Timberwolves coach Chris Finch told KFXN-100.3 FM’s Paul Allen that Wolves defensive guard Jaden McDaniels will be out “probably a week or so” with an ankle injury suffered early in the season. Monday’s victory against the Knicks.
That timeline suggests McDaniels will likely miss at least Minnesota’s next three games — Wednesday at home against Philadelphia, Friday at home against Sacramento and Sunday at Memphis. The Timberwolves host Oklahoma City on November 28.
Finch noted the team planned to do more tests on McDaniels’ ankle Tuesday, but noted the injury was “unfortunate.”
“He played so well for us,” Finch said.
Fortunately for Minnesota, the team has more options behind McDaniels than just a year ago at this time. Troy Brown Jr. enters the rotation with McDaniels out. But, more importantly, Nickeil Alexander-Walker likely steps into the starting lineup and takes over as the opposing star goaltender.
Finch called Alexander-Walker a “godsend” on the radio, referring to the winger’s defense and impact off the bench.
“So I’m sure he’ll get a lot of those minutes back,” Finch said.
Alexander-Walker’s increase in opportunities comes at the perfect time for the 25-year-old goalkeeper, who has recently shown an improved offensive game. After a slow start to the season, the winger is averaging nine points per game over his last six games while shooting 56 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range.
Finch said Alexander-Walker played with more patience.
“He plays hard. He’s definitely picking up the pace, he’s putting his stamp on things. But he doesn’t force things,” Finch said. “A lot of times he would just go looking for opportunities to make a play out of nothing. He also looks a bit like Ant. When he makes a really good play, he immediately wants the next one, and sometimes he gets himself into trouble by doing that. He seems to be playing with a little more patience and remaining confident in his shooting.
Karl-Anthony Towns highlighted Alexander-Walker’s high level of professionalism. This was demonstrated in the last postseason, when Alexander-Walker defended Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — his cousin — and Denver’s Jamal Murray while filling in for the injured McDaniels. It’s not a mission Alexander-Walker is unfamiliar with.
“Whatever the situation is, he’s going to step up and make the most of his opportunity,” Towns said. “He did a fantastic job every time he was on the field. I think the fans are noticing, the media is noticing, that he’s a really special talent and we’re very lucky to have him.
Alexander-Walker said the trust his teammates and coach have in him allows him to believe in his abilities to take on McDaniels’ usual role. Alexander-Walker is also comfortable in the games he plays.
Since arriving in Minnesota, Alexander-Walker has been an impact defensive player who consistently competes with great energy. If he continues to excel offensively, Minnesota shouldn’t see much of a decline over the next week with McDaniels sidelined.
“I’m going to try to make the right pass, I’m going to try to take the right shots. I work hard on the shots I take, so I shoot those with confidence and trust,” Alexander-Walker said. “And let the chips fall where they may and live with it.”