It didn’t happen Saturday night against New York. The Timberwolves started slowly and had to play catch-up all night. So interim coach Sam Mitchell shortened his bench.
But, over the final 26 games, Mitchell has pledged to give rookie point guard Tyus Jones playing time, more of a chance to show what he can do.
The 19-year-old says he is ready.
“I just have to make the most of it,” said Jones, the former Apple Valley High School and Duke star. “I keep trying to get better every day, keep learning. It’s a process. I just hope to apply what I’m working on into game situations.”
Jones has watched from the bench, other than his short stint in the Development League. At the NBA level he has appeared in 11 games, averaging 3.2 points and 1.9 assists.
Asked before Saturday’s game about Jones’ play, Mitchell said it was too soon to offer an opinion.
“He needs to get comfortable first, and he needs to feel comfortable in an NBA game, then we’ll see,” Mitchell said. “We’re going to try to give him as many minutes as we can down the stretch, give him a chance to grow. It will allow us to see where he’s at, and it allows him to see where he’s at.”
Jones said he has tried to absorb as much as he can during practices and while watching games.
“It’s definitely been a season of learning,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about game management, how to run the offense. On defense the assignments, where you’re supposed to be when your man has the ball and doesn’t have the ball. Just different small stuff.”
Now it’s getting time to take it to the court.
Jones wants the opportunity, but is patient enough to wait until it comes.
“It’s been different, but this is what you signed up for,” he said. “You have to stay positive, stay ready. Just try to get better every day. That’s the goal.”
Might the minutes be catching up to Wolves forward/center Gorgui Dieng?
After struggling to guard New York center Robin Lopez on Saturday, Dieng talked about being unable to find his rhythm. He also referenced the 44 minutes he had played the night before in Memphis.
With Nemanja Bjelica, Kevin Garnett and Nikola Pekovic all sidelined by injury, Mitchell is limited in what he can do to spell Dieng, whose play until Saturday had been very good; he had scored in double figures in 10 straight games, had seven double-doubles in that time and had shot 61.5 percent.
Mitchell also says Dieng is one of the better and most vocal defenders on the team.
But, after playing 44:01 Friday in Memphis, Dieng was clearly tired Saturday.
Lopez scored 16 of his 26 points in the first quarter, with Dieng covering him. Dieng ended up playing just 24:43 vs. New York, scoring six points on 1-for-6 shooting with three rebounds and was a minus-23.
The Wolves, meanwhile, were outrebounded 51-31, the team’s biggest rebounding deficit this season.
“You could tell he was tired,” Mitchell said of Dieng.
Mitchell has been making use of more small lineups of late. But, against a big team such as New York, that was a problem. And, until Mitchell gets one of his injured bigs back, it could be a problem.
“Our guys physically aren’t where they’re going to be a year or two from now,” Mitchell said.
Don’t forget about Tre
Jones was in Memphis on Friday, so he wasn’t able to see his brother record the first triple-double in Apple Valley High School history. Tre Jones and Gary Trent Jr. make up a high-powered backcourt for Apple Valley.
Jones did tweet out that he felt his younger brother was the best player in the state. Asked who might turn out to be the best player in school history, he again said Tre.
“He might be, if he keeps on the path he’s going,” he said.