Timberwolves' Lingering Decision on Chris Finch Should Take Nick Nurse Timeout Debacle Into Account

The team has to decide where their head coach will post up for Game 1 after he underwent knee surgery.
Apr 28, 2024; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Mike Conley (10) and Minnesota
Apr 28, 2024; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Mike Conley (10) and Minnesota / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, Minnesota Timberwolves assistant coach Micah Nori told assembled media that head coach Chris Finch's knee surgery had gone well and the team is considering their options on where he'll be for Game 1 of their second-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets. Finch suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee after a collision with point guard Mike Conley in the Wolves' series-clinching win over the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

Due to the surgery, Finch will need special accommodations to remain on the sideline. Per The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski, Minnesota is considering trying to fit Finch in near the bench by moving some chairs around. The franchise is also looking into having Finch watch from a suite and meet the team in the locker room for pregame, postgame, and halftime.

It's obviously terrible for Finch to suffer this injury and have to coach the Wolves' first deep playoff run in decades with a leg cast or brace or whatever the situation will be. But while the team is deciding where he'll be doing so, they have to keep in mind the Nick Nurse timeout debacle that lost the Philadelphia 76ers Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks.

Much of what Finch does on gameday can be executed sitting down or completely immobile. Coaches love to pace up and down the sideline and get animated and what have you but in terms of communication they just have to shout really loud. Where they are when they do so doesn't matter as much, and there are a multitude of easy solutions for the Timberwolves to pursue to ensure Finch's inability to walk doesn't interfere with getting word to his players on what play to run.

Calling timeouts is where it gets tricky, especially in high-pressure situations. The Nurse scenario is an ideal example. After the Sixers lost Game 2 he loudly complained he didn't get a timeout from the referees as Tyrese Maxey lost the ball on an inbounds pass and allowed the Knicks to hit a game-winning three-pointer. Replay proved Nurse didn't call a timeout as much as he motioned for it but pulled back at the last second, and then tried to call one after the Sixers lost the ball. The particulars don't carry over to Minnesota's dilemma.

But the broad strokes do. If the Wolves decide to have Finch on the sideline and act as the head coach despite his injury. In that case he would either be unable to move or would have to wheel himself around with a scooter. Should Minnesota find itself in a situation where a timeout is desperately needed, Finch can't jump up and down to get a ref's attention or sprint onto the court to ensure it gets called. In a split-second heat of the moment situation it may even throw the officials off that Finch isn't standing and they have to look down.

There's no easy answer to this one. If Finch is going to stay near the bench for the games then maybe he can pitch having a designated timeout coach to the NBA whose sole duty is to notify officials when the team wants a timeout. But that's the only realistic solution to the problem and that extra second of required communication can be the difference between a win and a loss.

if Finch gets put up in the suite, it's all a moot point. From up there he won't really be acting as a head coach. He'll have plenty of input and all that but he won't be communicating with the referees or his team. It is, if anything, the easiest and therefore most likely path the Timberwolves will take. But that, of course, comes with its own downsides and robs Finch of the sideline experience for the first real postseason run of his career.

Minnesota is in a tough spot. But whatever route the team chooses to go, they shouldn't forget how slim the margin for error is in the NBA. Especially when it comes to officials and timeouts.


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Liam McKeone

LIAM MCKEONE

Liam McKeone is a Senior Writer for the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. In addition to his role as a writer, he collaborates with other teams across Minute Media to help define his team’s content strategy. He has been in the industry as a content creator since 2017, and prior to joining SI in 2024, Liam worked for NBC Sports Boston and The Big Lead. In addition to his work as a writer, he has hosted the Press Pass Podcast covering sports media and The Big Stream covering pop culture. A graduate of Fordham University, Liam is always up for a good debate and enjoys loudly arguing about sports, rap music, books, and video games. Liam has been a member of the National Sports Media Association (NSMA) since 2020.