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After coming to Minnesota via trade, Nickeil Alexander-Walker didn't play in the three games he was with the team before the All-Star break.

But since then, the Wolves haven't had guard Jaylen Nowell because of a left knee injury and it has helped open a slot in the rotation for Alexander-Walker, who has taken the opportunity and run with it.

Over the past six games, Alexander-Walker hasn't played fewer than 17 minutes. His best performance came in Saturday's win over the Kings, when he scored 16 points.

Alexander-Walker has claimed his minutes thanks in part to his defensive effort while providing a little bit of shooting pop off the bench, a sort of hybrid between the defensive-minded Austin Rivers and the scoring of Nowell, who missed his sixth consecutive game Tuesday.

"My love for the game, all my favorite players talk about their love for the game and how they've respected the game. I just want to bring that to basketball and at the end of the day," Alexander-Walker said last week. "It's my job. I got to play hard, got to do my best and try to make an impact and help the team win."

He has done that on both ends of the floor with the Wolves. Coach Chris Finch was familiar with Alexander-Walker stemming back to the guard's rookie season in New Orleans, where Finch was an assistant at the time. Finch has compared Alexander-Walker to a utility infielder in baseball.

"He can do a little bit of everything for us — make a spot three, close out, play point guard when we need him to," Finch said. "When we got him we thought we were going to be able to use him. We didn't think of him as just a throw-in to the deal as a guy that fits the way we want to play. It took us a couple games to figure out where to fit him in."

Finch has appreciated how Alexander-Walker defends and pushes the pace on offense.

Alexander-Walker has made an immediate impression on his teammates thanks to his work ethic, with multiple Wolves commenting that's one of the qualities they have liked most about him.

"He's passionate and it's how hard he works," center Naz Reid said. "The effort he puts in on the court. Playing with him is like having another teammate like myself. All effort and he's willing to do whatever, and it shows."

That's something center Rudy Gobert got to see when the two were teammates in Utah.

"The extra work he puts in every day is really contagious," Gobert said.

Added Alexander-Walker: "Any time I get multiple games with multiple minutes, for me to have an impact was everything I can ask for."

Bench an option for Towns

When or if Karl-Anthony Towns returns to the court this season, Finch has said he and Towns are open to different avenues of what that return might look like. That could include Towns coming off the bench, especially if he is on a minutes restriction when he starts playing again.

"We feel KAT is able to help us regardless of what the situation is," Finch said. "If it's a minutes restriction, maybe you're strategic and he comes off the bench to start with that, depending what the minutes are. I think he would be open to anything at that point in time."

Finch said whenever Towns is ready to play, he would play. Even if there were only a few games left in the season, Towns would be back in the rotation if he was physically ready to play. There would be no point at which the Wolves would just shut Towns down for the season.

Nowell still out

Finch said Nowell had "imaging" done this week as he remains out because of left knee tendinopathy. That was the same type of injury Anthony Edwards played through a season ago. When asked if Nowell was closer to a return than a week ago, Finch said "Doesn't feel like it, but I'm not exactly sure what his timetable is."