Practice Report | Bouncing Back, Losing Tyus And Okogie's Growth
Coming back to practice after a tough loss can be a real test for a team. You need to be angry and energized, but not so much that you get sloppy. You need to take your lessons from defeat but also keep your eyes forward. Judging from how Wolves players and coaches seemed today, the Wolves struck a good balance.
“Came back great as expected in terms of energy,” said Interim Head Coach Ryan Saunders. “Some guys were ticked off, as we all should be, we wanted to get that bad taste out of our mouths. Usually when you get on the practice court or on the competition court you can do that.”
Taj Gibson, who has been a steady veteran presence all season, agreed.
“This is a part of the game,” Gibson said. “After a tough loss we got to be ready to come in improved from the last game and ready for the next game. We’re fighting for something, we right there in the hunt, so just got to move forward.”
“We played horribly,” said Andrew Wiggins. “We didn’t execute, we didn’t follow the game plan so we got beat bad. We just got to put it behind us and look forward to the next one, and when we see Philly at home we got to represent the T-Wolves. It’s bigger than us.”
Outside of the loss, the Wolves also saw Tyus Jones go down to an ankle injury. While it seems Jones avoided a high ankle sprain, he will still be out for a while, though there is no official timetable. As an important role player off the Wolves’ bench, Jones will be missed.
“I call him ‘The Cap,’ that’s his nickname for me, because he’s so poised, he’s such a great leader, always does the right things. He’s always that one guy you can’t ever be mad at because he’s always in the gym, he does everything the right way,” said Gibson. “To see him go down in that Philly game that’s going to really hurt us. We just have to step it up, next man up. Hopefully we can get him back soon.”
Josh Okogie will play a big part in filling in for Jones, but the Wolves have no doubt that he will do so admirably. Okogie has been playing better and better as he takes on a bigger role on the team.
“I think a big part is just making sure the game slows down for him,” said Saunders. “As you’re getting more minutes you’re going to get more fatigued therefore you need to be able to think the game faster as opposed to always being in 125-percent energy. He’s doing a much better job, every day he gets better and better, and he’s a willing learner.”
Okogie’s teammates have a ton of trust in the young rookie, mostly because of how he approaches the game both in practice and in competition.
“I have a lot of confidence in him,” said Wiggins. “I’ve seen what he can do in practice, I’ve seen how well he can shoot the ball, how well he can pass, drive to the basket and defend. Now it’s all translating to the game, so I have a lot of confidence in him.”
“We’re throwing a lot at him but he can handle it,” said Gibson. “He’s been doing a good job as of late. He’s still learning game by game, but we’re putting a lot of pressure on him and he’s handling it well.”
Okogie himself is not worried about the so-called “rookie wall” that sometimes plagues young players.
“This is the best job in the world. I’m definitely not going hit a wall. I love this game, I wake up every day ready to work, so I don’t see a wall anytime soon,” he said.