After Saturday’s practice, Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell reiterated his belief that he was developing his players the right way and defending the job he has done this season. He went a step further before Sunday’s game with Phoenix at Target Center, directly addressing his future in the organization.
It came when he was asked whether he was frustrated with the team’s losing streak — a nine-game skid that was broken in a big way with a 117-87 victory.
No, he said, primarily because he felt development was more important than wins at this point.
“I understand the right thing to do is difficult at times,” he said. “I’m never going to change. I’ve been through it as a player and as a coach. You hope the powers that be .... [Wolves owner] Glen Taylor and these players understand we’re committed to doing the right things. Because we have to grow this thing the right way. If we don’t do the right things now, somewhere in the future we’ll never be where we want to be.’’
Then Mitchell went a step further.
“It’s bigger than me,” he said. “It may turn out that I’m here to see it. But it may turn out that I’m not. But the people in this league know there is a certain way we have to do this, and we understand that. And If I’m not a big boy enough to do it, I shouldn’t be standing here talking to you.’’
At first it looked like it would be another difficult game for Nemanja Bjelica.
He came off the bench in the first quarter and picked up three personal fouls in three minutes. He got back in about five minutes into the third and quickly picked up another foul.
But this time he played through it. At 27, Bjelica is a very old rookie. But he still has had to adjust to the NBA’s level of play after being a star in Europe. After a fairly strong start to the season Bjelica missed time with an injured knee. After that he struggled.
Sunday, there were signs of his return. With the ball in his hand, he created. He dribbled then kicked to Tayshaun Prince for a jumper. Then he did the same, setting Zach LaVine up for a three-pointer that pushed the Wolves’ lead to 18 late in the quarter.
By the time the game ended, Bjelica had six points and three assists.
“He started to play like he was playing earlier,” Mitchell said, “before he hurt his knee. He’s starting to get his rhythm back. I’m having more trust in him, to put the ball in his hands.’’
• Guard Kevin Martin returned to action after missing the Oklahoma City game because of illness. Martin scored 11 points in 15:45 of playing time, with two assists.
• Karl-Anthony Towns blocked three shots, giving the No. 1 overall pick 12 games this season with three or more blocks.