CHARLOTTE – The Timberwolves and Target Center will have one fewer guest than they were expecting for their home opener Sunday: Jimmy Butler.
Butler, whose trade demand uprooted the organization this time last year, recently became a father to a baby girl and will miss the Heat’s upcoming road trip, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. That road trip includes stops in Milwaukee and Minnesota.
Butler has already visited his old team once, when the 76ers defeated the Wolves 118-109 on March 30. Butler had just 12 points in that game on 4-for-17 shooting, and the Wolves and their fans welcomed him back with plenty of boos and a snippet of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” during lineup introductions. Butler then went to Miami as part a sign-and-trade in the offseason.
But they will likely have to wait until next season to book him again, since the Wolves and Heat only play in each other’s arenas once per season.
Dieng deals with DNP
During training camp, Wolves coach Ryan Saunders said there was going to be a lot of competition for spots in the rotation. So it follows that he has to make some tough decision on who plays and who doesn’t.
One of the players who didn’t see any time in Tuesday’s opener against Brooklyn was center Gorgui Dieng. The seven-year veteran was in and out of the lineup at times last year, too, under Saunders.
“I’m used to it,” Dieng said. “It’s not the first time it happened to me in my career. Just got to stay ready and do what I’m supposed to do. I’ve been a pro for seven years and nobody ever hear me getting in trouble or saying something I’m not supposed to say. So, I think I do the best I can to carry myself and be the best human being I can be.”
Saunders wasn’t worried about how Dieng would deal with not playing.
“He’s a professional,” Saunders said. “It’s one of those situations that you wish you could play all 17 guys. You wish you didn’t have to have guys that weren’t active. … There’s always situations where guys need to step up and when guys’ time comes, I know Gorgui especially, he will be ready, because he’s a professional.”
Dieng said he’ll contribute how he can, including offering help and encouragement to teammates.
“They’re my teammates, you know?” Dieng said. “I spend time more with them than my family. I’m supporting them regardless. When I’m on the court they’ll do the same thing for me. If I’m not playing, I’m still a part of the team. I’ll support them and if I see something that can help the team I will tell them.”
Culver free of jitters
Jarrett Culver didn’t have the splashiest NBA debut on Wednesday, scoring four points in 16 minutes, but at least the first-game jitters are behind him. Culver said he accomplished his main goal from his first regular-season game.
“For me my main goal was to go out there and get a dub [win],” Culver said. “We came out on top, so I was excited to my first NBA win.”
Saunders came away liking what he saw from Culver.
“He had moments where you can definitely see his talent,” Saunders said. “You can see the type of player he’s going to be in this league and he’s going to be a very, very good player in this league.”