At various times Saturday night, Timberwolves point guard Jordan McLaughlin would pedal the exercise bike near the bench.
He was going about half speed, just keeping his legs a little loose as he watched the Wolves play through three quarters in their 96-89 victory over the Pelicans. For three quarters, McLaughlin sat on the bench and on the bike until eventually coach Chris Finch called his number to start the fourth quarter.
When McLaughlin entered the game, the Wolves were up two. Within a few minutes they were up 12, a margin that allowed them to withstand Karl-Anthony Towns' exit with six fouls at the 6-minute, 36-second mark.
Once McLaughlin was in the game, he didn't exit again. He scored six points and had two steals.
"We all have our job to do and mine is to be ready at all times," McLaughlin said. "So, I'm just going in there, trying to change the game, pick up full court, be a pest on defense and push the pace on offense and make plays."
That's what McLaughlin did as the Wolves had just enough offensive firepower to finally put away the Pelicans in a game that featured 50 total turnovers between the teams. Before Saturday's game Finch had talked about using an 11-man rotation with Patrick Beverley back in the fold from suspension.
But as the game went on, it looked like McLaughlin might have been the odd man out in a 10-man rotation, with Finch relying on D'Angelo Russell and Beverley to handle point guard duties. The Wolves needed a spark and Finch said the staff made up its mind late in the third quarter to turn to McLaughlin.
"My whole life, I've had to be ready for my opportunity or our team's opportunity," McLaughlin said. "I just go out there and try to win the game. Whether that's scoring, playmaking, defense."
The past two offseasons weren't the easiest for McLaughlin as he tried to navigate the difficult process of restricted free agency. He signed a second two-way deal last season to try and bet on himself headed into this one. He ended up with a three-year deal (with a team option for the third year) worth up to $6.5 million.
That mentality is one reason why the Wolves wanted to keep McLaughlin around.
"Every time he comes on the court he just shows exactly what he can do," Towns said. "He's a consummate professional. He's always ready for the moment, and we always seem to be throwing him in the most intense moments in the game, but he always finds a way to get it done. He's such a vital part of our team."
The Wolves play the Pelicans again on Monday, and Finch will have more decisions to make regarding his rotation. McLaughlin's performance on Saturday made those choices tougher.
"We have literally 15 guys on the roster that can play at a high level, night in and night out," McLaughlin said. "We have a really deep team, and every night we've got to bring it, withstand the punches and just keep rolling with them and try to overcome it at the end."