For the record, Jordan Hill was surprised, too.
With 7 minutes, 22 seconds left in the first quarter of Sunday’s game at Oklahoma City, after Gorgui Dieng had picked up two quick fouls, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau looked at his bench and called out Hill’s name.
Cue the double take.
“Yes, I actually did,” Hill said. “I had to make sure he called me name. He did, and that was that.”
So, for only the second time in December and for the fourth time this season, Hill entered a game. By the time the game had ended ,he’d played 18 minutes, 36 seconds, more than doubling his total playing time this season to that point.
Hill played 5:31 Monday against Atlanta, going scoreless with one rebound.
Hill, a 6-10 forward/center, scored four points on 2-for-7 shooting Sunday, had six rebounds, a steal and five fouls, showing little rust and looking like he belonged.
“I just wanted to get a look at him,” Thibodeau said, explaining his decision. “I thought he played very well in the first half for the first time out. His offense and his rebounding is something I wanted to get a look at.”
A seven-year veteran, Hill signed as a free agent in July. He came from Indiana, where he had averaged 8.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 20 minutes per game in 2015-16.
But he hasn’t found much playing time with the Wolves. But it’s not something Hill has talked to Thibodeau about.
“No, I leave it all to him, man,” Hill said. “He’s a great coach. He knows his things. It’s whatever he believes he needs to do to help this team get some wins. I just got to respect that and stay ready, basically.”
Hill said he saw a young team with a lot of potential when he signed here last summer. It’s an opinion he still shares. “In a couple years, man, I feel this team will definitely be a surprise,” he said.
In the meantime, he will stay ready for the next call. He said he felt pretty good after he caught his second wind during his first-half stint of playing time. But he was a bit winded in the second half.
That is, after he got over the surprise of being called.
“It was a surprise to all of us,” Hill said. “But you have to stay ready for stuff like this.”
Hitting the boards
Karl-Anthony Towns always has been a steady rebounder, and his numbers have taken a jump. Towns averaged 10.5 rebounds during his Rookie of the Year campaign last season. This year that number has increased to 11.3. But in December, Towns is averaging 13.3 rebounds. He had 11 more Monday night.
“He started slowly with the rebounding, but after the first couple weeks he really picked it up,” Thibodeau said. “And he’s found a really good rhythm. He’s making a great effort, and I think that’s helped us a lot. When he has great timing, when he gets into a multiple-effort mentality, that’s when he’s at his best.”
• Another summer free agent signing, Brandon Rush, has found it difficult to get on the court, a problem exacerbated by a toe injury he had to fight through. “It’s tough to play 10 guys,” Thibodeau said. “We’re settled in a rotation right now. But that doesn’t mean it will stay that way. He’s a good pro, works hard every day.”
• Zach LaVine entered Monday’s game having led the Wolves in scoring in 10 of the previous 19 games, leading the league in minutes played (37.7) and having shot 27-for-55 on three-pointers over the previous seven games. He finished one point behind Towns on Monday with 21 on 6-for-9 shooting from three.
Staff writer Jerry Zgoda contributed to this report.