PORTLAND, ORE. – Shabazz Muhammad’s release left the Wolves with two open roster spots and just 10 available players for Thursday’s game against Portland because Jimmy Butler is rehabilitating in Minnesota and guard Aaron Brooks was away from the team for personal reasons.
Asked if his team now must sign a free agent or two, Tom Thibodeau called it a “possibility,” and said “we could.” Available free agents include guards Derrick Rose and Tony Allen, who both played for Thibodeau in the past.
But Thibodeau also noted that the Wolves can recall G League players Anthony Brown, Amile Jefferson and rookie first-round draft pick Justin Patton. The Iowa Wolves have 10 regular-season games left after Thursday’s game at Salt Lake City.
He also said “we feel really good about the guys we do have” on the current NBA roster.
Brown could add three-point shooting and Thibodeau called Jefferson an “energy guy” who can rebound and is quick to the ball. Asked if either of those players can help at the NBA level, Thibodeau said, “We’ll find out.”
Thibodeau was asked before Thursday’s game if he had any misgivings about playing Butler 37.1 minutes a game before he sustained a partially torn meniscus cartilage in his right knee at Houston last week.
“No, it’s consistent with what he normally plays,” Thibodeau said. “You look at wing players, and they’re going to play anywhere from 35 to 37 minutes. He has always handled that. Injuries are part of the game.”
Away, but not forgotten
Butler is back in Minneapolis rehabilitating his surgically repaired right knee, but that doesn’t mean he’s exactly absent.
“I talk to him every day,” Thibodeau said. “He’s doing well. He’s already moving along on the rehab. So he’s in good spirits. He’s engaged. He’s watching the games. He has got some great observations.”
A veteran’s words
As an 18-year veteran, Wolves guard Jamal Crawford says he talks to all his teammates about matters in their lives and he did that while Muhammad sought his release these last weeks.
“Just tell him to stay professional through everything and he did that,” Crawford said. “I think Bazz has a bright future. Sometimes it’s also about situation and fit.
‘‘But he was professional and that’s all you could ask. He’s definitely talented, without a doubt. Just sometimes things go a different way.”
Asked if this is the right move for Muhammad, Crawford said, “I don’t know where he’s going. It’s too early to say that. For him, I hope it’s the best situation so he can show his talent.”
Thursday would have been Senior Night at Duke for Tyus Jones, if he hadn’t left college after one season. Wednesday would have been the same for Karl-Anthony Towns, who tweeted a photo of Kentucky classmates and fellow pros Trey Lyles, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker and wrote, “It’s been a long time coming my brothers, Senior Night is finally upon us.”
Where does the time go?
“Exactly,” said Jones, now in his third NBA season. “It’s weird to think about. It’s crazy to think that’d be my senior night. It’s weird, really weird.”
Jones played for the U.S. team and Towns for the World team in the 2014 Nike Hoops Summit game held at the Moda Center, site of Thursday night’s Timberwolves-Blazers game.
Future NBA players Myles Turner, Kelly Oubre, Jahlil Okafor, Stanley Johnson and Justise Winslow played for Jones’ team that won 84-73.
Clint Capela, Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Trey Lyles and Emmanuel Mudiay played for Towns’ international team.
“There were a lot of pros on both sides of the floor that night,” Jones said. “The good guys won, though.”
Crawford scored 23 points in 23 minutes in December the first time these teams played and 19 points in 20 minutes in January the third and last time they played before they finished the season series on Thursday.
Crawford grew up in Seattle, a three-hour drive north from Portland. He expected about 20 family and friends to attend Thursday’s game.
“It’s just always fun playing against them,” he said. “They have good players, a good coach and I’ve always loved playing here because my family gets a chance to come.”