Practice Report: November 24, 2014

Dane Mizutani
Web Editorial Associate

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Thaddeus Young was back with the team for the first time in nearly two weeks Monday afternoon following the death of his mother Lula Hall.

“It's still a situation where I still think about it, but my teammates, and my coaches, and the whole organization have been behind me every step of the way,” Young said after practice Monday. “I thank them for their thoughts and their prayers, each and every fan that's reached out to me, and all the players around the league.

“It's definitely a tragic thing, but I’m trying to get back in the swing of things and just keep playing, making her proud.”

Young said his mother had been battling cancer for the last year-and-a-half and said there has been ups and downs in that span.

“You try to prepare yourself for it,” he said. “You can't prepare yourself for that type of stuff.”

Young was actually back in Memphis, Tenn., before his mother passed and said it was important for him that he was able to be there for her.

“That last 10-15 minutes of my mom's life, I was there holding her hand,” he said. “I felt her last breaths as she passed away. I was just happy I was able to get home and see her before she passed.”

Flip Saunders said he’s had some of his players lose loved ones throughout his coaching career and said sometimes returning to the court can be therapeutic. It allows players to get back into the swing of things, and establish a routine again.

“In some ways once they start playing it can almost put a little bit of closure into it,” Saunders said. “I know most of the times with loved ones … they’ve had such an influence in your life and what you’ve done that probably the thing they’d want you to do is play for them.”

Young said he hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll do something special to commemorate her this season or if he’ll just approach games the way he has throughout his career. That said he’ll no doubt be playing with a heavy heart on Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.

“My mom is one of the strongest women I knew,” Young said. “She did everything. She sacrificed everything. … She was my motivation. She was my concentration, my focus, everything. You just try to keep making her proud and keep going out there and doing the things that she taught me to do.”

MUHAMMAD’S ROLE MOVING FORWARD

Young said he kept up with games while he was away from the team and noted that “it got bad a couple times” when he was away. 

Minnesota has been throttled by injuries as of late and experimented with Shabazz Muhammad at the power forward spot with Young out. Muhammad had a nice game against the New York Knicks, but he couldn’t carry that performance over into contest with the San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings.

“He’s always going to be a work in progress,” Saunders said of Muhammad. “His natural position is the three, really not the floor. There are some guys that can play that position because of their physicality.”

Muhammad is one of those players — not only because of his physicality, rather his overall effort on the floor, too. There is rarely a time Muhammad is outworked when he’s on the court and that isn’t confined to game days.

“He’s the same in practice as he is in the games,” Saunders said.

So while Young is back in the lineup, and will slide right back in as the starter, there is a chance Muhammad spells him throughout games moving forward. If not Muhammad clearly did enough to earn him more minutes in the coming games.

WIGGINS STARTING TO COME ALONG 

Andrew Wiggins had by far the best game of his career against the Sacramento Kings, scoring a career-high 29 points in a game where he looked like a legitimate threat on both ends of the floor.

Saunders said after the game against the San Antonio Spurs — Wiggins had 14 points in the loss — that he wanted to see the No. 1 overall pick get more aggressive without the ball in his hands. Wiggins seemed to take that message to heart.

“We force fed him some, but he also showed initiative when he got the ball,” Saunders said. “He did a lot of very positive things. He was very active and defensively he got his hands on a lot of balls and forced a lot of deflections and did a lot of positive things.”

Now the key is building off that performance moving forward. He’ll have a chance against the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft — Jabari Parker — on Wednesdays night against the Milwaukee Bucks. 

OTHER NOTES

-- Saunders said there were no updates as of Monday afternoon on the injuries of Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, and Kevin Martin. Rubio is out with a significant ankle sprain, Pekovic with a wrist injury, and Martin also with a wrist injury.

-- Mo Williams was sick Monday and missed practice. 

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