The Wolves open up at home, here at Target Center, in just a few hours. This is a team that made the playoffs last year, posting the fourth-most home wins in the Western Conference in the process. Anyone who attended the final game of the regular season last year, the overtime victory over Denver that put the Wolves into the playoffs for the first time since the spring of 2004 knows how intense the arena was that night.
And yet, much of the questions after this morning’s shootaround were about how the team – Jimmy Butler in particular – might handle some booing tonight. Such is the state of a team, early in the season, dealing with Butler’s desire to be traded and the team’s stated willingness to make that happen.
Talking to the media last week, Butler said he knew some Wolves fans might boo him, but said it wouldn’t bother him. “Sure, boo me,’’ Butler said at the time. “Ain’t going to change the way I play. Probably going to make me smile more. Please, come with it.’’
Butler declined to talk this morning, saying he would speak after the game. But some teammates were asked how they thought Butler would respond to some potential booing.
“Jimmy doesn’t care,’’ Tyus Jones said. “He doesn’t care. He handles business every time he steps on the court, regardless of what’s going on off the court. And that shows who he is, his character. So, boos, cheers, he stays even keel. He’ll be the same no matter what.’’
Said Taj Gibson: “Right now he has to focus on playing. Hopefully he doesn’t hear it.’’
But if he does? Gibson said Butler’s hard-nosed playing style will have to win the fans back. “As time goes on it will be put in the past,’’ Gibson said. “But right now, just focus on getting the win, giving the fans something to cheer about.’’
Gibson said, cheers or boos, the players would have Butler’s back. “We’re behind him,’’ he said. “Things do happen. Hopefully, the more we do well, the more wins come, they’ll forget.’’
Here are some other items from this morning:
--Neither of the team’s draft picks – guard Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop – appeared in the season opener in San Antonio on Wednesday. That wasn’t really a surprise for Bates-Diop, but the feeling was Okogie would be a part of the team’s rotation from the beginning.
“You have to settle on a nine-man rotation,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So right now he’s not in it.’’
Bigs Gorgui Dieng and Anthony Tolliver and guards Jones and Derrick Rose are the players coming off the bench for the Wolves.
--Brought here to augment the Wolves’ three-point attack, Tolliver didn’t get off a trey in the season opener. Thibodeau said a lot of it had to do with the way the Spurs switched on defense. With Karl-Anthony Towns limited by foul trouble, getting the right spacing was made more difficult.
“I think they’ll be there over the course of time,’’ Thibodeau said of Tolliver’s three-point opportunities.