PHOENIX – Cole Aldrich has played for six teams in eight NBA seasons, and every year he has played for a team that played on Christmas Day.
“Eight years, eight Christmases,” the Timberwolves center said. “Four at home, four on the road.”
One year, his Los Angeles Clippers played a “road” Christmas game vs. the Lakers in the Staples Center the two teams share. He also has been on teams in Oklahoma City, Houston, New York and back home in Minnesota that played on Christmas.
The Wolves play their second consecutive Christmas game — and their second in franchise history — Monday night in Los Angeles against the Lakers. Last year, the Wolves visited Oklahoma City on Dec. 25, losing 112-100.
“It is a blessing because there are 10 teams now that play on Christmas,” said Aldrich, who entered Saturday night’s game against the Suns having played 13 minutes in six games this season. “That is an honor, to be able to play on Christmas.”
Aldrich’s eight-year streak suggests he has played for some good teams as well, although the Knicks played a Christmas game at Madison Square Garden in 2014-15, when they went 17-65.
“Christmas Day in the Garden is the best,” he said. “The atmosphere in the Garden itself is a lot of fun anyway. Then add the holiday season and the city is vibrant. We weren’t a very good team, but still everybody shows up and just the energy in the building. It’s so much fun.”
No Nemanja yet
Injured Wolves forward Nemanja Bjelica missed his 15th consecutive game Saturday because of a midfoot sprain after he participated fully and did extra work after a Friday practice and Saturday shootaround.
After the shootaround, coach Tom Thibodeau said Bjelica would return “probably next game or two. … He’s pretty close.”
The Wolves will recall rookie Justin Patton and two-way contract player Anthony Brown after the G League’s Iowa team played Saturday night, in time for Monday’s game. Both are expected to remain in the NBA until Iowa reconvenes for its next game Friday.
Patton has played five games there while he returns from a broken bone in his foot suffered last summer. Thibodeau said Patton likely will play in Iowa for a month; he has been there a little more than two weeks.
“He’s making good, steady progress,” Thibodeau said. “He’s still making up ground. But he has had some good moments and his attitude down there has been great, so we’re encouraged by that.”
Fun between friends
By sheer coincidence, Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns shopped Friday at the same Phoenix mall where friend and former Kentucky teammate Devin Booker led mothers and their children on a Christmas shopping spree.
Towns stopped by briefly at a sporting goods store to say hello and before he left, a rack of Booker’s Suns jerseys somehow ended up heaped on the floor. Towns captured the moment on a social media post.
“I just thought it’d be funny to play around with him a bit,” Towns said.
Booker missed his ninth consecutive game Saturday night because of an adductor strain.
• The families of several Wolves players — including those of Towns, Tyus Jones and Jamal Crawford, among others — will be in L.A. for Christmas Eve and Monday’s game. “My mom and dad are coming, we’ll try and spend Christmas in 70-degree weather,” Towns said. “My girlfriend left the presents at home, so we have no presents. It’ll be fine. It has never been about presents with us. It’s the least thing we care about.”
• Thibodeau, asked if he had interest in acquiring 27-year-old rookie guard Mike James, whom the Suns waived Friday: “We’re always looking. If we have a need, we’ll look at it. … Mike’s a good player. He has proven he’s capable of playing and playing well at this level.”