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Shootaround Report | Saunders Prepares For First Home game

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

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Friday night’s Timberwolves game against the Mavericks at Target Center is filled with plenty of storylines.  

As a content creator, the question is why can’t we spread all of this out?! But such is life. 

The biggest highlight is that it will be Ryan Saunders’ first home game as interim head coach. Saunders will no doubt get a huge ovation from the home crowd. Saunders grew up in the state, and it’s fair to say that he also grew up in Target Center following the footsteps of his father.  

“I think everything means more when you’re in front of more friends and family, and especially the support of fans,” Saunders said after Friday’s shootaround. “I gotta say, it’s been very kind of everybody to give well wishes and (say) congrats on the win and stuff. Like I said before, this isn’t about who’s on the sideline. This is about our team moving forward.”

It’s only been one game, but Saunders was incredibly poised in Tuesday night’s win over the Thunder, a game that was nationally televised on NBA TV. The NBA world was impressed, as were the Timberwolves players. 

“He’s exceeded our expectations by margins,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “He’s doing a great job keeping the emphasis on making sure we’re being the best team possible. He’s doing a great job right now.” 

For Gorgui Dieng, Saunders’ success and calm demeanor hasn’t been a surprise. 

“We’re not surprised,” Dieng said. “He’s been in this business so long, seeing his dad doing it. He was working with his dad. I’m not surprised.”

Expect Rose To Play 

After missing the last six games with an ankle injury, Derrick Rose expects to play.

“Tonight is going to be a go,” Rose said. “I feel better. Probably got to take it easy out there in my first game back. Listen to my body when I’m on the floor. Try not to do too much. With the talent we have, I shouldn’t have to.”

With Jeff Teague back, Rose will go back to the second unit. Does that mean less minutes for Josh Okogie or Anthony Tolliver? Probably not. Saunders hinted after Thursday’s practice that a 10-man rotation could be used, something we haven’t seen over the last few years. Don’t be surprised to see Rose’s minutes down a bit either in his first game back.

On the season, Rose is averaging 18.9 points per game (most since 2011-12) and 4.8 assists (most since 2015-16) while shooting 48.6 percent from the field and a career-high 46.2 percent from the 3-point line. 

The Legend Of Luka 

The Rookie of the Year favorite makes his debut at Target Center. Luke Doncic has taken the NBA by storm this season, and rightfully so. Not to say we were right, but well, here at Timberwolves.com we predicted Doncic would be an absolute stud. 

On the season, the 6’7 point forward is averaging 19.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game while shooting 37.4 percent from the 3-point line.

“Obviously you see that he’s going to be something very special for the league,” Towns said.

Against the Wolves back on Oct. 20, Doncic finished with 26 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals while shooting 4-for-9 from the 3-point line.

It will be interesting to see how the Wolves guard Doncic. Having Rob Covington would be perfect, but he’s still out with a bone bruise. Expect a team defense mentality.

Dirk’s Last Stand At Target Center?

I wrote a bit about it on Thursday, but this will likely be Dirk Nowitzki’s last game at Target Center. After 21 seasons, Nowitzki is expected to retire, and what a run it has been.  

Now, we see big men shooting 3-pointers all the time. But in the early 2000s, it wasn’t all that cool. Nowitzki was the pioneer, launching five 3-pointers per game 19 years ago. That’s helped pave the ways for big men like Towns.

“He’s given the bigs a standard of shooting, you know?” Towns said. “Being who he was as a shooter and as an offensive player, it gave us tall guys an opportunity to show that we can do much more than just have our back to the basket. 

Rose added onto that.

“His resume speaks for itself, especially if you’re a European player. He came over here and not only did he compete against the American players, but he held his own,” Rose said. “His legacy will always be here, engrained in the NBA. I actually look at videos of him doing his shooting drills with his coach. I try to emulate him. It’s nothing like that, but I try my hardest. . . He’s someone who touched the game in a different way. He changed the game in a different way where you have to have shooting bigs. He was probably the first one to change the game like that.” 

Nowitzki won’t play a huge role in the game. He’s playing just 9.9 minutes per game this season, but it’s a chance for those in attendance to pay tribute to a first-ballot Hall of Famer and a guy who changed the game for the better.

The Wolves will also be rocking their Prince City Edition uniforms. 

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO. Tickets are available here.

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