MANKATO – New Timberwolves forward Anthony Bennett underwent surgery last spring that removed his tonsils and adenoids in an attempt — successful, he now says — to improve his breathing and sleep apnea.
Then he had Lasik surgery six weeks ago to improve his eyesight.
That summertime surgery has him wearing goggles — or trying — to protect his healing eyes now that training camp started in earnest Tuesday at Minnesota State Mankato.
And he doesn’t like it.
“I can’t get really comfortable, but I’m going to have to wear them,” said Bennett, the 2013 NBA’s draft No. 1 overall pick acquired with 2014 No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins from Cleveland in August. “How long, I’m not even sure yet.”
Bennett continually moved the goggles to the top of his head during breaks in Monday’s “Dunks After Dark” scrimmages that tipped off camp.
“I’ve never really played with anything on my face before,” he said. “It’s really hard to see who’s beside me. It’s going to take a couple of practices.”
He looks familiar …
Former Wolves guard Chauncey Billups watched Tuesday’s practice, the first of two days he’ll spend at camp as a guest of the guy who coached him in Minnesota and Detroit.
“Chauncey’s probably one of my favorites I’ve ever coached,” Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. “He understands what I want to do. Sometimes when players hear a different voice delivering the same message, it maybe resonates a little differently.”
Billups retired three weeks ago after a 17-year playing career. He’s expected to pursue a television-commentary career, but Saunders was asked if he could foresee a place for one of his favorites on his coaching staff or in his front office.
“I don’t know about that,” Saunders said. “He likes what he’s doing now. It’s an opportunity to spend some time and hang out for a few days.”
Getting started …
The Wolves practiced for nearly 2½ hours Tuesday, the first of six practice days in Mankato that ends with a public scrimmage Sunday.
Players called it a fast-paced session. Saunders called it a “thinking” practice with an emphasis on defense after he kept his players up late Monday for their after-midnight madness that drew a capacity audience of 4,500 excitable fans to MSU Mankato’s Bresnan Arena.
“This is the fun part for coaches,” Saunders said. “We don’t care about the games. We love practices because you can work with guys. The game is like the final test to see if they’ve been able to pick up what you worked out in practice.”
Great first impression
It didn’t take Wiggins long to introduce himself to fans Monday night: He dunked a Ricky Rubio alley-oop pass and blocked a shot at the floor’s other end in the opening moments of the first of three 12-minute scrimmages.
Asked about forming an instant connection with his gifted point guard, Wiggins said, “I love playing with him already. He sees everything.”
Now you see it, now …
Billups wasn’t the only special guest Tuesday: Saunders brought Twin Cities magician The Amazing Hondo to practice and a team dinner for his sleight of hand and hilarity.
“He tricked me,” amazed forward Corey Brewer said. “He gave me my card back and then some way, somehow, my card got back in his pocket, in his hand. I don’t know how it happened because I didn’t move.”
Two Timberwolves players — Zach LaVine and Thaddeus Young — wore MSU Mankato jerseys emblazoned with “#22Strong” on them during warmups before Monday’s midnight event on campus.
The jerseys honor former MSU Mankato football player Isaac Kolstad, who was nearly beaten to death at bar-closing time in Mankato in May.
“He was in the hospital for a long time,” LaVine said. “Me and Thad wanted to go out there and show some support.
‘‘Hopefully, he’ll make a speedy recovery. We definitely want to show support for our fans.”