One of Ryan Saunders’ first moves as Timberwolves head coach has been to expand the rotation, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Former coach Tom Thibodeau, who has long been criticized for relying too much on his starters, used a set rotation of nine players before being fired Sunday. Saunders has expanded that to 10 and has been substituting much earlier.
“There definitely is (some adjusting to do),” Tyus Jones said after last night’s game. “And it’s still early. But until we’re all the way acclimated, we’ve got to let our energy be what we fall back on. We’ve got to be the team that is going to play the hardest night-in and night-out.”
There’s more news from Minnesota:
- In his first home game as head coach, Saunders received an enthusiastic reception from fans who used to loudly boo Thibodeau during pre-game introductions, notes Chip Scoggins of The Star-Tribune. One of the reasons behind the coaching change was that Thibodeau had become such an unpopular figure in the Twin Cities. Afterward, the players accepted blame for the loss and offered some advice to Saunders. “If anything I just tell him to be himself. Players will be able tell if he’s not being himself,” said Derrick Rose, whose connections with Thibodeau go back to Chicago. “We all respect him. That’s one thing that he has. He has our respect. That’s huge for a coach.”
- Saunders hopes to protect Rose by keeping his minutes to about 30 per game, according to Chris Hine of The Star-Tribune. The veteran guard, who returned to action Friday after missing six games with an injured ankle, saw his minutes fluctuate wildly under Thibodeau. Hines notes that every time Rose has topped 38 minutes this season, he either sat out the next game or couldn’t finish it because of injury.
- Andrew Wiggins is the Minnesota player most likely to benefit from the coaching change, according to Michael Rand of The Star-Tribune. He scored 40 points in Saunders’ first game in charge and had a 37% usage rate, far beyond his season average of 23.8%. Rand cites Saric and Jones as other players who should improve under Saunders.