Back home and back at practice Tuesday after 18 days away, Timberwolves veterans Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford and a few other teammates played 1-on-1 for nearly an hour afterward.
What, no jet lag?
“Not when it comes to competing,” Butler said. “Everybody out there wants to beat me, but it’s not happening.”
The Wolves rested Monday after they arrived back home around 4 a.m. on a long flight from Shanghai. On Tuesday, they watched film from Sunday’s preseason loss to Golden State and practiced lightly for nearly two hours before Butler, Crawford and others played against each other.
“That’s kind of getting the jet lag out of your body,” Butler said. “It was all about moving around, sweating a little bit, waking your body up. … My body, it’s good. I can’t tell you about everybody else’s, but I’m up at 5:30 [a.m.] lifting weights. Anytime you want to box with me, I’ll put you on your back, just letting you know.”
The Wolves trained near San Diego for nine days and played a preseason game in Anaheim, Calif., before flying to Shenzhen for the first of two exhibition games against the Warriors. They traveled together all that time, ate dinners, did some sightseeing and participated in official NBA events while they were in China.
Those two games in China — a 111-97 victory over the defending NBA champions in Shenzhen and a 142-110 loss in Shanghai — told the Wolves their offense is, unsurprisingly, far ahead of their defense.
“The scoring, I don’t see that as being a problem,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can score. Our unselfishness was very good, but we probably had a higher amount of turnovers than I’d like at this time of year. It’s not acceptable, but we have to adjust, particularly to the way the game is being called.”
The NBA has cited enforcing rules for traveling as an officiating point of emphasis during preseason games. Traveling calls contributed to the number of turnovers Thibodeau considered too many. After Tuesday’s workout, he called for a need to return to the fundamentals.
The Wolves trailed by four points early in the third quarter Sunday in Shanghai before the Warriors outscored them 56-28 the rest of the way. Stephen Curry had 40 of his team’s 142 points.
“The second game got away from us in the second half,” Thibodeau said. “We had some bad possessions and when a team can shoot the three like they can, it got away from us.”
The Wolves finished their shortened preseason schedule 2-1 and will conduct a scrimmage like it’s a regular game before they open the season Oct. 18 at San Antonio.
“Right now, everybody is gelling just fine,” Butler said. “Everybody likes each other, which is a great start. Everybody’s out there competing. Yeah, there are things we could be better at, but I think every team will tell you that right now. I’m cool where we’re at. We have a long way to go, but I’m cool where we are.”
Asked if there was a chance Thibodeau would have given his players consecutive days off after such a long trip, Butler said as he gestured across the team’s practice gym, “Is Thibs still over there? Exactly. I don’t think he’s giving us no time off. I like it, though. Good for him, good for us. We don’t need no time off. We’re young, except for Jamal.”
The Target Center renovation and China trip mean the Wolves will play only those three preseason games. They also mean the regular-season opener is fast
“That’s good, though,” Butler said. “I’m tired of the offseason. I’m tired of preseason. I want it to count. The lights are coming on now. … I’m excited, a real game for the Minnesota Timberwolves that I get to participate in, October 18th. Let’s do it.”