DENVER (AP) — Chris Finch will be on the bench when the Minnesota Timberwolves open their second-round series at Denver Saturday despite having major knee surgery earlier this week.

While Finch will be present, assistant coach Micah Nori will be the one roaming the Wolves’ sideline, instructing the players and calling the timeouts.

Finch used crutches to attend his pregame news conference, where he said he and his knee felt “pretty good, all things considered.”

Finch had his ruptured right patellar tendon repaired Wednesday after a sideline collision with Mike Conley late in the Game 4 win at Phoenix that gave the Timberwolves a series sweep in Round 1.

The thought was Finch would watch the action in a suite if there wasn’t enough space for him on the sideline to safely extend his leg. But the Wolves configured their seats to allow him to be close by.

“I’ll be on the bench but the game interaction and the game flow will be largely run by Micah,” Finch explained. “Obviously, I’m not in a position to be able to get up, call timeouts, interact with the players, that kind of stuff. Being right there with the coaches and with the players in the huddle, that stuff will be the same.”

Finch most likely will be in the second row on the bench to protect his knee. He installed Minnesota’s game plan for the reigning champion Nuggets before undergoing surgery.

“(Nori) has the pleasure of sitting next to me for the whole game,” Finch cracked.

These teams know each other well, with front-office executive Tim Connelly helping build the Nuggets before leaving in 2022 for a similar job with Minnesota. Finch and Nori were once on the staff of Nuggets coach Michael Malone, as well. Timberwolves guard Monte Morris was drafted by Denver in 2017 and spent five seasons with the Nuggets.

“I guess it’s cool, doesn’t really matter to me,” Malone said of the familiarity between the teams. “Whether it’s people we know or don’t know, once that jump ball goes up, they’re in our way, and we’re in their way.

“Chris Finch, who I believe is going to be — I can’t wait to see this — on the sideline in some capacity tonight, he was on my staff briefly. … Yes, there’s a lot of guys (with connections) but all that goes out the window when the jump ball goes up, man. This is about competition at its highest form.”

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