SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Jimmy Butler was back in the Timberwolves’ lineup on Friday against the Kings, the third consecutive game he has played since he last took a night off for precautionary rest.
When Butler has played, he has played well. But there is risk every moment he is on the floor. If Butler were to get injured, it could decrease the return the Wolves might fetch when they consummate a trade for him, as owner Glen Taylor had promised Butler he will.
So to try to mitigate some of that risk, Butler has been taking occasional games off for precautionary rest, and a source told the Star Tribune on Friday the Wolves and Butler had agreed on 32 minutes as a standard limit for when Butler does play.
Butler is averaging 35.6 minutes per game and coach Tom Thibodeau said a 35-minute limit is “about what we had talked about.”
“We have some parameters,” Thibodeau said before Friday’s game. “If he’s had some rest in between he’ll play a little bit more. There’s some games he’s going to play less.”
Butler and Thibodeau aren’t afraid to blow past the minutes limit, however.
Thibodeau would like Butler playing as much as possible, and Butler’s competitive juices take over in a game and he doesn’t want to come out, the source said.
That’s how nights like Wednesday occur, when Butler played more than 43 minutes in a loss to the Lakers. Butler has exceeded 32 minutes in eight of the 10 games he has played. He played 41 Friday.
Butler previously said he doesn’t consider the ramifications of his trade value when he is on the floor or decides when to play.
“I’m not worried about no deal,” Butler said last week. “Injured or not, I have to take care of myself. I realize they have a job to do as an organization. I have one to do as a player.”
Wiggins out again
Andrew Wiggins was a surprise late scratch for Friday’s game after he aggravated the right quad contusion that caused him to miss three games in late October. Wiggins was reinjured in Wednesday’s game against the Lakers.
Guard Jeff Teague missed his sixth consecutive game because of a left knee contusion, but Thibodeau said Teague should return to the lineup soon.
“He’s progressing nicely,” Thibodeau said. “He did quite a bit [Thursday] and he’s close. He’s getting real close.”
Former Wolves forward Nemanja Bjelica has a new set of surroundings this season, and with that has come a change in his role. Bjelica is now a regular starter after starting only a third of the Wolves games last season, and coach Dave Joerger said he is encouraging Bjelica to do something he wasn’t known for doing with the Wolves — put the ball on the floor.
“I don’t want him taking 17 dribbles,” Joerger said. “But giving him license to show the basketball and people go flying by and going in a couple of dribble — he’s a pretty good passer, and I think we’ve seen that.”
Bjelic who came in averaging 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 53 percent from the field and 51 percent on three-pointers, scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds Friday.