The Minnesota Timberwolves hope to welcome two of their best players again when the team faces the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night in Minneapolis.
Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, both of whom were part of the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol, have been allowed to return. Both players are listed as questionable and are working to rebuild their stamina through conditioning drills in an effort to be available to play.
“It depends on how they feel,” said Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch. “When you leave these protocols, depending on your symptoms, how long your treatment has been on and your CT levels, it determines when you can go back to playing with what kind of build-up. Then you should always feel good. , get fit and ready to go out and play an NBA-level game. “
The Timberwolves have been without Towns in the last six games and Russell in the last five. They’ve gone 2-4 in their final half-dozen games, but come off a 122-104 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night.
If available, Towns and Russell would give the starting lineup a much needed boost. Towns leads the team with 24.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, and Russell ranks third in scorers with 18.7 points while averaging 6.7 assists.
Oklahoma City have also lost four of their last six games. The Thunder just suffered a 95-86 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night, and with another loss they would tie their worst record of the season at 11 games under 0.500.
As is the case with the Timberwolves, the Thunder have faced recent COVID-19-related absences. Tre Mann and Darius Bazley both returned from health and safety protocol on Tuesday, leaving Jeremiah Robinson-Earl as the only player still out for this reason.
Head coach Mark Daigneault has also been left out of the COVID-19 protocol. He was sidelined for Tuesday’s practice, with Mike Wilks still in charge as the team’s interim head coach.
The players supported Wilks during his tenure at the helm.
“I think everyone loves Mike Wilks,” said Thunder goalie Ty Jerome. “He just has the perfect balance of when to talk to you, when to leave you alone. He always encourages people.
“If you need anything, ask Mike Wilks.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leads the Thunder with 22.7 points per game to accompany an average of 5.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks. His teammate Luguentz Dort, who suffers from knee pain and is uncertain for Wednesday, is second with 16.3 points per game.
One bright spot for Oklahoma City was newcomer Josh Giddey, who was named the Western Conference December Rookie of the Month on Tuesday. The 19-year-old Australian averaged 11.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.7 assists over the month.
This will be the opening game of a back-to-back game between the Thunder and the Timberwolves. After a day off Thursday, they will meet again Friday night in Oklahoma City.
–Field level media