The Timberwolves brought unrestricted free-agent Donatas Motiejunas to town for a look but never got their chance to act before he agreed on Sunday to sign with New Orleans.
Drafted 20th overall in 2011 with the pick the Wolves owned before they started trading down that night, Motiejunas’ suspect back voided Houston’s trade with Detroit last season and he negotiated his release from the Rockets after they matched a restricted free-agent offer worth as much as $37 million made by Brooklyn in November.
Motiejunas reportedly agreed to sign a one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum salary to play beside Anthony Davis in New Orleans. Had the Wolves signed him, he would have been another option at power forward, where the Wolves start Gorgui Dieng, bring Nemanja Bjelica off the bench and have Jordan Hill on their roster as well.
“We invited him,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said before Sunday’s game against Portland. “We were hoping to spend some time with him, but then his agent canceled and we never really had a chance to sit down with him.”
The Blazers played their fourth consecutive game without star point guard Damian Lillard, who is out with a sprained left ankle. Backcourt mate CJ McCollum has moved over to point guard in Lillard’s absence and scored 29 points twice and 20 points in the first three games with Lillard sidelined.
Averaging 22.3 points entering Sunday’s game, McCollum nearly doubled it, scoring 43 on 16-for-25 shooting.
“I don’t know how much more CJ can do,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “He has the responsibility still to score and initiate the offense. Everybody has the responsibility to do a little more rather than just one person taking a major step.”
LaVine takes aim
Wolves guard Zach LaVine’s 53 three-pointers made in December were by five the most by a Timberwolves player in a month. Kevin Love made 48 in March 2012 and others on the top 10 list include Isaiah Rider, Kevin Martin and Rashad McCants.
“I didn’t even know it,” LaVine said, “but it’s good to know.”
One club record that is still out there that LaVine knows: eight three-pointers in a game, held by Stephon Marbury and Love.
Putting in the time
Thibodeau has deemed his team’s rebounding improved over the past month and now its transition defense is getting there, if a little at a time.
“We have to work at it every day until it becomes a habit,” he said. “You never quite get there. Defense is consistent work day after day; the discipline to do it over and over and over again, understanding how important it is and not to rest. You can’t take plays off. It requires everyone working together. That’s really the next step for us.
“Offensively, I’m really pleased with the team. Defensively, we have a lot of work to do.”
Is that all?
Stotts, when asked about the defensive keys in Sunday’s game:
“Towns on the block, Wiggins 1-on-1, LaVine a little bit of every of everything,” he said. “Dieng’s a good midrange shooter. Transition: Rubio pushes it on the pass, Dunn pushes it on the dribble. Muhammad can come in and score from the perimeter and the block. I don’t know what I’m forgetting. That would be some of it. “
The Wolves leave Monday for an Eastern trip that includes games at Philadelphia and Washington and a scheduled visit to the White House.