Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell has talked often during the season’s first 33 games about the long, hard road of teaching a young team how to play NBA basketball and how the league’s winning organizations get there through a commitment to system and continuity.
Before Saturday’s 95-85 home loss to Milwaukee, he was asked if he believes the team’s management understands such things, particularly as it pertains to his interim situation.
“Well, I don’t worry about it,” he said. “That’s not for me to worry about. My job is to coach the team and do what I think is right to do. I don’t worry about whether I’m going to be here or not. My job is to teach these players to the best of my ability so that whoever is coaching this team, whether it’s me or anybody else, at least these guys have any idea how to play.
“We have concepts about what do you do defensively, how do you play certain things, why do you do certain things. We also tell them why we’re doing what we’re doing so they understand because they don’t even understand why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
Mitchell was promoted in September at the same time General Manager Milt Newton’s duties expanded after coach/president of basketball operations Flip Saunders took medical leave from the team. When Saunders died in October, team owner Glen Taylor said both Mitchell and Newton have this season to prove themselves worthy permanently.
Déjà vu, all over again
Wolves rookie guard Tyus Jones got in his short pre-game nap before a home game against Milwaukee and still turned Saturday into a doubleheader.
He watched most of the annual Timberwolves Shootout finale, a fourth and final prep game that featured his brother Tre and former Apple Valley High School team. He sat behind one basket and posed for photos with everybody who asked during halftime and after his Eagles thumped a team from Memphis. Tre scored 14 points in the 79-49 victory.
“It seems like just yesterday I was playing for Apple Valley, but at the same time it seems like so long ago,” he said. “It’s real weird. I’m just happy with where I am now.”
On the campaign trail
Karl-Anthony Towns looked pretty lively Saturday for a guy who had just been up all night watching every second he has played this season.
That was the Wolves’ premise anyway with a social-media spoof on actor Shia LaBeouf’s November 55-hour film marathon, during which fans worldwide watched the actor watch every movie he has made. An All-Star voting promotion, the Wolves’ spoof contended he watched all 960 minutes he played this season, even if it really was a four-minute loop in which he ate popcorn, slurped a smoothie and watched a flickering screen in a Mayo Clinic Square theater.
“I loved it; I thought it was funny,” Towns said. “It’s crazy what the Timberwolves have me do sometimes.”