AUBURN HILLS, MICH. – Still among the league leaders in minutes played, young Timberwolves stars Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine all have turned their eyes toward the upcoming All-Star weekend break and beyond, focused not on dunk and skills contests but staying fresh for season’s finish.
Towns has followed LaVine’s lead and decided he won’t participate in All-Star Saturday night in New Orleans in two weeks.
Towns will play in Friday’s Rising Stars game that features rookies and second-year players, but he won’t defend his skills challenge title Saturday night, just like LaVine won’t be back to compete for a third consecutive dunk title.
Towns instead opted to go home to New Jersey for the NBA’s All-Star break after playing Friday night.
“I just wanted to see my family,” Towns said. “My niece and nephew are getting big. I want to see them grow up. They’re getting older. Family time is the most precious time you’ve got. I’m willing to skip that [skills challenge] to spend that time with them.”
Wiggins said he hasn’t decided what he’ll do over the break, other than he plans to “kick back and let my body rejuvenate. Other than that, I haven’t thought about it too much.”
Neither Wiggins nor LaVine plan to go to New Orleans; each participated in the past two All-Star weekends. LaVine said he’ll likely go home to Seattle for a few days.
LaVine is third in the league in minutes played (37.3 a game), Wiggins is fourth (37.1) and Towns (36.4) is seventh behind league leaders Kyle Lowry of Toronto and LeBron James of Cleveland.
“I need some rest,” LaVine said. “I need some ice baths.”
Dunn done for the night
Wolves point guard Kris Dunn was scratched from Friday’s lineup not long before opening tip because of a sore right hand. Second-year guard Tyus Jones took Dunn’s place, entering the game to relieve starter Ricky Rubio late in the first quarter and made a shot just before the first-quarter buzzer that pulled his team within six points.
Little-used forward Adreian Payne didn’t practice Thursday or play Friday because he was ill, Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said before Friday’s game.
Decisions, decisions …
Thibodeau said he didn’t try to persuade his three young stars one way or the other whether they should participate in All-Star weekend.
“It’s an honor,” Thibodeau said. “If it fits into what’s best for them, I have no problem with that. If you need rest and you’re nicked up, you should prioritize that. Anytime you have an opportunity to do stuff like that, it’s good for the league, it’s good for them, but they also have to prioritize what’s best for them and what’s best for winning.”
The Wolves practiced Thursday and shot Friday morning at Detroit Country Day School, where NBA stars Chris Webber and Shane Battier once matriculated and played.
“Battier was the best, as good a teammate as you’ll ever find in the NBA,” said Thibodeau, who coached him for a season in Houston. “Terrific career, great leader, one of those guys who just made the team better everywhere he went. Duke, Miami, Houston, he won and won big.”
• Wiggins wore green shoes more befitting the Grinch and Christmas for the third consecutive game. “None of it,” he said when asked how an overtime-forcing shot against Orlando on Monday was due to the shoes, “but it looked good doing it.”
• Former Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders coveted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope because of his defense before Detroit selected him eighth in the 2013 NBA draft. He scored a career-high 38 points Wednesday against New Orleans.
“He can score a lot of different ways,” Thibodeau said.