Some 1,110 miles north of where he once lived, Timberwolves General Manager Scott Layden nonetheless came home a little bit Tuesday night at Target Center.
Until he and longtime friend Tom Thibodeau were hired last spring, Layden worked the past four years in San Antonio’s successful front office. The Spurs’ visit Tuesday enabled him and player personnel director Brian Pauga — a nine-year Spurs employee Layden brought with him to Minnesota — to visit with some longtime colleagues and old friends.
“I was lucky to work there four years,” said Layden, the son of an NBA coach who has spent his adult life working in basketball. “I often say I can’t believe I had a job there because it is such a special place.”
Thibodeau visited San Antonio twice on a year’s sabbatical last season. He sat in on meetings and studied the organization in which Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, GM R.C. Buford and Layden, among many others, all have worked collaboratively in winning five NBA titles.
“We ate well, had a little wine, relaxed,” Popovich said Tuesday, describing Thibodeau’s two visits. “It was fun just to talk basketball with somebody else.”
At the time, Layden said he had no clue he and Thibodeau would work together in Minnesota a year later.
“None, zero,” Layden said. “It is funny how things work out. How do you know?”
Thibodeau has known Popovich since he was an assistant coach to Larry Brown and Don Nelson long ago.
“The thing I admire and respect about him is he never changed, even with all the success he has had,” Thibodeau said. “He’s the same guy he was when he was an assistant. He’s obviously at the top of his field, but his humility, his courage … he’s not afraid to try different things.”
Spurs star Tony Parker missed his third game in the past four, this time because of a knee contusion. Manu Giniboli did not play on the second night of back-to-back games.
Parker’s hurting knee kept Wolves rookie guard Kris Dunn from his first chance to compete against a player Dunn called “definitely a Hall of Famer.”
The Daily Double
Six days after being hit against New York last week, Wolves forward Nemanja Bjelica still sported a shiner under his right eye.
He also was called for a blocking foul on the same play he was socked in the eye.
Asked how he got both the shiner and the foul, he said: “I don’t know. You ask the wrong guy. I think I got used to it. I just need to keep playing. That’s it. That was a bad call.”
Former teammate Brandon Rush witnessed Golden State guard Klay Thompson’s 37-point quarter against Sacramento in January 2015. But he watched from afar Monday when Thompson scored 60 points in only 29 minutes and didn’t play the fourth quarter in a lopsided victory over Indiana.
Rush considered Monday’s 60-point game more impressive than that 37-point quarter. “That’s 20 points a quarter, in 29 minutes. That’s unbelievable.”
Thibs on Pau
Thibodeau coached Spurs veteran Pau Gasol for one season in Chicago and tried to sign him as a free agent last summer, unsuccessfully, of course.
“We talked to a number of guys,” Thibodeau said. “But I think a player like that is looking to become a part of a championship team. I think when the Spurs came along, he saw that as a better fit for where he is in his career right now.”
• Rush (big-toe injury) was available to play but missed his fourth consecutive game.
• Thibodeau said he’d been too busy to see footage of Thompson’s 60-point game. “But I want to,” he said. “It doesn’t surprise me. The guy is incredible. It doesn’t take him much room to get a shot off, and he can shoot it from anywhere. But to do it in three quarters, I want to see it.”