OKLAHOMA CITY – Most of these young Timberwolves experienced the NBA on Christmas Day for the first time Sunday.
Cole Aldrich is one of the exceptions.
Aldrich is in his seventh NBA season, and Sunday was his seventh time playing on Christmas. He did so twice with Oklahoma City, once in Houston, twice in New York City and last season with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The former Bloomington Jefferson center signed a three-year contract last summer with his hometown Wolves and what happens? They are chosen to play on Christmas for the first time in their 27-season history.
“I must be the lucky charm,” Aldrich said, grinning.
As it turned out, Aldrich didn’t get in to the Wolves’ 112-100 loss to the Thunder, the third game this month he did not play.
When Aldrich signed in July, he and his wife, Britt, thought it would be safe to make Christmas plans.
“We thought we might be able to have people over to the house this year,” he said, “so the schedule comes out and we’re playing on Christmas.”
A really big shoe
The NBA on Christmas is about more than the games. It’s about the shoes, too.
Young Wolves star Zach LaVine wore special-edition ones from Nike, white with a gold swoosh.
“They definitely ain’t no Kobe ‘Grinches,’ ” LaVine said, referring to green shoes Kobe Bryant wore one Christmas game. “These look like some jingle bells.”
Players from both teams wore holiday-themed snowflake socks. As is part of the NBA Christmas tradition, both teams also wore special holiday uniforms.
If only in their dreams
The Wolves dined together in Oklahoma City on Christmas Eve and played on Christmas night while their friends and family — Karl-Anthony Towns’ traveling parents the exception — celebrated far away at home.
“Obviously it’s a tough day, because it’s really a family day and then to be on the road …” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But it’s also an honor and privilege when the league asks you to play on that day. It’s a big day for our league, so obviously we feel good about playing. But it is a day when you do think about your family.”
Wolves veteran Jordan Hill’s 18½ minutes Sunday surpassed the 16 minutes he had played in three games all season so far.
“I just wanted to get a look at him,” Thibodeau said. “He played very well in the first half for his first time out. His offense and his rebounding is something I wanted to see and he’s got experience against these guys, too.”
Asked if he any indication Sunday would be his night, Hill said: “Not at all. It was a surprise to all of us. I had to make sure he said my name and he did and that was that.”
Every day a holiday
Sunday’s game was the Wolves’ first ever on Christmas, but Thibodeau said he wants his team to play every day like it’s such an occasion.
“We shouldn’t have to get excited because it’s Christmas,” he said. “It’s how you prepare yourself to play, that should remain the same all the time. That’s how you become consistent in this league. The games all count the same. This one isn’t worth any more than any of the others. That’s what we have to understand.”
• Towns bought his mom a new remodeled kitchen and his dad a new car for Christmas. “That’s the way to go,” teammate Andrew Wiggins said. “Moms deserve everything.”
• Nemanja Bjelica will celebrate Christmas twice: The forward did so with teammates Saturday but traditionally observes the Orthodox Christian Christmas on Jan. 7.
• Every Wolves player, including the perpetually injured Nikola Pekovic, is on the NBA All-Star ballot that went live Sunday. Fans can submit a full ballot once a day via NBA.com, the NBA App, Twitter, Facebook and Google. Voting ends Jan. 16.
• LaVine, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Dwyane Wade, Draymond Green and others were featured all day Sunday with their “The Most Dunktastic Time of the Year” commercial. LaVine delivered his line — “Shot blocks so amazing” — while holding a big star atop a Christmas tree. He filmed his bit in Oklahoma City last month.