Jordan McLaughlin is back with the Timberwolves, and re-entering the rotation

Jordan McLaughlin is happy to be back in a Timberwolves uniform this season. He likes this team, the players around him and the fact he got an opportunity last season.

But there were certainly times this offseason when it was fair to wonder if McLaughlin would indeed return to Minnesota. For a player on a two-way contract, bouncing between the NBA and G-League, McLaughlin was special last season.

Trades left McLaughlin as the team’s lone true point guard for a portion of the season. When D’Angelo Russell arrived, McLaughlin was the backup. Given the opportunity to play, he thrived. Over the final 16 games of the campaign, McLaughlin averaged 9.9 points, 4.9 assists and 1.4 steals a game while shooting 56 percent from the floor and 42 percent from deep.

McLaughlin entered restricted free agency as an asset that should have been valued. But any team hoping to sign McLaughlin would have had to ink him to a minimum-level offer sheet for at least two seasons — which Minnesota likely would have matched. But that offer never came.

So McLaughlin eventually all but had to sign his qualifying offer — which for two-way players under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement is another two-way contract. That hardly seems fair, but it’s the way the rules are currently written.

McLaughlin said he doesn’t have much knowledge of how the CBA is composed but noted his agent has contacted the players association about the situation “and what we were going through.”

“It’s something that may be discussed in the future,” McLaughlin said. “Not sure I’d be the one to bring that up, or whoever will bring that up, but it could be something that we’ll look into.”

That’s all somewhat moot now. All that matters at the moment is he’s back in Minnesota and about to get another opportunity to prove himself. McLaughlin missed all of Minnesota’s training camp as he sought out contract opportunities; he just rejoined the team ahead of Saturday’s game in Utah after clearing health and safety protocols.

“It was great to get back out there with my teammates, to go out there and just bring what I can to the court,” McLaughlin said. “My energy, my effort, pushing the pace, pushing the tempo, trying to get guys going, and just trying to be aggressive and push the pace — so it feels great to be back.”

McLaughlin made his season debut against the Lakers on Sunday in mop-up duty but re-entered the team’s rotation Tuesday. With Ricky Rubio and D’Angelo Russell sharing the floor in Minnesota’s revamped starting lineup, McLaughlin is now charged with leading the Wolves’ second unit. That demonstrates the confidence coach Ryan Saunders possesses in the 24-year-old, and it’s deserved.

McLaughlin is confident in his second year in this system and feels as though he’s getting acclimated to his new teammates quickly. McLaughlin is making a point to ask Rubio, Russell and the coaching staff questions to make sure he’s up to speed.

“I’m kind of familiar with everything, so that will help me out a lot, tremendously,” he said. “So being able to know what I’m looking for, what we’re running, different terms and stuff, it was easy for me to adjust.”

Now he’s in the process of getting up to speed physically after having virtually no training camp.

“It was tough at first, but once I caught my second wind, I just kept pushing,” McLaughlin said of the Lakers game. “Trying to push myself to get in shape during the games and the off times when we had optional shooting, going to that, trying to get in some extra lines, whatever I’ve got to do. But yeah, training shape and in-game shape is two different things, so just trying to get into game shape as quick as possible here.”

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