LA JOLLA, CALIF. – What some guys won’t do to skip out on training camp.
Wolves forward Nemanja Bjelica returned to practice Friday after he missed the previous two days so he could return to Minnesota for the birth of his second child, a boy named Stefan.
With a rest scheduled for Tuesday, Bjelica left San Diego Monday evening and he and his wife, Mirjana, planned to have labor induced Wednesday morning. Stefan came on his own, at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“Everything went like the natural way,” he said after Friday’s camp-ending practice. “We’re happy because of that.”
His 6-year-old daughter Nika was born when he played in Spain. Stefan was born in the United States and right on time.
“With the opportunity for American papers, citizen,” said Bjelica, 29. “I was lucky.”
Stefan Bjelica measured at 20 inches and “3 kilos and 100 grams” or about 6.8 pounds.
Is that power-forward or point-guard size?
“We’ll see,” Bjelica said. “Maybe he’s going to be a lawyer. Why not?”
Will he or won’t he?
Bjelica said he was not certain if he’ll play in Saturday’s game against the Lakers and will consult with the team’s training staff and coach Tom Thibodeau before deciding. He participated fully in camp practice while he heals from a broken bone in his foot sustained during a game at Boston in March.
“I feel good,” he said. “I don’t want to say I’m 100 percent. The most important thing is I feel good. I’m healthy … I would like to play at least one (preseason) game.”
Believe it or not, Thibodeau isn’t about to turn cartwheels that he will be there Saturday night in Anaheim for the preseason debut of much ballyhooed Lakers rookie guard Lonzo Ball.
“You don’t get wrapped up in any of that,” Thibodeau said. “In the NBA, you’re going to be facing someone great every night. There’s always a story line. There’s something. The most important thing is establishing a routine to get ready to play. Don’t get distracted by any sideshows. Understand it’s a competition. You’re getting ready to compete. That’s the most important thing.”
One for the little guys
Oklahoma City superstar and league MVP Russell Westbrook on Friday signed a five-year, $205 million contract extension that will keep him with the Thunder through 2023. It’s a signing that’s probably good for the league’s smaller market teams, such as the Wolves.
“Yeah and it’s good for him, too,” Thibodeau said. “He’s earned it with what he did last year. He has been doing it a long time. Just from being around him and knowing him a little bit, it’s a good deal for him. Anyone who has worked like he has worked, you’re happy for him. It’s a great deal, good for our league.”
Now that the Wolves have eight practices in the books, Wolves veteran backup center Cole Aldrich was asked about the talent and experience level now for a team that has added Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford, among others.
“Pretty dang good,” he said. “We do a 3-on-2 drill when you have Karl, Andrew and Jimmy coming down on you and you go, `Oooh, I don’t know how we’re going to stop these guys.’ They can all handle the ball. They look good. They look real good. They look comfortable with each other. It does take time, but I think over the course of the last few days it has been good.”
The Wolves broke camp after practice Friday afternoon and bused north to Orange County before Saturday’s game.
Thibodeau called the week’s getaway “invaluable” and sounded willing to do it all over again this time next year, probably somewhere warm and beautiful.
“It’s cool, it’s coming to an end,” Towns said. “I think it’s a great bonding experience. We had a lot of time with each other, so hopefully it pays off.”