Game Preview: Huskies vs. Timberwolves

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

The Minnesota Timberwolves are in town to close out Toronto’s season-high six-game homestand on Thursday. The Raptors hold a 4-1 record through the first five games of the homestand, defeating their first four opponents with ease, before dropping a close contest to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. The Wolves come to Toronto looking to get back on track after dropping a 105-91 decision to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.

Tip-off: 7:00 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: TSN1, TSN4, TSN5 / SN590

TALKING POINTS

Young Wolves roster packed with potential

Despite their 6-15 record, the Timberwolves are one of the most exciting young teams to watch in the league. Canadian Andrew Wiggins, sophomore phenom Karl-Anthony Towns, dunk champion Zach LaVine and the rest of the Wolves roster give plenty of reasons to tune in on any given night. Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan has watched his share of Wolves games and had plenty to say about the athleticism of Wiggins and skill set of Towns.

“He’s way more athletic than me,” DeRozan said of Wiggins. “His abilities, once he hones in on it, he’s capable of being everything he wants to be. It’s all about putting in the work, not giving up, not having no doubt. He has all the tools.”

Last season’s unanimous Rookie of the Year winner caught DeRozan’s eye early on.

“Even last year, his rookie year, I fell in love with, he’s definitely one of my favourite big men to watch,” DeRozan said. “His skill set is off the charts, what he’s able to do in the post off the dribble, from the three-point line. It’s amazing. Just to say he’s his second year, it’s crazy.”

DeRozan, Casey see Wolves growth curve

Minnesota’s roster is filled with talented young players. Head coach Tom Thibodeau is in his first year with the Timberwolves and he’s implementing his system while trying to get players to learn and buy in as they continue to develop their games. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey and All-Star DeMar DeRozan both remember going through the same process during Casey’s first couple of seasons in Toronto. The Wolves own a 6-15 record on the season, having gone 2-8 in their last 10 games.

“You’ve got to go through the tough times to really understand how to win,” DeRozan said.

“That’s the toughest part that people don't understand,” he continued. “When every night you’re going out there giving your all, [and] some type of doubt or question comes in when you know you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do, but you just don't have that experience of knowing how to win a game, win the last three or four minutes of a game. Times like this, you do your best to really take heed, watch a lot of film and learn what it takes to win.”

Casey especially can relate to the unique challenge of trying to teach a new system while also helping young players develop into professionals.

“It’s tough to do with a young team but they’re on the right track,” he said. “[Thibodeau’s] doing an excellent job with that young team. With any young team it’s hard to institute overnight. They have a lot of firepower offensively and they’ll get there defensively.”

Delon Wright return creeps closer

Sophomore point guard Delon Wright has been sidelined since undergoing arthroscopic shoulder stabilization to fix a labral tear in his right shoulder sustained during summer league. Although he isn’t allowed any on-court contact, Wright has been able to start taking shots and will see a specialist next week to see if/when he will be cleared for contact. The injury was the first serious one for Wright, and it’s been a test of patience to go through the five-month recovery process.

“It’s been real frustrating just because it’s my first injury,” Wright said. “I never knew what to expect as far as injury [rehab]. It’s been a little annoying, but as I’m getting closer it’s getting way better because I’m able to shoot and stuff.”

Wright hurt the shoulder during a summer league game in Las Vegas and said he first saw the injury while watching a clip on Open Gym. Unable to get back on the court until recently, Wright has stayed in shape by working on his conditioning, starting with the treadmill before he was allowed to go on-court and run. Despite a lack of game-time experience, the 24-year-old is still finding ways to learn each day thanks to the solid example set for him by point guards Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph.

“[I’m learning from] how they prepare,” Wright said. “Cory is in here every day, Kyle is in here every day. They work really hard. They ask questions from the coaching staff. You just learn a lot from them.”

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