MILWAUKEE – There is no uniform blazer awarded or secret handshake taught just yet, but Timberwolves players have auditioned under new coach Flip Saunders seeking all the benefits and privileges accorded full membership in a special club:
Flip’s Three-Point Club.
Basketball’s statistical analytics champion the value of a shot that’s worth 50 percent more than its two-point counterpart. Devotees of such mathematics probably convulsed when the Wolves attempted only eight three-pointers (and made half of them) Tuesday night against Indiana before that same team went out and took 21 (making seven) in Wednesday’s 110-91 victory over Milwaukee.
Throughout this preseason, Saunders has preached the power of taking — and making — good shots, no matter what their denomination.
On Tuesday, that meant a mere eight attempts when the Wolves shot nearly 51 percent overall from the field. On Wednesday, when they rested four veterans and didn’t play injured rookie Andrew Wiggins for the second consecutive night, the Wolves launched nearly three times that many and shot 42.5 percent overall from the field.
“Like I said last night, I don’t go in with the idea how many threes,” Saunders said afterward. “It’s a matter of what is given and tonight they were available, so we took some.”
Saunders made it clear Wednesday that he is not fundamentally opposed to the three-point shot, as some math-loving Wolves fans have contended on Twitter and Internet chat rooms.
“I’m just opposed to not making shots, whether it’s a two-pointer or a three-pointer,” he said. “Sometimes you can have guys taking three-point shots and maybe that’s out of their range and they shouldn’t be shooting those. A made shot is a made shot. If you’re not a three-point shooter, you can always work to expand your shot. We want to make sure we take good, open three-point shots.”
A season ago, the Wolves ranked 16th in the 30-team league in three-pointers attempted with 21.4 per game and ranked 26th in percentage made at 34.1.
So one day this preseason, Saunders commanded players shoot 100 times from five separate spots on the floor. Those who made 65 of them won permission to freely shoot three-pointers.
Forward Chase Budinger apparently is one of six or seven players, by Saunders’ estimation, who qualified.
Budinger made three of seven threes Wednesday and scored 15 points in a starting role — and yet another productive performance on his healed knee — after Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin were scratched from the lineup on the second night of back-to-back games.
Budinger’s college coach, Arizona’s Lute Olson, was the only one in Budinger’s career who based three-pointer eligibility on a player’s performance. Halfway through the season, Olsen granted or withheld such permission based on shooting percentages.
Budinger estimated he shot somewhere in the 80s-percent range during his audition.
“Not tough,” he said of the 65-percent threshold.
Asked if Saunders’ decisions are more guideline or rule, Budinger paused and said, “It’s a rule.”
Before the game, Saunders was asked if he knew a three-point shot is worth more than a two-pointer.
“I’m aware of that,” he said dryly. “Yeah, I’m aware of that.”
Don’t push it …
Brewer, Martin, Ronny Turiaf and Mo Williams didn’t play Wednesday night in the second of back-to-back games, a measure intended to keep the Wolves healthy for Wednesday’s season opener at Memphis.
“I don’t want to take a chance on someone tweaking something,” Saunders said.
After conferring with players, Saunders chose to play other vets — such as Budinger, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio — so they keep their “rhythm.”
Wiggins sat out both back-to-back games because of what Saunders called a bruised butt sustained in a hard fall during Sunday’s victory over Oklahoma City in Tulsa.
• Saunders started Budinger in Brewer’s small-forward spot and Shabazz Muhammad for Martin at shooting guard. Muhammad scored a game-high 19 points and shot six for 13 from the field in 32 ½ minutes in his second game back after missing three games because of a sore heel.
• Wolves owner Glen Taylor was voted back to chairman of the Board of Governors. He had previously held that position and was serving as chairman on an interim basis until Wednesday’s vote.
• Forward Anthony Bennett played only eight minutes off the bench. Both he and Saunders said the limited time had nothing to do with his sore knee but rather a lack of energy on the second night of back-to-back games. Saunders said he thought it best to rest Bennett for the opener, plus it enabled him to get Robbie Hummel more playing time.