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Timberwolves' coaching staff had COVID-19 related absences, too

Minnesota was without defensive coordinator Elston Turner and strategy guru Micah Nori for a stretch of games, and is currently sans offensive coordinator Pablo Prigioni.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at New Orleans Pelicans
Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch talks to referee Brent Barnaky (36) in the second half against the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 11, 2022, in New Orleans.
Chuck Cook / USA Today Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves’ battle with COVID-19 in the weeks around the New Year were well documented — well, the player absences, anyway. Minnesota spent time playing without Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, Patrick Beverley, D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and more.

At one time, the Wolves were legitimately without their entire starting five as end-of-the-bench players and hardship signees had to carry Minnesota through a difficult stretch.

But Minnesota has experienced similar issues on its coaching staff, as well. While head coach Chris Finch has managed to stay COVID-free, Minnesota was without defensive coordinator Elston Turner and strategy guru Micah Nori — among others — for a stretch of games, and is currently sans offensive coordinator Pablo Prigioni, as well as a video coordinator.

Player development coach Kevin Burleson only returned to the fold Saturday.

Being short-handed has meant the Wolves coaching staff has had to be adaptable, shifting responsibilities and covering gaps.

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“Our coaching staff has done a great job covering for each other,” Finch said. “It’s been, I know, a lot of work on guys getting ready for games and covering these guys’ needs, but we’ve done a really good job. We had a pretty flexible setup here, so we’ve been able to adapt.”

Members of the staff take turns doing the advanced scouts on upcoming opponents. When someone who was set to present on gameday was out, someone else would peruse the presentation and deliver it instead. When he was still with the team, Prigioni had to take on a high volume of scouts, so Finch took over more of the offensive responsibilities. The head coach has continued to run the offense in Prigioni’s stead, with assistance from Nori.

Eagles fall

Finch is a known Philadelphia Eagles fan, and while the birds season came to an uninspiring finish in the wild-card round Sunday in Tampa Bay, Finch declared the season a success.

“It was a great Eagles season,” Finch said. “Young team, finished strong, beat the teams we should have.”

Perhaps that provides a window into the coach’s eventual thinking if and when his Timberwolves are eventually ousted from postseason play in the play-in round or the first round of the playoffs.

Nowell returns

Jaylen Nowell returned to action Sunday. He missed just one game after suffering a sprained ankle in the Timberwolves’ loss to New Orleans on Tuesday. Minnesota was without Jordan McLaughlin on Sunday, as the guard entered health and safety protocols.

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