One Wolves player after another, when asked about rookie center Gorgui Dieng, couldn’t help but smile.
“You know, I like the rook,” Corey Brewer said. “He’s got game.”
“He looks like me out there,” Kevin Love said, “stealing rebounds.”
“He’s awesome,” J.J. Barea said. “I’m so proud of him.”
With just six starts under his rookie belt, Dieng continues to impress. Wednesday, starting again for the injured Nikola Pekovic, Dieng had his fifth double-double, finishing with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Dieng had the double-double by halftime. He finished the game going 6-for-8 from the field, picking up two assists, a steal and a block.
And then there was the play that got the most comments: A nice baseline spin move for a layup in the second quarter.
“Now he’ll want to do that all the time,” joked coach Rick Adelman.
But seriously: Dieng has shown impressive improvement in this six-game stretch. Always a player who works hard, he has learned how to avoid foul trouble, he has shown a knack for being in the right position for a rebound. And, on offense, he is showing more and more confidence.
Actually he’s showing a lot of confidence, period.
“He knows the game, he knows how to play,” Barea said. “He’s got a little swag to him.”
Dieng said he knows he’s not the first option on offense. He knows his job is to play hard, defend and get rebounds. But he also said that the hard work he’s put in on his offensive game is paying off.
“But this is just the beginning,” he said. “I need to keep working more, more, more to be where I want to be.”
But it’s clear increased playing time has paid off.
“The more he’s played, the more calm he’s been offensively,” Adelman said. “He’s slowed down a little bit. To me, he has a little confidence, he knows what he can do.”
Dieng has benefitted from playing a number of games of late against teams without going against powerful opposing centers. “That has allowed him to kind of roam and be active and show his athletic ability in rebounding the ball,” Adelman said. “When he starts going against people who are strong and pushing him around, he can’t get off the ground like he does now. But give him credit. He’s pursuing every rebound and his confidence level has gotten better.”
Hence the swag.
“He has got a little swag about himself,” Brewer said. “J.J. is right. [Dieng] feels he can do it and goes out and does it.”
• Pekovic took some part in the Wolves’ practice Thursday but he remains doubtful for Friday’s game against the Lakers. “He did a little bit of practicing, yeah,” Adelman said. “But there is nothing changed. We’ll see how [he] feels tomorrow.” Adelman said prior to Wednesday’s game — the sixth Pekovic has missed in his latest bout with ankle bursitis — that Pekovic had hoped to play this weekend. The Wolves play at Brooklyn on Sunday.
•Adelman has been impressed with Robbie Hummel’s play of late — he scored nine points Wednesday, all in the fourth quarter — but the coach would like to see the reserve forward focus less on three-pointers. “He can shoot the 20-footer, or the 18-footer,” Adelman said. “From my understanding, that’s what he was really good at in college.”
• The father of Wolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison and ordered to repay almost $1.7 million in restitution after pleading guilty in a Las Vegas mortgage fraud case. Muhammad’s father, Ronald Holmes, apologized Thursday before a senior U.S. district judge sentenced him to 37 months in prison and five years of supervised release. Holmes pleaded guilty in December to felony conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud.