For the first time in nine months, the Timberwolves returned to NBA action Saturday.
That in itself was a victory for a fan base starved of pro basketball.
Minnesota fell 107-105 to Memphis in an inconsequential preseason result, but there were nuggets to be taken away from the first taste of Timberwolves basketball this season.
Rotation equation: D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Josh Okogie, Jake Layman and Karl-Anthony Towns. That may not be the starting lineup to open the season, though.
Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders noted some players weren’t with the team to start camp. That includes Juancho Hernangomez, who started at power forward after the trade deadline last season.
It’s possible Hernangomez could still start at the four at the regular season’s onset, and Beasley’s spot in the starting lineup is dependent on whether he’s suspended by the league for his off-court activities.
Anthony Edwards and Ricky Rubio were the first two players in off the bench, followed by Ed Davis and Hernangomez. Jarrett Culver started the second quarter.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are considered candidates to fill power forward minutes in the rotation, didn’t appear until the second half.
Layman lights out: Layman showed why he may well belong in the starting lineup. The numbers were good — he finished with 10 points, two steals and a blocked shot — but he also just meshed well with the Wolves’ other significant contributors. Layman’s cutting and 3-point shooting provided relief for drivers, and his defense is a welcomed addition.
Minnesota was strong defensively at the start of last season before Layman went down with a toe injury. He looks to be a strong complement to a team flush with scorers.
Defense disappoints: A team with a lot of new pieces that hasn’t had much time to work together shouldn’t be expected to be strong defensively, but Timberwolves’ fans are likely growing wary of rough performances on that end of the floor.
Minnesota was crushed by star guards all last season, and Ja Morant had 20 points and 10 assists in 25 minutes on Saturday. The majority of Memphis’ possessions ended in good looks.
Edwards’ debut: Edwards certainly didn’t lack run in his NBA debut. The rookie guard logged 26 minutes. This is the time to get him acclimated in a year with a condensed time period from draft to season that didn’t feature an NBA Summer League.
Edwards finished with five points, four rebounds and five fouls in 26 minutes. He was 2 of 9 from the field, but was aggressive offensively and showed an ability to create his own shot.
Other notes: Rust was apparent in many. Hernangomez was 2 of 10 from the field. Towns had 13 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes, but he did go just 4 for 13 from the floor while committing five fouls.
- Second-year guard Jaylen Nowell provided an offensive burst in the fourth quarter. He finished with 22 points on 7 for 11 shooting in just 13 minutes.
- Rubio had an efficient nine points, five rebounds and two assists in his return to Minnesota. The veteran played just 12 minutes, all in the first half.
- St. Croix Lutheran grad Ade Murkey entered the game late for Minnesota. He had one rebound in three minutes.