The Timberwolves had their final practice of the season Monday, and interim coach Ryan Saunders tried to keep the players from adopting a last-day-of-school mentality as best he could.
“We watched film from the game [Sunday],” Saunders said. “We still practiced, did things that we usually do. … Eighty-two games is 82 games, and we have a job to do. Every time we’re here and any time we put our Wolves gear on to work, that was the message. That’s what I expect going forward.”
The Wolves still have two games remaining, starting with Tuesday’s home finale against Toronto, but they are more like the final exams seniors take when you’ve already been accepted to college. They count, but not really.
There was some looking forward when Saunders and other Wolves addressed reporters. Saunders is keeping nose to grindstone over the next few days, but at some point the organization will have to make a decision about Saunders’ future.
“Whenever I get the clarity I get it,” Saunders said. “I’m operating as I’m going to do a job until they tell me not to do a job. That’s my mind-set with things. It’s one of those things whenever I find out, other people make those decisions and I respect those.”
Saunders said his conversations with owner Glen Taylor sometimes venture into what the future might look like, but there has been no definitive word on whether Saunders will get the head coaching job full time.
“You talk about the future … and we’re excited about things,” Saunders said. “But I obviously know there’s a lot of things that go into all of this. I’ve been around the business. I know how it goes.”
Among the players who held perhaps his final media session before the offseason was Derrick Rose, who is averaging 18 points per game but has been out since March 10 after having elbow surgery.
Rose said he considered his elbow surgery “minor” and that he would be back shooting in two or three weeks. The surgery shouldn’t be a hindrance for him in the offseason.
“It may sound crazy, but with me changing my shot, the amount of shots I put in this summer, it sounds right that I had to get my elbow clean,” Rose said. “Leading into the year I always felt something in my elbow, but I didn’t think it was too serious and I thought that I could keep playing through it, but it just got worse and I thought to myself I might as well get it cleaned up.”
Rose was having a career resurgence before the injury and will be a free agent this offseason. He said he was open to seeing what kind of interest is out there for him in the league but added he wants to go somewhere he would feel comfortable, and he felt comfortable here in Minnesota.
“I think that’s why I played the way I played,” Rose said. “I’ve been in uncomfortable situations. I’ve been there and felt terrible. Playing, coming here and having the opportunity to play and for [Karl-Anthony Towns], [Andrew Wiggins] and for all the players to allow me to play the way that I play, it just shows the character that they have and I guess how they like playing with me.”
Perhaps they will get a chance to play together again.