It was another milestone Monday for Timberwolves interim coach Ryan Saunders, who coached against one of his father’s best friends at Target Center.
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Flip Saunders went way, way back. Friends for years, Rivers brought Saunders aboard as a consultant for the playoffs in 2008, when Rivers coached the Celtics to the NBA title.
“He and my dad were really close,’’ Ryan Saunders said. “I remember the one thing about going to L.A. and playing. My dad and I wouldn’t be able to get dinner, because he’d be going to have dinner with Doc.’’
Said Rivers: “[Flip] was one of the guys I leaned on about basketball. Flip was a great basketball mind. Good people skills, too. He was a great guy to bounce ideas off.’’
Monday was the first time since Ryan Saunders took over that the Wolves and Clippers played.
“It is really cool,’’ Rivers said. “I was telling Ryan that when Austin [Rivers’ son] would play against coaches I had played for I’d get calls. ‘Am I coaching and your son’s playing?’ I wish I could share that same story with Flip. That would be really cool.’’
After the Wolves’ point guard injury woes reached can’t-get-any-worse territory on their recent 0-3 road trip, they’re finally getting some good news.
Jeff Teague, Derrick Rose and Jerryd Bayless were all available for Monday’s game.
So, three guards back and two to go.
Teague missed eight games with soreness in his left foot before toughing out 17 minutes in his return Friday in New Orleans. He has battled soreness off and on all season; he has three stints this season in which he missed at least six straight games.
Rose, meanwhile, had missed six of the previous seven games — and 13 of his past 20 — with right ankle soreness. Bayless was available after missing the New Orleans game with a sore big toe. It got so bad with the injuries the Wolves signed Isaiah Canaan to a second 10-day contract this week.
The good news is they are back. The bad: None is completely healthy yet.
Rose said after Monday’s shootaround that the past two times he might have come back too soon. The key, he said, was finding a balance between listening to his body and helping his team win.
Now only one guard remains injured. Tyus Jones has missed his 12th straight game with an ankle sprain Monday but appears close to returning. It could happen after the upcoming All-Star break.
• The Wolves gained three guards, but were without forward Andrew Wiggins, who missed Monday’s game because he was ill. Wiggins, who missed only one game in his first four seasons, has missed five games this season; he dealt with a quad contusion earlier in the season. In his place Saunders started Luol Deng. It was Deng’s first start since starting one game for the Los Angeles Lakers last season. It was the only game Deng played in that season.
• Dario Saric started ahead of Taj Gibson at power forward.