We live in the rare sports market in which the Major League Baseball and NBA teams’ schedules coincide.
The Twins and Timberwolves both spend February and March in spring training.
For the Twins this is a rite of hope. For the Timberwolves, it is a reminder of the old, sad lament, “Wait ’til next year.’’
For all of the Wolves’ talent and promise, their season has devolved into live scrimmages designed to coax their youngest players toward maturity. Tuesday night, the Wolves lost 116-91 to the available members of the San Antonio Spurs, as their hyper-talented trio of Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine were productive if not effective.
LaVine scored 15 points but finished a game-worst minus-33 in the plus-minus category. Andrew Wiggins scored 23 and was minus-17. Towns scored 19 and was minus-19.
The least-celebrated of their accomplished youngsters, Tyus Jones of Apple Valley and Duke, finished with a season-high 10 points and a team-high six assists in a season-high 26 minutes. He has made 10 of his past 20 three-pointers.
Jones didn’t play a lot of meaningful minutes; neither did any other Wolves once the Spurs pulled away in the second quarter. He hit two three-pointers. He hit a floating bank shot. He did not commit a turnover.
While the Wolves circle the drain again, Jones is having a pretty good spring training.
“Great things,’’ said Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio, when asked what he sees in Jones. “He can really score the ball. I think he’s learning how to control, and play in this league.
“It’s not like college. He’s learning how to play and he’s not afraid. That’s one of the main things you ask of a rookie. Don’t be afraid.’’
Fear never figured to be an impediment for Jones. Less than a year ago he was a freshman running Duke’s team in the Final Four, taking and making the biggest shots of the college basketball season.
What delayed his arrival in the Wolves rotation was his size. He would have to find a way to harass opposing point guards, and invent ways to get off his shot.
He made four of seven shots against San Antonio. He finished plus-1, the best plus-minus on his team, and some of his best moments came against his antithesis as a player — former Wolves point guard Andre Miller, a strong, savvy veteran.
“He’s just learning how to play,’’ Wolves coach Sam Mitchell said of Jones. “The point guard position is just so hard. I thought Tyus did a good job. Learning the league, learning the passes you can make.
“At his size, he’s got to get his shot off a little bit quicker, he’s got to create space. But it will come.’’
Jones carries himself more like an Apple Valley kid thrilled to be playing for his hometown team than a Dukie disappointed he isn’t playing more. He does not conjure reminders of Christian Laettner as a Wolf.
“It’s been just a year of learning and growing, and making the most of this experience,’’ Jones said. “It’s been something that I’m enjoying. My teammates make it enjoyable and have helped me along. It’s been good.’’
Jones had just dressed while talking with Towns and LaVine. Towns wore large ice packs on his knees. LaVine wore ice packs on his ankles, and Kinesio Tape on his right shoulder. Jones did not require paraphernalia.
“I’m fresher than most of the guys in here,’’ he said. “I haven’t played as many minutes as most of them for half of the season. It’s just not as taxing on your body when you’re not playing games.
“Now that I’ve gotten into the rotation, I’m starting to be a little more sore and feeling it a little more the next morning. But it’s a good thing.’’
The Wolves have a remarkable group of talented young players. They also are assured an 11th consecutive losing season, so it is again time for Timberwolves spring training. They might as well let the winner from Apple Valley take some swings.