OAKLAND, Calif. – There were a few pleasantries exchanged between the Timberwolves and Warriors on Saturday.
Jeff Teague helped Stephen Curry adjust a jersey that wouldn’t fit right while Tom Thibodeau tossed a shoe back to Warriors guard Quinn Cook after Cook lost it while playing defense.
It’s the preseason, when tension is supposed to be low.
Of course, the Timberwolves’ preseason has hardly been relaxing with the looming specter of Jimmy Butler’s trade request.
Butler was officially listed as out because of his surgically repaired right wrist as the rest of the Wolves got on with the task of figuring out how to mesh without him in a 114-110 win at Oracle Arena.
The most noticeable difference was that Derrick Rose took over Butler’s spot in the starting lineup in a two-guard look with Teague. There was more than enough of the ball to go around for both to get their share of shots; Teague scored 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting while Rose was 6-for-10 for 16 points. Rose showed his trademark aggression on the offensive end, driving hard to the rim and creating his own shots with the abandon he has throughout his career.
“He was fabulous,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “Derrick showed a lot of prime Rose, the Rose everyone loves. Very aggressive, making the tough plays and pushing the tempo. That’s all you can ask for. The youngest MVP in league history, for me personally on the court I saw a lot of glimpses of MVP D-Rose.”
Those glimpses came over 21 minutes for Rose, as Thibodeau limited his starters’ minutes to the low 20s.
One of the biggest priorities of the Wolves’ offseason was making over their bench, hoping to add some three-point punch and improved defense. The bench looked like a unit that was still getting used to each other in the first half but seemed to figure some things out in the second half.
The second unit that played together the most included Tyus Jones, Anthony Tolliver, Gorgui Dieng and rookies Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop.
Thibodeau said he liked what he saw from Bates-Diop and Okogie. Their stat lines ended up in different places (Bates-Diop had six points, 1-for-9 shooting and six rebounds, Okogie was 3-for-5 for 10 points and had five rebounds) but both flashed some aggression on the offensive end of the floor.
“Obviously it’s preseason so it’s not regular-season basketball, but for the first time out, both guys I thought did a good job, and I think that’s important,” Thibodeau said.
Okogie made an impression on his first NBA basket, an emphatic slam after he made a nice back cut to get open.
“I’m not going to lie, I was nervous.” Okogie said. “Especially with the defending champions, really good team. They threw me out there in the first quarter. I was just trying to get locked in on defense and let me defense create my offense. When everything slowed down to me, I think I got the hang of it.”
Tolliver added the scoring punch for the second unit with five three-pointers on 10 attempts.
After the game, the Wolves headed to Los Angeles, the city where Butler told Thibodeau of his desire for a trade.
Saturday was a first small step in the Wolves’ separation from Butler, the beginning of their moving on.
“We got no choice, right?” Teague said. “We have to go out there and jell as fast as we can and see what happens.”
Teague appeared to injure a finger on his right hand during the first quarter and came out of the game momentarily to get it taped. He returned a few minutes later.