T-wolves plan for Finch to be with them for Game 1 versus Nuggets. Still hope for sideline presence

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves are planning for coach Chris Finch to be with them in Denver to begin their Western Conference semifinal series following his knee surgery — and considering seating configurations that would allow him to safely be on the bench during games.

Finch’s procedure to repair a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee Wednesday went well, according to assistant coach Micah Nori, who has temporarily taken the lead in Finch’s absence. Finch directed the initiation of the strategy for the Nuggets earlier this week before going into surgery.

The team will fly Thursday night to Denver ahead of Saturday’s Game 1. Provided his recovery is on track, Finch would likely travel separately to allow more healing time, Nori said.

In the NBA, the bench is cramped with reserve players and large coaching and training staffs with high-priced floor seats surrounding them to be right on top of the action. It will be a challenge to create enough space for Finch to keep his leg extended, and to be out of harm’s way in case another loose-ball chase or player collision comes too close for comfort. The Timberwolves have discussed relocating head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam’s seat to give Finch room.

If they can’t make that setup work, Finch would likely join the team in the locker room for pregame and halftime meetings and watch the action from above in a suite.

“In typical Finchy fashion, he’s like, ‘I don’t want to sit there and send text messages to somebody behind the bench,’” Nori said.

With largely the same rotation players as last year and a coaching staff with strong chemistry in a third full season together, the Timberwolves are confident they can weather the disruption of Finch’s injury without missing a beat on the court.

“I’m not saying Finchy isn’t funny and all that stuff, but Finchy can seem a little more serious than Micah, and it’s good to have that kind of balance,” said point guard Mike Conley, who won the NBA’s Teammate of the Year award Wednesday. “Guys really respect Micah and what he brings to our team.”

Finch finished third in the voting for the NBA Coach of the Year award, which went to Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault.

“He does not want to be the focus. He trusts all of us. He trusts the players. He’s like, ‘You guys do yourselves. You’ve done enough,’” Nori said. “The players, at the end of the day, are going to be the ones who decide this series.”

Finch was hurt when Conley collided with him late in the Game 4 win at Phoenix that gave the Timberwolves their first series sweep in franchise history.

“He made us all feel better to see him in great spirits the next day and being able to travel back with us,” center Rudy Gobert said. “It’s unfortunate, obviously, but we’re here to support him and we’re going to try to make him proud from a distance.”


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