Talkin’ About Practice: Newcomers, the starting lineup, and staying warm

MINNEAPOLIS — Tuesday was a red-letter day for the Wolves as a franchise. Jimmy Butler was introduced in Philadelphia as a member of the 76ers, calling himself an incredible teammate and human. The Wolves have moved on, holding their own introductory press conference for Robert Covington, Dario Šarič, and Jerryd Bayless.

None of the three new players practiced with the team on Tuesday. When practice started the NBA had not yet finished medically clearing the new guys. Head coach Tom Thibodeau said he expected that to get finished on Tuesday afternoon.

The positive about those players being cleared is that they’ll be available to take part in shootaround and will be able to be active for Wednesday night’s game at home against New Orleans. But it’s unknown how familiar they’ll be with the concepts that the Wolves employ at both the offensive and defensive end without a true practice under their belts.

Jimmy Butler calls himself an “incredible human being (and) teammate”

“There’s some sets offensively and some things defensively that are basic concepts that most teams have. You start off with a small package and add each day,” Thibodeau said. “These guys have been around, too, so I think that helps us a lot as well.”

He’s right in the sense that both Šarič and Covington have plenty of NBA experience, but it’s also their first time that they’ve been traded. Each of them spent their entire career with Philadelphia to date. It’ll certainly be an adjustment on the court, but in everyday life, too.

“It’s pretty quick, I think just the transition is always the hardest part. I know this is the first time [Covington and Šarič] have been through this,” said Bayless, who has now been traded five times in his career. “Taking your life and uprooting that in an hour is difficult. For me, I’ve been through it so I kind of knew the things that were going to come with that. For younger guys I think that’s the toughest part, figuring out that whole thing with your clothes and your car and getting your life back in order.”

It might be hard to block out real-life distractions and focus on basketball. They’re humans, too.

A new beginning

Robert Covington was one of the longest tenured members of the Philadelphia 76ers. He was with the team during the dark days of the franchise as they decided to tank and build for the future. He’s a success story after going undrafted in 2013 and being cut by the Houston Rockets early in the season. He signed on with the Sixers prior to the start of the 2014-15 season.

Once he got to Philadelphia, he was part of some historically bad teams. In his first three seasons with the Sixers, Covington was part of teams that won 18, 10, and 28 games, respectively.

Last season was the first season in which the team was competitive, winning 52 games before being disposed in the second round of the playoffs. The light at the end of the tunnel was there for Covington.

“It was definitely a shocker, considering how everything we had went through, like you said, those 10-win seasons, the rough patches,” Covington said. “You see what happened with DeMar [DeRozan] early on, that’s part of the business. You can’t sit up here, you can be mad, but you can’t allow it to take away from the new opportunity you have in front of you. Yeah, I had a lot of good days in Philly and it came to end in a different way then how I expected, but I’m ready for this opportunity here. It’s a new team in transition and I’m ready to bring everything I’ve learned and how I’ve grown as a player on and off the court to here. I feel like I can do a lot here and help these guys in so many different ways.”

How will Robert Covington and Dario Saric fit in with the Wolves?

Players can understandably be hurt when teams decide to move on from them. At the end of the day it’s a business, and Covington will surely be excited to have a new opportunity with a new franchise, but there’s no doubt this move stings him a bit.

Now starting

Šarič originally was a bench player for the Sixers when he first entered the league. As a rookie he played in 81 games, coming off the bench in all but 36 of them. Since the start of the 2017-18 season he’s been primarily a starter for a very good Sixers team. He’s only played five games off the bench in that span.

Some players don’t care whether or not they’re a starter or a bench player, as long as the team wins. Šarič isn’t one of them.

Don’t get that twisted into thinking that the team’s success doesn’t matter to him, but he feels more comfortable being on the floor to start the game rather than coming off the bench.

“In my opinion, if you ask me, I like starting first,” Šarič said. “First lineup, I feel more comfortable, you know? I’m here, first time with this team and I’ll accept everything, every challenge coach puts it front of me. It doesn’t matter if I start or am coming from the bench. I try to give 100 percent, but I like to be a starter. At the end of the day it’s about how’s the team doing, what’s good for the team, to get more wins and to try to make the playoffs.”

Time will tell whether or not Šarič is a starter for the Wolves moving forward. It may not happen in Wednesday night’s game against New Orleans seeing as he won’t have any practice time with the team other than a morning shootaround prior to the game, but it could be the long-term plan.

Staying warm

On Monday night Covington posted a video to his Instagram story of welcoming gifts that he got from the team and Karl-Anthony Towns. It showed him receiving headphones and what appeared to be a very nice, warm, winter jacket.

At Tuesday’s presser both Šarič and Bayless confirmed that they received jackets as well. Bayless even went as far as to sarcastically say he heard good things about the Minnesota weather this time of year.