New Timberwolves guard Lance Stephenson joined the team Wednesday and declared himself older, wiser and still only 26.
He’s aboard because of his scoring, passing, overall toughness and “competitive spirit,” according to Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau, now that the season of starting shooting guard Zach LaVine (torn ACL) is over.
Playing for his sixth team in seven NBA seasons largely because of immaturity, Stephenson said he chose the Wolves — and they chose him on a 10-day contract — because he’s now a veteran who can help a young team grow.
“I looked at this group and thought it was a great opportunity to help,” Stephenson said. “They’ve got young guys. I feel my experience and how I approach the game could really help these guys.”
Stephenson called himself recovered from groin surgery, needed after New Orleans cut him in November. He had played only six games this season.
He entered the game to start the second quarter, played 20 minutes and had six points and four rebounds.
Only four seasons ago, Stephenson was a rising star on an Indiana team that forced LeBron James and Miami to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference finals. Since then he has shuttled from team to team, including four in the past year.
“He has had some really good experiences, deep playoff runs with Indiana,” Thibodeau said. “So he’s got to get untracked again. I think this is a good opportunity for him, a good opportunity for us.”
He’s in his seventh NBA season, yet is about the same age as new teammate Ricky Rubio.
“I like his age, I think it fits our group,” Thibodeau said. “That’s part of it. Overall, it’s what he has done in the league: He has been a starter, come off the bench, done a little of everything.”
Toronto coach Dwane Casey on Wednesday called Stephenson “an old soul.”
“I came in as a young kid,” Stephenson said. “I’ve seen a lot and I’ve learned a lot. I feel like I’m ready for this opportunity.”
Casey knows Stephenson well from Eastern Conference clashes when the newest Wolf played for Indiana and Charlotte.
“He’s a talented, talented young man, hard to stop one-on-one,” said Casey, a former Wolves head coach. “He can get to where he wants to go with the ball. He has been his own worst enemy a lot of times, and I think he’d be the first to tell you that. … He’s not really a [shooting guard]. He’s not really a [small forward]. He just knows how to play.”
Wolves guard Tyus Jones on Tuesday night attended brother Tre’s 34-point game for Apple Valley High School in a victory over Lakeville North.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch because I know how much work he puts in and the amount of time he spends in the gym,” he said. “It’s good for me as a big brother to see it paying off.”
• Wolves rookie guard Kris Dunn missed his fourth consecutive game because of a swollen, bruised hand. He again was in uniform, but didn’t play. Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (knee contusion) missed his third consecutive game.
• Call Casey impressed with Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns.
“I’m surprised he didn’t make the All-Star team,” Casey said. “He’s a very talented young man. Plus, he’s from Kentucky.”