Not surprisingly, forward Nemanja Bjelica's transition from European basketball to the NBA has included a nightly course on what constitutes a foul. It is a traditional rite of passage for players coming from overseas, time spent picking up foul after frustrating foul while learning the ropes.
The key word here is frustrating. "Especially because of some of the cheap fouls that I get every single game," Bjelica said.
Bjelica picked up 13 fouls in the Timberwolves' first three games. Generally speaking, players are allowed to do a little more clutching, grabbing and banging in Europe than they are in the NBA.
"That's to be expected," Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell said. "It's a different game in Europe. They let you bang and do things a little different. In the NBA, they call things a little bit tighter. He's getting used to it."
Nikola Pekovic went through the same thing a few years back. During his NBA rookie season in 2010-11, he was constantly battling foul trouble, averaging 7.3 fouls per 36 minutes played. A year later that number dropped to 2.8.
"I'm trying to help him with everything I can," the center said of Bjelica. Given that Pekovic is currently rehabbing from Achilles' heel surgery, most of that help is coming via advice rather than example. "But he's a hard worker. He's doing a good job. Hopefully everything will go OK."
Bjelica has shown an ability to effectively move the ball, and he has been a willing rebounder (7.3 per game) and defender as the primary backup to starter Kevin Garnett.
But Mitchell said he needs to see more of Bjelica's offensive game.
"Bjelica is going to be a much better scorer once he gets comfortable," Mitchell said. "We need him to make shots, but he's not really looking for his shot right now. We're on him about shooting the ball more. It will take time. He's used to pass first, screening, cutting, things of that nature. … But there are times, as good a shooter as he is, when he's open he's just going to have to shoot the ball."
He will, Bjelica said.
"He's giving me a lot of minutes," he said. "The good thing is he trusts me."
One of Mitchell's favorite memories of his time coaching the Raptors was working with Heat star Chris Bosh. The two were together for three-plus seasons in Toronto.
"You hear so many times about superstars and how difficult it is to coach them," Mitchell said. "He was the total opposite. A true professional, came to work on time every day, practiced hard every day. An unbelievable, unselfish teammate."
Bosh had his 2014-15 season cut short by a blood clot in his lung. Ruled out for the rest of the season in February, Bosh made his return to the court this season.
"You hate to see bad things happen to good people," Mitchell said. "We were all praying for him. … I'm just happy to see him back."
• Kevin Martin returned to the Wolves after missing two days of practice because of a loss in the family. He played against Miami but said he might have to take another short absence in the near future.
• Miami's Gerald Green is safe and healthy, Erik Spoelstra said, but the Heat coach did not offer any specifics as to why the former Wolves guard was hospitalized Wednesday. Green sat out Tuesday's game vs. Atlanta because of what was called an illness.