A night after hitting the game-winner in Friday’s win over the Thunder, D’Angelo Russell wasn’t available for action Saturday in Oklahoma City.
The Timberwolves guard missed the game with quad soreness. That same injury caused Russell to miss three games in January.
“It’s an active injury, so he had soreness after the game, and then that soreness was still there this morning,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said Saturday. “With him, with our schedule, it hasn’t afforded a lot of time to recover, so it’s erring on the side of caution.”
Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of the day Gersson Rosas and Co. acquired Russell for, namely, Andrew Wiggins and a top-three protected 2021 first-round pick. The deal was meant to pair Russell with all-star big man Karl-Anthony Towns.
But over the course of the year, the two have played just five games together as Towns has battled wrist injuries and, now, COVID-19.
“When you take a step back and you see it from a large lens, it can be frustrating,” Saunders said. “But when you’re going through the daily process of things, you rely on the mindset of controlling what you can control, and you really just want to move forward and try to find solutions in the short term that can also help affect the long term. That mindset has not changed. There’s no waiting for so and so to get back, and then we’ll start trying to do this and do that. No. There’s a reason for everything right now, and that’s so that we can help speed up the process when a guy like KAT gets back and those two are playing together, because of how players complement them is important.”
Saunders noted when Towns does return to action, it won’t be a “plug-and-play” situation where he’s immediately playing 35 minutes a night.
“Because he’ll have missed a significant amount of time,” Saunders said, “and we want to be fair to him in that sense, as well.”
Jarred Vanderbilt started in place of Josh Okogie on Saturday. The move marked just the second time this season Okogie didn’t start a game in which he played.
“I did like the look of Naz (Reid) and Jarred when they had some opportunity,” Saunders said. “As we move closer to hopefully getting fully healthy, you also want to keep that in mind, too, coming up here on certain pairings.”
That might suggest those two will play together once Towns returns. As for Okogie, Saunders hopes the guard going to the bench helps him find a rhythm.
“Josh has so many talents, and his ability to defend and his ability to affect games that I’m really hoping early on he can see the game going, offensively and defensively, and find his spots and get back on track,” Saunders said.