CHICAGO – A week after he attended his former coach’s memorial service along with dignitaries from across the NBA, new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg coached against the Timberwolves team that Flip Saunders assembled.
Hoiberg flew to Minnesota a week ago Saturday and paid his respects along with current and former NBA coaches Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, Rick Carlisle, George Karl, Randy Wittman, Mike Malone, Tom Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy, among others.
“It was great to see so many people there, especially from our profession,” said Hoiberg, who played for Saunders on the 2003-04 Wolves team that reached the Western Conference finals. “People respected Flip so much and what he meant to the game and what he meant to some of the people. You saw Flip’s network: It’s so broad with all the different people he knew and touched their lives.”
Hoiberg said he was touched by the eulogy given by Saunders’ son, Ryan, a Wolves assistant coach who emotionally spoke at length about his father, who died Oct. 25 at age 60.
“Ryan was about as powerful as I’ve seen, getting up there and talking about his dad,” Hoiberg said. “It was a great service. For me, to get there and be able to spend a little bit of time and talk to the family, I felt that was very important.”
Kevin Martin remained away from the Wolves on Saturday while he attended to a family matter that caused him to miss practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. He’s expected to be back in time for Monday’s game at Atlanta.
In his absence, interim coach Sam Mitchell relied upon Shabazz Muhammad a bit more off the bench and played Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine together some in the same backcourt.
“We have to give him time to take care of his family,” Mitchell said. “You have to do what you have to do.”
Too early for Jones
With Martin away and Nikola Pekovic still injured, rookie Tyus Jones was activated and available to play his first NBA game, but he did not get into the Wolves’ 102-93 overtime victory. He and Pekovic were the two designated inactive players for the Wolves’ first four games of the season.
The NBA Development League started play Thursday, but Mitchell said it’s too early to start making personnel decisions “to send a guy here, send a guy there” when asked if the team might find some playing time for the rookie there. The Wolves would have to find a D-League team both willing to accept Jones and play him meaningful minutes before they would sent him there. He is the team’s fourth point guard behind Rubio, LaVine and Andre Miller.
“Tyus has done a good job,’’ Mitchell said. “His practices have been great, his workouts, and I thought he played well in the preseason. The season is long, and everybody gets a chance to play. At some point, Tyus will get a chance to play.’’
• Hoiberg was coaching the college game when he saw consecutive No. 1 overall draft picks Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns come through the recruiting system and leave for the NBA after one season each. “We played Wiggins three times when I was at Iowa State, and I love the kid,” Hoiberg said. “I think he’s going to be a superstar in this league. He’s already off to a great start, being the Rookie of the Year last year. And Towns is going to be a great one. You can see the kid’s going to be special.”
• The Wolves started the same five as they did the first four games and Mitchell said he isn’t contemplating any changes this early in the season. “What are we going to change?” he said. “We’ve played pretty good defense. … We’ve been struggling offensively. But that’s been all of four games.”