Even with two days off, there hasn’t been much time for new Timberwolves coach Chris Finch to let things soak in.
Too much to do.
Finch, who got his job Monday, spent much of Thursday meeting each player one-on-one. This coming on the heels of jumping into the mix in Milwaukee and coaching the team on back-to-back nights.
“Just trying to know ’em as people,” Finch said after Friday’s practice. “This is what we do. We don’t coach basketball, we coach people. And it’s important that I don’t just come in here and try to coach basketball. It was a good window to get to now these guys, starting building some relationships.”
Friday’s workout was in large part focused on addressing defensive issues. Finch said the team had been improving in that area before taking steps back in losses at Milwaukee and Chicago.
“But I was really encouraged by the second half of the Chicago game,” Finch said. “That’s what we’ve been focusing on, taking the good parts of that and getting back to some of the basics with defense.”
So he’s been busy.
And there is also the job of getting the team ready to move forward without Malik Beasley, who will begin serving his 12-game suspension Saturday when the Wolves play in Washington.
No one player is going to step in and replace the 20.5 points Beasley has been giving the team. But Finch — who said no decision has been make on who will start in Beasley’s place — said he’s expecting everyone to do a little bit more.
Finch could turn to Josh Okogie to start at Beasley’s shooting guard spot. Other options include Jarrett Culver, who appears close to returning from an ankle injury that has kept him out of action since Jan. 25, or Jaylen Nowell, who came off the bench to score 25 points on 50% shooting the past two games.
“That’d mean everything,” Nowell said of the possibility of starting. “It’s everything I work for. It’d be my first start, so obviously that’s a big accomplishment. So if that happens, it’s cool. If it doesn’t, it’s cool, too.”
No matter who starts, there will be chance for a number of players to get more minutes.
“I see it as a great opportunity,” Nowell said. “I’m not going to go out and force anything. I’m not going to go out there looking to put up more shots, just step outside myself. I’m going to keep playing the way I’m playing and make sure I’m not going to overthink it.
“But we’ve got other guys that are trying to step up, too. They’ve got opportunities, too, including myself. So it’s making sure that not just one person picks up the slack, but we all have to do it collectively, as a group.”
Beasley’s suspension comes at a difficult time, as it coincides with the Wolves hiring a new coach. Finch said Beasley might have some ground to make up when he returns to action.
“We have the break in there [the Wolves are off between their March 3 game against Charlotte and a March 11 game at New Orleans], which gives us a bit of a respite,” Finch said. “But we just have to try to get the team we have out there on the floor, in the best rhythm possible.
”And when Malik comes back, it will be up to us, and to him, to try to get back in the swing of things. Unfortunately for Malik, he’ll have to play catch-up. That’s just how it’s going to be.”