I’m guessing the crowd that comes to tonight’s game at the Sprint Center in Kansas City for the preseason game between the Timberwolves and the Miami Heat will be predominantly pro-Wolves.
Yes, the Heat has Kansas City native Willie Reed on the roster.
But the Wolves have three former Kansas Jayhawks on their roster in Andrew Wiggins, Cole Aldrich and Brandon Rush. And the KU campus is only about 40 miles from Kansas City. All three have played in this arena before.
Rush and Aldrich were on the 2008 Kansas NCAA title team and Rush is a Kansas City native as well.
“We played a non-conference game here every year,” said Aldrich of the Sprint Center. “And then we started to play the Big 12 tournament here. So I’ve played 10, 11 games here. This is nothing new for me.’’
Rush and Aldrich played multiple seasons with the Jayhawks, so their connection is deeper.
Especially Rush, who was able to see his mom and grandmother. Saturday night he had dinner with a few former teammates. For him, it’s a true homecoming.
“It’s just great to be back,” Rush said. “I always love coming back here.’’
Several members of the KU coaching staff are expected to attend the game.
Here are some other items from shootaround:
--Miami coach Erik Spoelstra went against Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau a couple of times in the playoffs when Thibodeau was in Chicago.
The Bulls and Heat met in the playoffs twice in Thibodeau’s five seasons in Chicago. The Heat, led by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade beat the Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals in 2011 and in the conference semifinals in 2013.
Spoelstra said he was glad to see Thibodeau back in the league after a season off.
“I am, I am,” he said. “He’s too good a coach not to be in this league. He did a tremendous job with the Chicago Bulls, and things happened that you can’t control. That’s why I’m happy for him, that he’s able to get back into this. And It’s an exciting group for him to build around.’’
He’s also glad about another thing: That Thibodeau isn’t in the Eastern Conference any more. “I’m glad he’s out West,” he said.
Much has changed since then. James is back in Cleveland and Wade is now with the Bulls.
--With so many players on the roster Thibodeau said he won’t be able to play everyone tonight. His plan is to look at the top of the roster, mix and match with different combinations, ultimately playing perhaps 10 players. The players who don’t get into action tonight will get a chance in the team’s second preseason game.
“But I want everyone ready,” Thibodeau said. “It could change during the course of the game. The main thing is to see where we are, if we’re moving along. To measure ourselves against somebody else.’’
--Thibodeau has a well-earned reputation for intensity and depth of preparation. Here’s yet another example. It was mentioned to him that the Heat team – without Wade, James or Chris Bosh – is far different team than the one he faced in the playoffs. He responded with an answer that suggested he had put in a lot of film study, especially considering this is just a preseason opener.
“It’s a different team, in terms of personnel,” Thibodeau said. “But, in terms of who they are, how they play, their culture, that’s always the same. Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra have done a great job there. They’re very talented. Their players go out, they play hard. They improve. They have a lot of guys who can hurt you off the dribble. We know that. (Hassan) Whiteside has really come on and established himself. (Goran) Dragic is a terrific point guard. (Justise) Winslow and (James) Johnson are coming at you hard. They’ve got some shooting. So, (Luke) Babbitt, he can stretch you out and he can make you pay with the three. So we have to make sure we’re taking care of the ball, the paint, react out, cover they line, challenge shots, finish our defense. Then we have to fly up the floor.’’
That’s about it. Have a good rest of your day.