This was no news conference in front of an optimistic fanbase at the Mall of America.
A Wolves staff member was in the dimly lit press room just minutes before the arrival of Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington and Dario Saric cleaning and pressing the tablecloth with the Timberwolves logo on it.
There wasn’t much in the way of pomp and circumstance Monday heralding the arrival of the three players the Wolves obtained from the 76ers in the trade for Jimmy Butler as there had been for Butler.
It was hard to find a time when the trio smiled, although that’s understandable. Because of Butler’s trade demand, these three players have had to uproot their lives in the past four days when they didn’t ask for it.
“It’s definitely a shocker,” Covington said. “Considering everything we went through. The 10-win seasons. The rough patches. But … that’s part of the business. You can be mad. But you can’t allow it to take away from the new opportunity you have in front of you.”
That would be the prudent thing to do for at least Covington and Saric, who likely will be with the Wolves for a while.
Covington is under contract through the 2021-22 season, Saric through 2019-20, while Bayless, nursing an injured knee, is on an expiring contract. Covington and Saric will be in a Wolves uniform likely Wednesday against the Pelicans and perhaps all parties can start to feel a sense of normality.
Covington, an NBA All-Defensive first-team selection a season ago, said he already had spotted ways in which he can help the Wolves on that end of the floor.
“Just communication a little bit. Extra effort a little bit,” Covington said. “I’ve seen that as well as a player growing in my Philly days. It’s something that people have to do. Like, how can I say it? We have to work on it as far as reps defensive-wise. It’s about effort. It’s about repetition and all that stuff plays a part in it.”
One of the biggest questions going forward is how Covington and Saric will fit into the Wolves rotation. Thibodeau said they would have “significant” roles, but didn’t say if either or both would start. Because of his defensive prowess and three-point shooting ability, Covington seems like a natural fit in the starting lineup. Saric plays the same position as Taj Gibson, and it could create a decision for Thibodeau as to whom he starts.
“I like starting in the first lineup. I feel more comfortable,” Saric said. “But I’m here, first time with this team, I’ll respect every opportunity coach puts in front of me. It doesn’t matter if I start or if I’m coming from the bench.”
These are questions the Wolves will answer soon while Covington, Saric and Bayless are just trying wrap their heads around their new normal.