.
“He’s extremely smart, at both ends of the floor,” Jones said. “He plays hard. You can tell he’s done this before. He knows so many little things, things he does you wouldn’t really notice necessarily but turn out to be positives for our team. I’m excited to get back out there with him.”
Wiggins said if he is cleared to return Friday, he’d be cleared fully, meaning he’d be cleared for the back-to-back at New York and at Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, Robert Covington, who has missed 20 games with a bone bruise in his right knee, is getting closer to returning, but interim coach Ryan Saunders hasn’t put a timeline on a return.
Big look at little things
One of the things Saunders said he looked at over the break was an analytics look at how his team can improve. Two of the areas he looked at were transition defense and three-point defense. He noted that if the Wolves eliminated one fast-break basket per game and two made three-pointers against per game the team could move into the top 10 in both defensive categories.
“It seems like a simple fix, and it can be, if you put forth the effort and stay engaged with things,’’ Saunders said. “But it’s also something that will take time. But it’s a good goal to have.”
• Rookie Josh Okogie said he enjoyed participating in All-Star weekend, where he played in the Rising Stars Challenge. He also said he might try the slam dunk contest in the future. “I’d be interested,” he said. “I was going to do it this year, but my legs didn’t agree with me. So I listened to my legs.”
• It was not a full contingent Wednesday, with some having trouble getting back to town because of the snow and with Saunders giving Karl-Anthony Towns an extra day off.