There is a big bottle of hand sanitizer at the entrance to the Timberwolves locker room. And in the media room where reporters work. All around Target Center the bottles are a reminder of the importance of sanitization when confronting the coronavirus situation.
When it comes to the big decisions that might — or might not — confront the NBA when it comes to the attempt to contain the spread of the virus, the Wolves will take their cue from the league, according to Bri Bauer, team vice president of communications and engagement. Things like limiting access to the locker room, or even more extreme measures, will come from the league office. But the Wolves are doing what they can to keep Target Center as safe as possible.
Bauer said extra staff was on hand for Sunday’s 120-107 loss to New Orleans. Some were in place encouraging hand-washing by the fans. Others were wiping down surfaces, such as railings and concession stand counters.
After Sunday, the Wolves are scheduled for a season-long, five-game road trip. They won’t be back home for a game until March 22 against Portland, but Target Center has four days of Disney on Ice this week and the boys’ basketball state tournament next week.
Bauer said the Wolves will continue to do their part at the arena. “We will work with a partner to wipe down every seat,” she said. “First and foremost it’s sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.”
As the Wolves have worked to blend their new roster together, one thing has stood out: The new rotations available to coach Ryan Saunders has a good bit of depth to it.
Wolves reserves have averaged 46.0 points over the past nine games, getting contributions from the likes of James Johnson, Jake Layman, Jordan McLaughlin and Jarrett Culver. The bench scored 42 points Sunday.
“We changed our rotation a little bit, with D’Angelo [Russell] playing some with the second unit,” Saunders said. “I think he’s been able to get guys involved. And he and Jordan playing together, Jordan is giving us a good punch.”
Having a veteran such as Johnson coming off the bench helps a lot, too.
“He’s a dynamic ballhandler,” Saunders said. “But also he’s a guy who is physical. He has really helped our group too, where teams have had to shift defensively on him, game-planning for him. That opens the floor up for other guys.”
Saunders said it was a work in progress.
“Everybody is trying to learn each other,” he said. “The plays. And you’re looking at combinations, too. What lineup combinations work, what three-man combinations work. We’ve been able to get enough data that we feel we’re in a much better place than we did when we first made the move.”
It appears the reserves are willing to put in that work. They regularly take part in workouts together before team practices, a chemistry-building process.
“It’s just bringing our younger guys in early, teaching them different things, different philosophies that coach wants to go over,” Layman said. “Different plays he wants to put in. So it’s good to get them in there and get their minds working.”
Kelan Martin missed the game because of a left ankle sprain.