As expected, the Timberwolves have signed both Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson for the rest of the season. That move – both signed pro-rated league-minimum deals – meant the team had to waive Lou Amundson to make room on the roster.
“There are many bad parts of this job, but that’s probably the worst,” Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn said of having to waive Amundson. “ But, given the situation we found ourselves in over the last several weeks, with so few bodies and so much change, this was the right thing to do at the time.”
Johnson gives the Wolves a player who can play above the rim and can defend the basket, qualities the team will need going foward. Gelabale – who will make his second straight start for the team tonight against the Knicks – gives them flexibility at both the big guard and small forward positions.
Kahn said both players will have a chance to prove they belong here long-term.
“I think in both cases there is a pathway to being here next year,” Kahn said. “It’s not a done deal by any means. But there is a pathway. Chris might be in a little bit of a different instance because he’s not going to shrink any time in the next three to four months in terms of height. So I would say he probably especially has a chance to be here.''
Kahn said the decision had a lot to do with keeping some consistency on a team that has had very little of it.
“I just felt that was also a factor, since they’re here and they’ve played well and acquitted themselves well, there was really no reason to shift.”
Of course, both players were thrilled to get the news. In a classic understatement, here’s how Johnson described getting the news: “It’s kind of like a 10-day (contract), but more exciting, I would say,” he said.
Gelabale, a native of France, said he called his mom first, but she didn’t answer. For Gelabale, who came over from Spain to sign a 10-day contract, it was a case of being rewarded for taking that risk.
“I come here for two 10-days, and now I stay for all the rest of the season,” he said. “I’m really happy.”
Here are some other nuggets from this morning:
--Ricky Rubio said he was thrilled to be going to Houston to play in the Rising Stars Challenge. Rubio and Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas were late commissioner’s picks, announced Thursday night.
Any coincidence that the decision came shortly after commissioner David Stern was in town to take in a game? Perhaps, perhaps not. Kahn said the Wolves lobbied on Rubio’s behalf: “I know we definitely put a word in, or two, or three,” Kahn said. “But it’s not our decision to make.”
Rubio will play on a team with Alexey Shved.
“First when they had the list (of players to be in the game), I wasn’t playing good and being me,” Rubio said. “But now, lately, I’ve been more confident in me. And I’m happy to be there. That means I worked to be there, you know?”
Rubio said he would be able to play in the game and get some rest, too. He said he’s going to go to Houston on Friday, play in the game that night, then return to the Twin Cities Saturday morning. “I’ll get to rest a couple days, because we don’t have a game until Wednesday,” Rubio said. “Saturday morning I’m gone. It’s fun to be there, especially with Alexey there, too. We can have fun.”
Meanwhile, Chase Budinger continues his work to get back from Nov. 13 surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee. Budinger has been doing some jump shooting after practice and was doing lateral movement exercises this morning.
Kahn said he expects Budinger back in March. “But not in early March,” Kahn said. “And I wouldn’t hazard anything beyond that. As always is the case when people are in these significant rehab periods, there could always, God forbid, be a setback. He hasn’t had one yet. So he is doing more. I’m hopeful by the end of next week he may even be cleared to run on the court. But let’s see what happens. There is more work to be done. His quadriceps needs to be strengthened more still.”
--Kahn said Brandon Roy, trying to come back from a chronically sore right knee, might start doing some basketball individual workouts this weekend, though that decision will rest with Roy. “My sense is he’s starting to feel a little bit better,” Kahn said. (But) as I said in late December, if it happens it happens, and we’re not planning on it.”