SAN ANTONIO – Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell had a message for young star Andrew Wiggins Monday night, and every night for that matter: Keep taking the ball to the basket, even if he gets his shot blocked five times.
That’s how many times the Spurs rejected him when the two teams played last week at Target Center. Defended mostly by blossoming star Kawhi Leonard, Wiggins took 11 shots in that 25-point loss, made two, scored 10 points and had five of them swatted away.
And Mitchell said he’s fine with that in a league where Wiggins is sixth in free throws attempted (7.5 a game) and the Wolves lead all teams in free throws made and free-throw percentage.
“This is the NBA,” Mitchell said before the Spurs played without injured star center Tim Duncan on Monday. “Guys get dunked on. They get scored on. They can get their shot blocked. Right now, we’re trying to get Andrew to be aggressive and take the ball to the basket, so if he gets five blocked I’d be OK with that.
“We’re trying to develop a certain mentality with him and we want him taking the ball to the basket. He’s the best guy on our team at that and we think one day he’ll be really, really good at it.”
Learning to play together
Mitchell hopes his team comes away from these two games against the Spurs more aware how a championship team moves the ball.
“It’s something that we all have to learn,” Wolves rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “They’ve been together for how long? We have a lot of time to grow. I think we all have it. If you look at our team, we have a lot of guys who in high school, college were the man, the guy who had to shoot when they needed buckets. It’s something we just have to get used to.”
Wolves rookie Tyus Jones played his third consecutive game back from the NBA Development League, and agrees with his coach that he often has played to avoid mistakes rather than freely.
“I’d say I’m more comfortable now than I was earlier in the season, but I do catch myself trying not to make a mistake,” said the 19-year-old point guard from Apple Valley High School. “The more comfortable you get, the more it becomes natural and you play off your instincts.”
• Wolves veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin did not play for the third consecutive game, coach’s decision.
• Spurs forward David West started at center in place of Duncan (sore knee).
• Mitchell on the death of former Harlem Globetrotters star Meadowlark Lemon at age 83: “I always was a big Globetrotters fan. He’ll be missed. It’s just amazing how many basketball people have left us. This has been a tough year for the people we’ve lost in the NBA and our basketball family.”