Deciding he needed playing time to develop, and able to find a good place for him to play, the Timberwolves sent rookie guard Tyus Jones to the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League after Saturday night’s 109-103 loss to Portland.
“Going to Idaho will allow Tyus to get some game experience at the professional level,” Wolves General Manager Milt Newton said. “With our depth at point guard, we haven’t been able to get Tyus the playing time he needs.”
Jones, the 24th pick in the 2015 draft, was acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a draft-day move. But the 19-year-old former Apple Valley High School standout, who entered the NBA after one NCAA championship-winning season at Duke, has found professional minutes hard to come by. He has less than seven minutes of playing time in two appearances while playing behind Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine and Andre Miller on the Wolves depth chart.
Idaho is the D-League affiliate of the Utah Jazz. The Wolves don’t have their own affiliate and needed to find a team that could play Jones meaningful minutes before they committed to an assignment. Stampede coach Dean Cooper is a former Wolves executive and assistant coach.
Without much game action, Jones had been trying to work on his game through practice.
“I take practice very seriously,” he said before Saturday night’s announcement. “Just being as competitive as I can be. Because those are my games.”
Praise for Dieng
A lot of recent Wolves talk has centered around rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns not playing a lot in the fourth quarter. But maybe there should be more focus on what backup Gorgui Dieng is doing to earn crunch-time minutes.
Turns out there is quite a bit of stuff interim coach Sam Mitchell likes about what Dieng is doing. “His defense,’’ Mitchell said. “He’s setting screens, he’s rolling to the basket, he’s making the extra pass. He’s locked in every game.’’
Dieng had double-doubles in two of four games leading up to the game with Portland. He also had seven blocks, 36 rebounds and eight assists in those four games. Against the Trail Blazers, Dieng had 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
Mitchell said he was particularly hard on Dieng early in training camp, and that Dieng responded.
“I think the reason he was getting on me is because he knows what I can do to help this basketball team,” Dieng said. “So I never take it personally. I will just pay attention to what he wants me to do to get better as a player and help this team.’’
Said Mitchell: “He’s just playing well. It’s hard to keep him off the floor.’’
An outside voice
Mitchell was asked how much effect he felt having Gary Payton in to talk to his point guards could have. The Hall of Fame guard was asked by Milton to work with the guards, particularly LaVine, who grew up in Seattle a fan of Payton.
“Gary’s not going to tell ’em anything that [Wolves assistant] Sidney Lowe or any of our coaches aren’t going to tell them,’’ Mitchell said. “But, for all of you who have kids, do your kids listen to you all the time?’’
That said, Mitchell welcomed Payton’s input and said Payton would be back a few more times this season.