The Timberwolves aren’t what you would call a very good NBA team this year. However, what they do have are young pieces in place to elevate their franchise to playoff-type levels in the future. Nationally, you hear about the impressive rookie Andrew Wiggins, but quietly, former Cardinal Gorgui Dieng is putting together a great second season in Minnesota. Currently, Gorgs is averaging 10 points and 8 rebounds per game while shooting 50% from the field and 80% from the foul line.
The loss to San Antonio was the Wolves’ 21st defeat in 22 games. Dieng, who won a national championship playing in college at Louisville and experienced a respectable (by Minnesota standards) 40-42 record during his rookie season, could stand it no longer. Various accounts had the second-year pro calling out himself and his teammates after a recent practice, demanding that they no longer take losing for granted.
In the very next game, in Indiana against the Pacers Tuesday night, Dieng set the tone early, making 3-of-4 shots against leviathan 7-2 center Roy Hibbert, including a slam dunk and the same crafty up-and-under move for a layup that had worked on Duncan. He also had two steals and a pair of lofted assists to Wiggins that likewise duplicated his play against the Spurs.
But the signature play of that first quarter occurred when Dieng slipped on a wet part of the court while driving for a layup, tumbling down while the rest of the players raced back up the floor in transition from his turnover. Indiana quickly set up their offense and found Hibbert right near the hoop, being “guarded” by Mo Williams, who is nearly a foot shorter. But as Hibbert was set to lay it in, Dieng came flying out of nowhere to block the shot, a play that could only have occurred with maximum effort on a full-court sprint.
In the third quarter, Dieng fooled Hibbert into the air with a shot fake, then dipped beneath him and gathered himself for a slam dunk. But as he was going down, Hibbert reached out and yanked the rising Dieng by the shoulder with the weight of his 278 pound fall. Dieng lay writhing on the court; Hibbert was ejected from the game for a flagrant foul. Then Dieng gingerly got up and made both free throws from the foul.