In an interesting pierce regarding former head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau‘s tenure with the Timberwolves, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic shares a story involving how the relegation of forward Gorgui Dieng to the bench was just one example of Thibodeau’s inability to effectively communicate and integrate with others in the organization.
Dieng, a starter for all 82 games in Minnesota during the 2016/17 season, Thibodeau’s first, showed up for training camp in 2017 expecting to continue starting, or at least have an opportunity to compete for a starting position with newly-signed Taj Gibson, a stalwart for Thibodeau during his days in Chicago coaching the Bulls. After all, Dieng had just signed a four-year, $62.8MM contract extension with the Timberwolves the previous summer.
However, before the first practice of camp, and without any communication of any kind from Thibodeau or any representative thereof, Dieng was relegated to the second unit by discovering a second-unit jersey hanging in his locker. Per Krawczynski, Dieng took the lack of communication as a sign of disrespect, one which he seemingly never got over during the course of Thibodeau’s tenure with the Timberwolves.
Rather, Dieng’s play suffered, as did his playing time, going from 10.0 points and 7.9 rebounds in 32.4 minutes per game in 2016/17 to averages of 5.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 16.9 MPG, with zero starts, during the 2017/18 campaign. With two seasons left on his current contract, Dieng, now 29, will look to return to the form he displayed during the 2016/17 season, as Gibson enters this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, his future with the Timberwolves still unknown.
There’s more news from the Western Conference this afternoon:
- It’s clear from his decision to sign a long-term deal with the Thunder this summer that Paul George wants to be in Oklahoma City, but the question now becomes whether or not George is able and willing to overtake Russell Westbrook as the franchise’s marquee player, which Brett Dawson of The Athletic writes may be necessary if the Thunder ever want to reach their full potential with the team’s current core.
- Pelicans‘ new general manager David Griffin is prioritizing hiring highly-respected trainer Aaron Nelson, currently the Suns’ Senior Vice President of Athlete Health & Performance, away from Phoenix, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times. As his profile on the National Basketball Athletic Trainers Association states, Nelson and his staff have built the Suns into an industry leader with a reputation for prolonging the careers of some of the game’s best players.
- In other Suns’ news, 76ers’ assistant coach Monty Williams, a highly-regard head-coaching candidate this offseason for both Phoenix and the Lakers, had a “very positive” meeting with Suns’ brass on Friday (story). Williams, the first candidate to meet with the Suns’ front office since Igor Kokoskov‘s firing on Monday, is a top contender to be James Jones‘ pick for the team’s next head coach.