Timberwolves flew to Denver on Thursday. Head coach Chris Finch plans to join the team Friday

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch was not expected to join the team on its flight to Denver on Thursday ahead of the start of the Western Conference semifinals.

That’s because he has a post-operative appointment in Minnesota on Friday morning. Following that obligation, Finch plans to join the team in Denver ahead of the squad’s afternoon practice.

“Other than him being on the plane with us, that’s the only thing he would miss as far as game prep for Saturday,” assistant coach Micah Nori told Chad Hartman on WCCO Radio on Thursday afternoon.

If flying to a different time zone two days after surgery to repair a ruptured patellar tendon sounds crazy, consider that 28 hours after the surgery, Finch was crutching around the court for the team’s practice on Thursday.

Finch told Nori ahead of that practice that he planned to attend.

“I said, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,'” Nori told Hartman.

Sure enough, there Finch was for the team’s film session.

“I tell you, he’s a trooper and he’s a warrior,” Nori said.

The team greeted Finch with a round of applause.

“And he said he wished that they liked him that much before he got hurt,” Nori told Hartman.

Nori said Finch’s presence did two things: confirmed to concerned staff members and players that the coach was doing well, and also lifted everyone’s spirits.

“Every time when you’re leader is gone, you’re looking around and wondering,” Nori told Hartman. “But when he’s back like that, it kind of eases everybody’s tensions.”

People undergoing knee surgeries are often given a nerve blocker that stays in their system for roughly a day. Nori said Finch’s initial meds started to wear off as the day progressed.

“So I think he was in immense pain. But he doesn’t show it. If you ask him anything, it’s ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine,'” Nori told Hartman. “And involved in practice, very much so. Basically, nothing changed other than the fact he was sitting down as opposed to standing up. But everything was going on right in front of him and he was stopping practice and coaching just as he always would, so nothing changed on that front. It was very good. And he made the point that obviously it’s his leg, and thankfully not his leg and and his mind. So other than the fact that he can’t move around, everything else seems the same.”

Nori said the team will put a plan together over the next two days as to Finch’s in-game setup for Saturday. He said the NBA likely wouldn’t allow Finch do be patrolling the sidelines in crutches, nor would the head coach want to do that.

“I think what’s most likely is we’d be able to find him a seat hopefully right behind the bench,” Nori told Hartman. “The only thing that would change is he would not be up and down the sidelines, coaching. I think that would be more myself.”

And Nori noted there’s no reason Finch can’t have a massive impact from a seated position.

“Phil Jackson never stood up during games, and he won 11 championships,” Nori joked to Hartman. “So it might be a blessing in disguise, who knows.”

FYI: Semifinals

The first four games with tip times, locations and broadcast networks are as follows (all listed times are Central):

  • Game 1: 6 p.m. Saturday, May 4 in Denver (TNT and 100.3 FM)

  • Game 2: 9 p.m. Monday, May 6 in Denver (TNT and 100.3 FM)

  • Game 3: 8:30 p.m. Friday, May 10 in Minneapolis (ESPN and 100.3 FM)

  • Game 4: 7 p.m. Sunday, May 12 in Minneapolis (TNT and 100.3 FM)

The tip times for Games 5-7 — if necessary — are to be determined, though those dates are set for May 14, 16 and 19.

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