On the day Jeff Teague returned to the starting lineup after missing nine games because of a sore ankle, the Timberwolves said Robert Covington has a right knee bone bruise and could miss a number of games.
Covington hurt his knee late in the Wolves’ loss in New Orleans on Monday. He had an MRI, which revealed the bruise. As for his return? Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t about to guess.
“He’s going to be out for a while,’’ Thibodeau said after the team’s morning shoot-around Friday in preparation for their game with Orlando at Target Center. “Those things are pretty hard to predict in terms of how long. So I don’t want to just guess with it. But he’s out, for right now.’’
It’s a big loss for a Wolves team, coming off a 1-2 road trip, that had lost three of four games heading into Friday. Covington is the team’s defensive leader.
“It’s a big blow for our team,’’ Karl-Anthony Towns said. “He’s a great defensive player, obviously. The energy and the character and pure passion he brings to the game, for us, is contagious.’’
Covington missed his second straight game Friday. Derrick Rose (ankle) missed his fourth.
Thibodeau said he didn’t think Covington will need surgery on the knee. But being without Covington for an extended stretch would put a lot of pressure on the team’s depth.
“This is an opportunity for someone else to step in,’’ Thibodeau said. “So that’s the way you have to look at it. We have more than enough, we just have to get it done.’’
Thibodeau started rookie Josh Okogie against Boston on Wednesday, but he also gave Anthony Tolliver 26 minutes, having him play out of position at guard. He responded with nine points, all on three-pointers. Okogie started Friday’s game as well and had 11 points in 30 minutes, including making three of five from three-point range.
Rose seemed genuinely moved by the news that fans had given him the second-most votes among Western Conference guards in early All-Star Game returns.
“Very touching,’’ he said. “It just shows you that love trumps hate any day, all day. To be in this position? Something I couldn’t ask for.’’
Long considered a contender for sixth man of the year, Rose has rebounded from a slew of injuries to at least approach the level of play he had early in his career, when he was the league MVP for Chicago in 2011. But, despite the down years, Rose clearly has remained a fan favorite.
“It comes from being in people’s minds for some reason,’’ he said. “And people really caring. I felt that through my whole career. To feel it is one thing. That’s all I need. I don’t need to boast or brag about it.’’
Fan voting counts for 50 percent in choosing All-Star Game starters. Players and the media each count for 25 percent.
“It would mean a lot [to make the game],’’ Rose said.
Even if he had to cancel a planned vacation to Malibu, Calif.? “I was just joking with Jeff [Teague],’’ Rose said. “ ‘Man, I can’t wait for the seven days. I want to relax, chill.’ But not only would I appreciate it, but my family, my kids would appreciate it. My son would be able to go to all the functions. My baby girl would be able to experience it a little bit. It would be great.’’
Said Towns: “Everyone counted him out. I told you guys he was going to be vintage D-Rose this year, and he’s been nothing but that, plus some. He has such a great story.’’
Meanwhile, Rose is granting a Make-A-Wish opportunity to 18-year-old fan Hunter Simmons. A longtime fan of Rose, Simmons has leukemia. He will attend Sunday’s game against the Lakers, accompanied by his parents and four siblings.
• A groin strain will keep LeBron James out of Sunday’s game.
• Rookie Keita Bates-Diop was reassigned to the Iowa Wolves of the G-League.