Wolves' Dieng has impressive first start

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 16, 2014 - 11:43 PM

First, the bad news for the Timberwolves on Sunday night against Sacramento at Target Center: Starting center Nikola Pekovic didn’t play because of that painful right ankle and foot that sidelined him for nearly all of February and caused him to leave Friday’s loss at Charlotte early in the third quarter.

Now the good news: Kings star center DeMarcus Cousins didn’t play either, scratched not long before game time because of right knee tendinitis.

Rookie Gorgui Dieng started his first NBA game for the Wolves when Sacramento countered Cousins’ absence by starting 7-footer Aaron Gray rather than go small there with power forward Jason Thompson inserted into the starting lineup.

Dieng scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked five shots in 37 minutes.

Pekovic continued to receive treatment on his ankle and said he’s hoping two days off before the Wolves next play Wednesday at Dallas will help ease the bursitis pain.

“It just feels like your legs feel stuck,” he said. “Whatever you want to do, you can’t do it.”

Feels like home

Former Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams returned to Target Center and played his old mates Sunday for the second time since the team traded him to Sacramento for Luc Mbah a Moute in November.

He scored 16 points in a victory over the Wolves there in January and trumped that performance by scoring that many in just 11 minutes in the first half Sunday. He finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes.

“It’s nothing against them, but you always want to play well against the team you used to be on,” Williams said before the game.

Two coaches, one opinion

Sacramento coach Mike Malone touched on the same theme — consistency, or lack thereof — when talking about Williams, as the 2011 No. 2 overall pick’s former coach, Rick Adelman, often discussed.

“When he plays aggressive and plays to his strengths — his athleticism, gets out and runs the floor in attack mode — he’s very effective,” Malone said. “When he doesn’t, he, like the rest of our team, becomes a passive player and is not nearly as effective.

‘‘He has been a great pickup. He’s a great kid. These last 16 games are big games for him. We want him to show what he can do on a consistent basis. Not once every couple games, but do it every night.”

Out of sight, out of…

The Kings will get their first look at former Houston first-round pick Royce White when they return from their long trip to play Washington on Tuesday. The Kings recalled White — the Minneapolis-raised point forward who hasn’t played an NBA game since he was drafted in 2012 because of issues surrounding his anxiety disorder — from their D League team on Thursday.

Malone wasn’t too chatty when asked what White might give his team.

“I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen Royce play once,” Malone said. “When we get back, I’ll have a chance to see him play, but I’ve been worried about our team on this road trip. I know he played down in the D League, but I haven’t seen Royce play at all.”

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