Late in the Timberwolves victory Sunday in Indiana, with Minnesota leading comfortably, Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau cleared his bench. With just under 2 minutes to play, Cole Aldrich took a pass from Nemanja Bjelica and threw down a two-handed dunk.
The Wolves bench exploded with delight.
This speaks both to the chemistry of the team in general and the affection Aldrich’s teammates have for him. Outside of the rotation for most of the season, Aldrich has continued to work hard in practice and maintain a positive attitude off the court. That gets noticed.
“I want to mention this,” Thibodeau said after the game. “Cole has been phenomenal. Just his attitude, his approach, what he brings to the team on a daily basis. You can’t say enough about it. It might get lose to people on the outside. It doesn’t get lost to the people on the inside, his teammates.”
Aldrich will admit there are days when not playing is frustrating.
“But I’m just naturally a positive person,” said Aldrich, the Minnesota native in his eighth season, before Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Target Center. “That’s how I’ve always been. It makes the roller coaster easy. You see a lot of guys, they get too high when they’re playing well and too low when they don’t play well. You have to be even-keeled.”
That means staying involved, coming to practice early, staying late. It means cheering for teammates when you’re not playing.
Jamal Crawford has seen this before; the two were teammates on the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2015-16 season when Aldrich played very little over the first half of the season, but much more late.
“His attitude didn’t change,” Crawford said of Aldrich. “Even when he wasn’t playing. You root for guys like that. So when they have a moment, you want to make sure they feel that love.”
Climbing the ladder
Crawford’s health, longevity and consistency have kept him in the league for 18 seasons. Because of that, he continues, steadily, to climb the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
After scoring three points Friday, Crawford has 18,456 points, 62nd on the list of all-time NBA scorers, just two points behind Mark Aguirre. Already this season Crawford has passed the likes of Glen Rice, Julius Erving and Tracy McGrady on that list.
For someone as cognizant of league history as Crawford, that gives him pause.
“I do notice it,” he said. “It doesn’t consume me. But when you see the different names?”
Take Aguirre. Crawford played in New York for the Knicks when Aguirre was an assistant coach there.
“I know how great a scorer he was,” Crawford said. “And Tracy McGrady is one of my favorite players, ever. These guys I’m passing, it’s mind-blowing.”
In his first four games since returning from a left mid-foot sprain that kept him out of 15 games, Bjelica has struggled with his shot, going a combined 2-for-13 overall and 0-for-5 on three-pointers. Thibodeau isn’t worried.
“It’s just a little bit of rust, which is to be expected when you miss that much time,” Thibodeau said. “I think each day he’ll get better and better. Because the conditioning — as much as you’re trying to maintain it, on a bike or [running] in the water, it’s not the same. It takes a little bit when you’ve missed that much time.”
Bjelica was 2-for-4 shooting Monday for five points and four rebounds in 15 minutes.