Sam Mitchell knew both Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio were banged up coming out of the Timberwolves’ victory at Atlanta on Monday.
But he hoped.
Maybe with a little treatment, with a good warmup, with a little luck, they’d be able to play.
It didn’t happen.
And so, less than an hour before Tuesday’s game with Charlotte at Target Center, Mitchell had to radically redraw a starting lineup.
Kevin Garnett already was going to rest on the back end of a back-to-back. But now Mitchell had to replace three starters.
“That’s just how it is sometimes,’’ the Wolves interim coach said.
Wiggins was held out because of a sore right knee. He received treatment much of the afternoon but didn’t even try to warm up. Rubio was held out because of a sore left knee, a decision made after he tried to warm up.
Zach LaVine replaced Rubio at point guard. Kevin Martin replaced Wiggins at shooting guard. Adreian Payne started at power forward for Garnett.
The Wolves, then, had to go without their top playmaker and their top scorer; Wiggins had scored 30-plus points in consecutive games.
So how long will they be out?
After the 104-95 loss to the Hornets, Mitchell said he didn’t know. “I spent my time trying to coach the team,” he said.
More will be known Wednesday. Mitchell did say he hoped both injuries were minor.
Wiggins was bothered by a sore back earlier in the regular season. Rubio was hampered by a quadriceps injury in the preseason.
“I was excited about the game,” Mitchell said. “Especially how we played in Chicago and Atlanta [both wins]. We come home and, an hour before the game, we find out our starting point guard and 2 guard are out.”
Big Al returns
Former Wolves big man Al Jefferson, acquired as part of the 2007 trade that sent Garnett to Boston, said he already can see the effect Garnett is having on the young Wolves, especially on the defensive end.
“For him to come back and finish his career where it started? That was really cool,” Jefferson said following Charlotte’s morning shootaround. “And to help the young guys? Man, you can tell his imprint already at the beginning of the season. It’s a totally different mindset. They’re still young, but you can tell KG, Tayshaun Prince, the older guys, are leaving their mark.”
Jefferson, who scored nine points on 3-for-9 shooting Tuesday, also is impressed with Wolves rookie Karl-Anthony Towns. “He can put the ball on the floor like a guard,” Jefferson said.
“And that’s what’s messing it up for guys like me. All these big men are coming into the league with all types of skills and stuff.”
• The NBA said it is reviewing the incident between the Hawks’ Jeff Teague and the Wolves’ Nemanja Bjelica late in Monday’s game, when it appeared Teague hit Bjelica from behind but was not called for a foul. The league called it punching and will review it.
• Rubio on growing together with Wiggins and Towns as the three did in Monday’s victory: “We are doing a pretty good job knowing each other. I know what’s my job. I have to get them shots when the defense gets tough. We get along pretty good and there’s a lot of future, but we want to show we can win now.”