Timberwolves' Tyus Jones continues to improve 3-point shooting
MINNEAPOLIS — It is no secret that 3-point shooting isn't one of the Timberwolves' strengths. Minnesota is 29th in the NBA in 3-point shots made (8.1), 28th in 3-point attempted (22.9) and 20th in 3-point percentage (35.6).
"The threes are important," Thibodeau said. "We've just got to make sure that they're the right ones, and I think we'll continue to improve as guys get more comfortable with each other."
But there have been bright spots from beyond the arc. Nemanja Bjelica is shooting a blistering 50-percent from three to lead the Wolves, and the team's second-best shooter is a name you might not expect: Tyus Jones.
The third-year guard from Apple Valley is shooting 43 percent from three this season, the next step in his outside shooting development. As a rookie, Jones shot 30 percent from three, then raised that number to 36 percent last season. That improvement is a product of Jones' commitment to improving his 3-point shot.
"You always want to get better at perimeter shooting, just continue to drill it, and it comes with time and confidence, as well," he said. "Each year I'm more confident coming in (to games) and more comfortable. I think that's been the key for me is just continuing to allow my confidence to grow. The more comfortable I am, the more confident I am."
The 3-point attempts weren't falling for Jones earlier in the season. He hit on just 25 percent of his looks from deep over the first 18 games of the season, a period he admitted was frustrating.
"But it's a long season, so you don't look into it too much, because you know it'll come," Jones said. "And you'll get your opportunities, and I have so far."
Jones has turned around his sluggish start by shooting 54 percent on 3-pointers over the past 16 games. He's developed into a legitimate threat from three, which has opened things up for his teammates.
"Just trying to knock down open looks, and being able to knock down the shot opens things up for Jamal (Crawford), Wiggs when he's in there with us, Jimmy (Butler) when he's in there with us," Jones said. "Trying to just make sure my defender can't help off and make it tougher on them. That's pretty much my thing: shoot it with confidence and that's it."
Bjelica working way back
Bjelica's return from a left mid-foot sprain that kept him out for 15 games was less than triumphant on Monday night. He played less than six minutes on Christmas night, tallying one point, two rebounds and two fouls.
But it was something.
"About what I expected," Thibodeau said. "It was great to have him out there. We knew there was going to be some rust. You can't miss that amount of time and pick up where you left off. Just keep building on it."
Thibodeau said Bjelica didn't report any soreness in that foot on Tuesday, which the coach called "big." Thibodeau wants Bjelica to continue to improve his conditioning as he works his way back into game shape.
"We're taking it day by day," Thibodeau said. "It's hard. He was doing a lot of the conditioning on the bike, and he didn't have a ton of practices, so getting used to the game intensity, it's a lot different. The physicality of a game is different. So I think it'll take him a little bit of time there, but I expect him to be better and better each game."
Bjelica noted he probably needs a couple more games to get back into a rhythm, but has no physical restrictions and said he could play on the second half of the Timberwolves' back to back Thursday in Milwaukee.
"Yeah I'm ready to play in games," Bjelica said. "So whatever coach thinks he needs from me in this moment, I'm ready to give to the team."
The Timberwolves revealed their fourth uniform edition on Wednesday, unveiling their "City" jersey — an all-gray uniform with white lettering.
The only real design element in the uniforms is what appear to be darker gray claw marks down each side of the jersey.
In a release, the team said the following about the jersey and its design: "The primary color celebrates the tonal gray winter coat of the wolf, while the white mimics the snow-covered land that is the North. The color allows the wolf to reflect its surroundings and be an apex predator while camouflaging and protecting the wolf, which is reflective of the 'New Era' of Timberwolves basketball — hungry and determined to break through and establish a winning culture. The pattern of the jersey is representative of the wolf's guard hair during the winter months, which represents our fans' willingness to defend our team and home court."
The Timberwolves will debut their "City" jerseys at Target Center on Feb. 1 against Milwaukee.
The Timberwolves reassigned rookie Justin Patton to their G-League affiliate in Iowa on Wednesday. Patton was recalled to the Timberwolves on Dec. 24, but didn't play in Minnesota's win over the Lakers on Christmas.
Patton, who Minnesota acquired with the 16th pick in the 2017 draft, continues to work his way back from a broken bone in his left foot. The center has played six games for the Iowa Wolves.
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