Thursday night, for the second straight game, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau had a starting five that included four players aged 22 or younger.
With rookie point guard Kris Dunn starting in place of the injured Ricky Rubio, Dunn, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins average 21 years of age, with Dunn (22) as the oldest of the bunch. The Wolves are already known as one of the league’s most promising young teams. But with Dunn starting, the Wolves look especially precocious.
“I think it’s a testament, first to the late Flip Saunders, and coach Thibs, being able to bring such a young group together,” Towns said. “And feeling comfortable to put us all out there as starters. It’s great for the franchise, it’s great for our team. We just have to continue to build towards being the playoff team we see ourselves being.’’
This has happened before with the Wolves. For two games during the 2007-08 season, then-coach Randy Wittman used a starting lineup that included Corey Brewer, Al Jefferson, Chris Richard and Sebastian Telfair.
But this time there are much greater expectations, though even Thibodeau said the lineup has a collegiate feel. But that doesn’t diminish expectations.
“You want that to translate into something,” he said. “So we have to do the things that will allow us to grow. We can’t skip any steps. But there are some advantages, too. The fact that we’re very athletic. We have young legs, pure hearts. If we do the right things, I think we will grow and we will get better.’’
Because Dunn stayed in college, he is the oldest one of the four, even as a rookie. LaVine and Wiggins, meanwhile, are in their third NBA season.
“It’s kind of funny,’’ LaVine said. “We’ve been in the league for three years and we’re still at a rookie’s age. But it’s a good. Good youth. We’ll be able to use them legs for a long time to come. The more we grow, the better we’ll get.’’
Closed captioning debut
The Wolves began using their new high-tech scoreboard to do closed captioning during games to enhance the in-game experience for hearing-impaired fans.
The closed captioning will include PA announcements, both during the game and in breaks, videos and PSA announcements during time outs and banter from the team’s in-game hosts.
To commemorate the event, a large group of students from the Metro Deaf School in St. Paul were at the game and were recognized during the game by a video from LaVine.
LaVine took two years of American Sign Language during high school to fulfill a second language requirement. Shortly after being drafted by the Wolves, he built a relationship with the school, making it the focus of his community service.
“I think it’s great,” LaVine said of the closed captioning. “It brings a different group of people that can come see the game and enjoy it.’’
• Having lived in Chicago so long, Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau has a pretty idea what the Cubs’ World Series win means there.
“The city’s probably going crazy today,” Thibodeau said. “But it’s great. Cub fans are unbelievable. Good, bad indifferent, they pack that place. It’s an event. … Chicago is a great sports town. It’s great to see all the things they’ve gone through, and how they’ve persevered. And it’s a team that was built through their farm system, so they have some lean years before those guys got called up. But they’re young, and they’re good. So they could be good for a long time.’’