As he tries to navigate an NBA season unlike any other because of the coronavirus, Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders has sought some help from outside the basketball world in how to deal with COVID protocols.
"I think the sports that have started before us are ones that we can learn from, the good and the bad," Saunders said.
Specifically Saunders said he spoke with Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and Browns coach and former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski about how they managed to conduct meetings and get work done without being in the presence of their players.
"We did a number of Zooms during the hiatus, during the pandemic, just to hear about best practices and how they were going to attack the protocols and what they were doing to do things the right way…" Saunders said. "Kevin, he was a big help as well talking about how they actually have done installs [of systems] over video conference."
The preseason also offers the chance for the Wolves to fine-tune their pregame routine and get used to playing without fans — something many of them didn't get to do last year since the Wolves didn't qualify for the NBA restart in Florida.
"There's going to be plenty of times where you're going to have to BYOE: bring your own energy," Saunders said. "That's one of the reasons we want to play with energy, work with energy, do everything in Mayo Clinic Square with an energetic attitude."
Saunders said since the coaches will be wearing masks on the sidelines, it might be harder to communicate with players on the floor. He said that puts more onus on the point guards.
"More visual signals working through those, and then us really just being on the same page and understanding that it is going to be a quiet gym, but we know there's crowd noise, there's music," Saunders said. "These guys are going to have to communicate with each other because there's the other added element of communication from the bench to players that maybe isn't as strong as it could've been."
The first night of preseason showed coaches across the league trying to remove their masks to communicate, something Saunders said he will try to avoid as best he can.
"We've been coaching masks through camp and through individual work," Saunders said. "You can say you're getting used to it, but I don't think you're ever really getting used to it. It is hard to hear, but everybody is facing the same challenges."
As it pertained to the Wolves' game-day routine, Saunders said the Wolves had to make some adjustments there as well, all in the name of adapting to the circumstances as best as possible.
"All our coaches' meetings are over Zoom," Saunders said. "And we're all in our offices on Zooms, 5, 10 feet away from each other obviously through the doors in all these situations so that's unique. But we have to adapt and we have to be flexible."
Reid still not with team
The Wolves had their full roster of players available on Saturday except for one — second-year center Naz Reid. The team officially listed Reid as "not with the team" on the injury report, but Saunders said Reid has yet to clear COVID protocols to join the team.
When asked if Saunders had a timetable for Reid's return he said, "I don't at the moment."