The Timberwolves knew Tyus Jones needed to play. The key was finding a place for him to do so.
Jones was assigned to the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League following Saturday night’s 109-103 loss to Portland. Jones practiced with the Wolves on Sunday. Then he caught a flight to Boise, where he is expected to play — and play a lot — in the Stampede’s home game against Texas on Wednesday.
The key was finding a D-League team that not only would take Jones, but play him. The Wolves are among a minority of NBA teams that don’t have an arrangement with a D-League team. That means Wolves General Manager Milt Newton had to do his homework to find a good situation for the 19-year-old Jones, the No. 24 overall pick in this year’s draft out of Duke and Apple Valley High School.
“We wanted to make sure he was going to a team that would give him the ball and let him lead,” Newton said. “And give him the minutes we feel he’s going to need to aid in his development.”
The Idaho situation seems a good fit.
The team is affiliated with the Utah Jazz, an organization without a lot of depth at the point-guard position. And the team is coached by Dean Cooper, a former Wolves front office member and assistant coach.
“This particular team has a point guard, but not one of [Jones’] caliber,” Newton said. “And they have some pretty good bigs, so they want someone who can run the team and get those guys involved. We’ve been given their word that they’ll use him a lot, play him a lot.”
It doesn’t always work out. Newton said the team tried to find a D-League spot for Glenn Robinson III last season but couldn’t find a team that would guarantee him enough playing time.
Jones was not available for comment Sunday. But after Saturday’s morning workout he talked about his willingness to go to the D-League. “If that’s what they feel was best for me,” he said. “It’s a part of being a professional.”
Interim coach Sam Mitchell said he stressed to Jones this was not a demotion.
“No NBA player wants to go to the D-League,” Mitchell said. “But you’re not going because you’ve done anything wrong. You’re going so you can get better. And [what] he’s going to realize after about five minutes there is that guards in that league go at you. This is going to be really good for Tyus.”
Newton said the plan is to give Jones a stint of six or seven games with the Stampede, during which he will be scouted steadily by the Wolves.
It’s 13 and counting
The Wolves will play host to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, looking to end the team’s 13-game losing streak to the Clippers that dates to April 12, 2012. This is tied for the second-longest such active streak in the league, behind Atlanta’s 15-game streak against Sacramento.
The last Wolves victory in the series came on March 5, 2012, when Kevin Love scored 39 points in a victory at Target Center. The starting lineup that night was Love, Luke Ridnour, Darko Milicic, Ricky Rubio and Wes Johnson.
But, on some nights, it seems even longer than that. “Last time I remember beating ’em was in L.A. to clinch our first playoff berth,” Mitchell said. “But we have an opportunity tomorrow.”
Rubio and Nikola Pekovic are the only players on the current roster who were with the Wolves the last time they beat the Clippers.
• Mitchell said Nemanja Bjelica is still turning down too many shots. “He’s at his best for us when he’s shooting the ball,” Mitchell said. “If you’re open, take the shot.”
• One consistent bright spot is the production from the center position. Against the Trail Blazers on Saturday, Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng combined for 42 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks.