Timberwolves rookie Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine have been where Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones is going, from one season of big-time college basketball all the way to the NBA.
Wiggins and LaVine did so a year ago, when Kansas and UCLA lost out early in the NCAA tournament and each player declared himself eligible for the NBA draft.
Jones announced his intentions Wednesday, in the afterglow of Duke’s national championship victory nine days previous.
“That’s a great move for him,” said Wiggins, chosen No. 1 overall by Cleveland in last summer’s draft and then traded to the Wolves in a blockbuster trade for Kevin Love. “He accomplished the main goal in college and that’s to win a national championship. He’s a great point guard. I know he’ll be great in the league.”
Something of a sensation in his home state since he was seventh grade, Jones is projected as a first-round draft pick who likely will be chosen in the late teens or 20s.
“I’m all for him,” said LaVine, who left UCLA after an enigmatic freshman season and was chosen 13th overall by the Wolves. “I came out my freshman year and there were a lot of critics telling me I wasn’t ready. Hopefully, he has the same mentality as me: Try and prove them wrong and make them sound dumb. That’s what I went for.”
The Wolves aren’t in position to draft Jones unless they make a trade for another first-round pick or Jones somehow falls to the top of the second round.
Wiggins said he has some simple advice for Jones.
“Just put in the work,” Wiggins said. “Put in the season.”
Reading the signs
Wolves veteran Kevin Garnett worked out with assistant coach Ryan Saunders for 45 minutes, then shot for another 45 minutes Wednesday morning, two signs coach Flip Saunders believes mean Garnett will play again next season after he missed this season’s final 21 games, mostly because of a sore knee.
Saunders said he expects Garnett to decide early in the offseason whether he has a 21st NBA season in him.
“He’s doing things right now to get ready to play,” Saunders said.
Kevin Martin returned to play the season finale after he missed Monday’s loss to New Orleans because he was ill, and Anthony Bennett returned for one final game after he had missed 24 of the past 27 games.
Los Angeles Clippers All-Star guard Chris Paul has played 10 NBA seasons, but he’d never participated in all 82 games until this season.
Wiggins accomplished that feat Wednesday in his rookie season. “It’s a big accomplishment for me as a rookie, to start all 82 games,” he said. “I feel good about it.”
He is the only Wolves player to do this season. LaVine played in the second-most games on the team; he played in his 77th game Wednesday. “That’s what makes it special,” Wiggins said. “Not everyone can do it.”
Said LaVine about Wiggins: “He’s special. He’s got two professional athletes as parents. Just different genes with him.”
Wiggins said Wednesday he’s planning to play for Canada in an Olympic qualifying tournament in Mexico in August, but won’t play in the Pan Am Games that come to his hometown of Toronto in July. Teammate and fellow Torontonian Bennett expects to play for Canada in both tournaments.
“I’m going to get a lot of rest this summer,” Wiggins said, “so I’ll be ready for it.”
LaVine said he wants to play in the Las Vegas Summer League for a second consecutive summer. Saunders said he wants LaVine, Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, Adreian Payne and other young players to practice with the summer league team in July but was noncommittal about who he’d want to play in games there. Wiggins for sure won’t.