The Timberwolves hosted Golden State at Target Center on Thursday in a game between teams struggling with illness and injury.
The Wolves’ list of unavailable players remains long, with Karl-Anthony Towns (knee), Andrew Wiggins (illness) and Jake Layman (toe) among the players out. Golden State? The Warriors started the season without Steph Curry or Klay Thompson, both injured. They also were without D’Angelo Russell (shoulder) and Willie Cauley-Stein (illness) Thursday.
So what fans saw was a lot of youth, a number of players who split time with the G League.
It can be frustrating, of course. But it’s also an opportunity.
“What I see with the Wolves is similar to what I see with our team, in that suddenly a bunch of young guys get their chance, and they play hard,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Kerr said he watched the Wolves’ two-point loss in Milwaukee on Wednesday and was impressed.
“For Minnesota to go to Milwaukee, play the best team in the league down the wire, without Towns and Wiggins, it shows you what a young team is capable of, just competing,” he said.
The Wolves have fought injuries all season but have had opportunities to learn about players and their roles.
“Who fits with the group moving forward, and who can buy in when things are tough,” coach Ryan Saunders said. “It was fun to see that last night.”
Saunders pointed to Jaylen Nowell’s scoring off the bench (12 points), the play of Naz Reid, the aggressive play of rookie Jarrett Culver.
“I can go down the list,” Saunders said. “There were a lot of young guys who did things. Through the tough times you learn a lot about people, what they’re ultimately made of.”
Towns is getting his share of NBA All-Star Game attention.
The league released the first returns for fan voting for the All-Star Game. Fans’ voting accounts for 50% of the total to determine the starters for the game, which will be played Feb. 16 in Chicago. Players and a media panel account for 25% each. Votes are held on guards and frontcourt players.
Towns is fifth in voting among Western Conference frontcourt players, receiving 173,129 votes. He trails LeBron James (Lakers), Anthony Davis (Lakers), Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) and Paul George (Clippers).
Kerr talked about late NBA Commissioner David Stern, saying how much the league grew under his leadership. “I remember coming into the league with the Phoenix Suns,” he said. “We had two assistant coaches, one trainer, one equipment manager. And the salary cap was $8 million. Look at how huge the business has become. Think of all the opportunities we’ve all been given. We owe David Stern for having the vision — and the fortitude — to help create it.”