The Wolves don’t play Saturday. And that will allow at least two Minnesota players – Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns -- to watch a big event:
Zach LaVine’s return to action.
LaVine was part of a trio of young talent on the Wolves roster, going through the growing pains of adjusting to the NBA. But LaVine, the athletic guard, tore the ACL in his left knee Feb. 3 against Detroit, ending his 2016-17 season. Then, in a draft day trade that brought Jimmy Butler to the Wolves, Minnesota sent LaVine to Chicago.
And, after months of rehab, 11-plus months since the injury, and subsequent surgery, LaVine will return to action, likely starting for the Bulls against Detroit. It is, coincidentally, Zach LaVine bobble head night at the United Center.
When asked for a prediction on how LaVine would do, Wiggins predicted 30 points. Not likely, considering LaVine will be on a 20-minute limit to start with.
But both Wiggins and Towns will be rooting their friend on.
“I’m happy for him,’’ Towns said. “He’s been working tremendously hard to get back on the court, and anyone who knows Zach knows he’s a hard worker. He itches to play the game of basketball every day.’’
LaVine was averaging 18.9 points and 37.2 minutes per game before getting hurt last season. That draft-day trade sent LaVine and point guard Kris Dunn to the Bulls for Butler, with the two teams swapping draft picks. The Bulls took Lauri Markkanen with the No. 7 pick and the Wolves took Justin Patton at No. 16.
Markkanen has had a very strong rookie season, averaging 15.4 points and 7.6 rebounds. Dunn is scoring 13.7 points with 6.3 assists. If LaVine’s return proves a success this could wind up being a trade that works very well for both teams.
“I know he’s going to kill it,’’ Wiggins said of LaVine. “We still talk all the time. He’s excited. He’s been ready to come back for a long time. He worked so hard to get to this point. I think he’ll go out and kill it.’’
--Meanwhile, the Wolves’ game tonight with New York at Target Center features Towns and Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis, the two best players to come out of the 2015 draft.
Towns went No. 1 overall to the Wolves. After the Los Angeles Lakers took D’Angelo Russell and Philadelphia took Jalil Okafor, the Knicks plucked the 7-3 Latvian with the fourth pick.
Both big men can stretch defenses with their range, Towns is averaging 20.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. He is shooting 53.8 percent overall, 40.9 percent on threes. Porzingis is averaging 23.7 points and 6.7 rebounds, shooting 43.5 percent overall, 37.0 percent on three-pointers.