PHOENIX – Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders made a prediction before Friday night’s game against the Suns, turning his gaze to a future when Andrew Wiggins is no longer a rookie and no longer just 19.
“When he gets stronger, puts on 15 pounds,” Saunders said, “he has a chance to be a monster.”
That time is not here, though, is not yet, as shown by Friday’s 110-99 loss. Phoenix forward P.J. Tucker got physical with Wiggins, who scored 17 points anyway despite playing ill until he sat out the final six minutes.
In 36 minutes, Wiggins shot 8-for-15 from the floor but didn’t attempt a free throw.
“He can’t play in a game like that,” Saunders said. “He got fouled. They didn’t call any fouls. He didn’t shoot any free throws. Next year or the year after, he’ll gain a reputation and get more calls.”
Wiggins said he “OK” and felt “all right” and added, “If I step on the court, I’m 100 percent,” even if Saunders disagreed.
“He was sick the whole game, sick at halftime,” Saunders said. “He did some good things. You could just tell he was pretty drained.”
Afterward, Wiggins said he considers himself satisfied with how he has adjusted to the NBA’s physical nature. He also agreed with Saunders’ prediction.
“I think I’ve done pretty good trying to find different ways to score, being effective on the court,” Wiggins said. “I feel like I score the ball now, but 15 pounds will change my whole game.”
Waiting is the hardest part
On Thursday, shooting guard Kevin Martin left open the possibility he would return from November wrist surgery as early as Friday. He did not play but said he could still play before the Wolves’ four-game road trip ends Monday at Charlotte.
Saunders reported injured Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio had a spirited workout session together Friday morning, but, like Martin, neither is ready to play just yet. Expect Martin back first, Pekovic next and Rubio last.
Backup center Miroslav Raduljica’s 10-day contract he signed last week expires Sunday. Saunders said he hasn’t decided yet if he will sign Raduljica to another 10-day contract, for the rest of the season or not at all.
“You know me,” he said. “We won’t make that decision until the time comes.”
Malone back at it
Former Sacramento coach Mike Malone watched the game from the eighth row across the way from the Wolves bench Friday. Saunders invited him to join the team for the trip’s final three games, a gesture Saunders characterized as helping out a member of the coaching fraternity in a time of need.
Sacramento fired Malone last month. “This is what we do it for,” said Malone, who added he appreciates Saunders’ offer. “I love being around a team.”
ESPN.com reported Friday that the Wolves are willing to move forward with their rebuilding project by trading veteran forward Thaddeus Young and added Brooklyn is interested in him, possibly as part of a three-way deal in which the Nets would send Brook Lopez to Oklahoma City and Kendrick Perkins would move from the Thunder to the Wolves via Brooklyn in exchange for Young.
The only conceivable reason the Wolves would do that is the guarantee that Perkins’ contract expires after this season. Young has a player option for nearly $10 million next season.
Saunders said before Friday’s game he has no intention of making a trade now. “We want to get Martin, Pekovic and Ricky back and see what we have along with the guys we have,” Saunders said.