A good-sized media contingent greeted interim Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders and players Monday, a day ahead of a road game plenty of us have circled in red: at Philadelphia, for the first meeting between the two teams since the early-season drama and November trade of Jimmy Butler to the 76ers.
Not surprisingly, though, Saunders and players did their best to stick to a “just another game” story line.
“Jimmy is a great player and he’s been a great player for a long time, so we’re obviously appreciative of what he did — especially with helping us last year,” Saunders said. “But we’re also obviously very happy with what we got in return with everything. We’re looking forward and not looking back.”
The Wolves got Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Jerryd Bayless in return for Butler and Justin Patton. Minnesota is 17-13 since the trade, while Philadelphia is 20-10. So maybe the move worked out for the best for both teams?
“For the way it looks, I guess,” veteran Wolves forward Taj Gibson said. “I was hoping it could work out. But things in the NBA always change, and you just have to keep moving forward. Jimmy is in a good situation. KAT and Wig are in a great situation here, so it worked out for the better.”
Wig, of course, is Andrew Wiggins. The fifth-year Wolves wing called Butler a “good teammate” and said he’s looking forward to the challenge Tuesday.
“We had a good relationship. He was older, and he tried to teach me a lot on both sides of the floor,” Wiggins said. “I learned a lot from his approach to the game and brought intensity to every game.”
Gibson was Butler’s longtime teammate in Chicago and with the Wolves; Tuesday will be his first time they will play against each other.
“I’m just focused on getting a win,” Gibson said. “I’m not worried about just seeing Jimmy because I see Jimmy all the time in the summer.”
*Covington will miss Tuesday’s game as he continues to rehabilitate a bone bruise. Jeff Teague, who twisted his ankle Saturday and missed most of the second half, participated in practice Monday and is not on the injury report, while Derrick Rose is questionable.