Note: The NBA trade deadline passed at 2 p.m. Thursday without a Wolves trade being announced. We'll have updates from Target Center soon.
The Timberwolves went back to work Wednesday after an extended All-Star break holiday, one day before Thursday’s 2 p.m. trade deadline and two days before they head down the season’s home stretch 3½ games out of the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
The team’s prime candidate to be traded by then, point guard Ricky Rubio, declined interview requests after Wednesday’s practice, choosing to wait until after practice on Thursday.
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau declined to address that he and his team have held negotiations to trade Rubio to New York in a deal for forthcoming free-agent Derrick Rose or points elsewhere, among other reported discussions that also include reserve forward Shabazz Muhammad.
Muhammad did not rejoin the team Wednesday when it reconvened for practice because of what the team called a family matter. Veteran guard Brandon Rush also was absent because Kansas retired his college jersey Wednesday night in Lawrence, Kan.
Asked if he thinks his team will make a trade by Thursday afternoon, Thibodeau said: “Not at this point. I’m not going to comment on any trade speculation or any of that stuff. … If there is something that makes sense that can make you better, then you take a look at it. If not, I’m happy with the team we have. I like the guys we have. I like the approach that we have.”
Those guys and their approach have the Wolves chasing Denver for the West’s final spot, but there are four other teams between them and the Nuggets.
The Wolves last week went into the All-Star break by beating the Nuggets 112-99 in Denver. That made them 11-9 in their last 20 games heading into the season’s final 25 games, which begin Friday at home against Dallas.
Andrew Wiggins scored 40 points in that game at Denver, his second 40-point game in as many nights after a 41-point game against Cleveland the night before.
“I feel good about this team,” Wiggins said before the Wolves headed into their break. “We’re getting better every game. Some games we play bad and have a little setback, but we keep playing hard, practicing hard, learning a lot of new things. Every game is an experience, and experience is the best thing you can have. It’s a good feeling knowing we’re in the [playoff] mix. If we put in a good stretch, we can put ourselves in a really good position …
“Denver is in the eighth spot, we want that position. We want to do something special this year.”
The playoff landscape changed over the All-Star break, tilted by a Western Conference blockbuster trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins from Sacramento to play with fellow Kentucky star Anthony Davis in New Orleans. The Pelicans are 2½ games behind Denver, Sacramento 1½ games behind.
After Wednesday’s practice, Thibodeau said he wants his players focused not on the trade deadline and the looming playoff spot but rather on Thursday’s practice and then Friday’s game against Dallas.
“If we lock in each and every day to what’s in front of us, put everything you have into that, all that stuff takes care of itself,” Thibodeau said. “What you don’t want is to get lost in looking at the wrong things.”
Before he declined interview requests Wednesday, Rubio tweeted on Tuesday night, “Never stress over what you can’t control.”
Before he tweeted that, Rubio spoke last week about potentially making the playoffs for the first time, in his sixth NBA season.
“First of all, we have to believe we can make it, and I believe,” he said. “We know we slip some games we shouldn’t, and that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in right now. But I still believe we can make it.”
• Veteran guard Lance Stephenson has remained at the Wolves’ training facility rehabbing a Grade 2 sprained ankle even though the 10-day contract he signed two weeks ago has expired. Thibodeau indicated Stephenson will be re-signed when the ankle heals. “He has to get healthy, so that’s the big thing,” Thibodeau said. “It’s unfortunate, but the good thing is it’s a sprain.”
• Muhammad and teammate Tyus Jones both will be looking for representation now that their agent, Rob Pelinka, is the Los Angeles Lakers’ new general manager. “I’m really happy for him,” Jones said. “Obviously, you don’t get upset or anything like that. It’s just something he had to do. I’m very happy for him and his family and that’s something he deserved, for sure.”