It’s finally back.
Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and Jamal Crawford are new faces to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but not to opening day in the NBA.
“I love for this, man,” a smiling Jimmy Butler said at morning shootaround in San Antonio. “This is what all summer was for.”
The Timberwolves face the San Antonio Spurs to open the season, a national TV test that should certainly give fans a sense for where they’re at right now. The game is without star Kawhi Leonard and mainstay Tony Parker, but that didn’t seem to matter to the players.
That said, Butler was bummed to hear that his buddy Leonard wouldn’t be playing.
“I love going against him,” Butler said of Leonard. “Hell, arguably the best player in the league, in my opinion.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is known for plugging “no-name” players into his system, and receive nearly equal effectiveness that he’d get from his starters. Tonight, Dejounte Murray will start at the point, while Rudy Gay is expected to start in Leonard’s place.
No matter who starts, though, the Wolves are going into this game with a set strategy and state of mind.
“It doesn’t matter who’s up for them. They’re gonna play hard, they’re gonna play well,” said Jeff Teague. “They’re a well oiled machine. Guys have been around for years; they know what to do.”
Tom Thibdoeau, who Teague said runs hard (but fair) practices, agrees with his point guard on how to handle the team tied for the most championships since 1998.
“The Spurs do that as well as anyone, in terms of understanding what each person’s role is, what each person’s job is, and continuing to be ready to go out there and execute,” Thibodeau said. “They’ve always managed when people have been out.”
A few final notes heading into the opener:
- The same starting lineup seen in the preseason – Teague, Wiggins, Butler, Gibson, Towns – is expected to open the regular season. How Thibodeau will use his rotations remains to be seen.
- Anthony Brown is in San Antonio for Wolves’ practice, and will be with the team through the week. Still, he will more than likely head to Iowa for a G League stint, starting on Monday. He signed a two-way contract in early August.
- The game time is a little goofy today, as it is the late game on ESPN’s opening night. The game will begin at 8:30 CT, and will be broadcast on both ESPN and FS North.