MINNEAPOLIS — A league-approved wardrobe change will pay tribute to Thaddeus Young’s mother when the Timberwolves host Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
All of Minnesota’s players, Young said, will be wearing pink shoelaces to honor Lula Hall, who died of breast cancer Nov. 13. Young missed five games to be with his family and attend her funeral.
Minnesota general manager Milt Newton spearheaded the idea and cleared it with the NBA, which enforces a strict game-day dress code.
It’s a way to remember the power forward’s mother and raise awareness of the disease that claimed her life. Young issued a statement Tuesday urging all women to check themselves often and visit the doctor for regular breast exams and mammograms.
"I just think it’s definitely something that a lot of people, they go throughout their lives without going to the doctor sometimes or without doing the proper procedures to get tested or know exactly what’s wrong with them for health reasons," Young said Wednesday after the team’s morning shootaround, sporting the pink laces on his blue shoes. "It’s a bad thing. Me, personally, I think that definitely should be done. I think that’s definitely one of the things that people should urge other people to do."
Hall identified a lump when she was taking a shower one day, her son said, and went into the doctor and found out she had breast cancer. Her right breast was surgically removed, but the cancer eventually spread to other parts of her body.
Hall died at the age of 57. Her funeral was held Friday in Memphis.
Young is expected to start at power forward Wednesday night in his first game action since Nov. 12 against Houston in Mexico City. The Wolves are a different team since then, now missing Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic for injury. Young, averaging 14.3 points, five rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.6 steals in his first year with Minnesota, hopes he can be a stabilizing force.
"I try my best to be," Young said. "When those two guys go down like that, it’s hard to try to go out there and play without them, because that’s what you’re accustomed to. But this is basketball. It happens."
Illness report: The Wolves are down to one point guard with Mo Williams unable to play Wednesday night.
Williams is out with strep throat and pink eye, coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said before the game. Williams missed practice Monday and Tuesday.
"He’s got the dual things going," Saunders said. "He’s been to the doctor the last couple days and he was in there today and got an IV and everything. He’s feeling a little bit better, but probably not well enough to play."
With Rubio out nursing a severely sprained ankle, Zach LaVine is the only point guard left on the roster. LaVine will make his fifth start at the point. With him, Andrew Wiggins, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker — all 19 years old — in the expected starting lineups, it’d be the first time in NBA history four teenagers have played in a game (per the Elias Sports Bureau).
LaVine head-hunting: Wednesday’s game marks the first regular-season matchup between Wiggins and Parker, the top two picks in this year’s NBA draft. It’s a ballyhooed go-between that dates back to their AAU days.
But LaVine, the draft’s 13th overall pick, said he’s got it in for both fellow 19-year-olds.
"I’m going after both their heads," LaVine joked. "I tell Drew all the time I’m going after him in practice. Friendly competition, but I feel like . . . whenever I step on the court, I want to be the best player. It may not be like that — everybody has bad games — but you’ve just got to have that type of confidence going into the game."
Playing a more central role than expected, including four starts at point guard, LaVine is averaging 5.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 19.1 minutes per game.
Golden guard: The Wolves will honor Lynx and former University of Minnesota point guard Lindsay Whalen during the second quarter of Wednesday night’s game. Along with Lynx teammates Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore and coach Cheryl Reeve, Whalen procured a gold medal at the 2014 FIBA World Championship.
With Whalen averaging 8.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, Team USA went undefeated (6-0). It was her third gold medal; she also won at the 2012 London Olympic Games and the 2010 FIBA World Championship.