Since Robert Covington and Dario Saric arrived in the Jimmy Butler trade from the 76ers, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau has stuck to a nine-man rotation. That has meant Anthony Tolliver and rookie Josh Okogie, who were getting time before the trade, have spent most of the past few weeks on the bench.
It’s the first time Okogie has gotten a taste of life in the NBA — you can be in the rotation one day, then out of it for games at a time.
“It’s unfortunate being able to play and then not play, then play and not play, but I think the biggest key for me is to stay ready,” Okogie said.
With the Wolves cruising late in their 128-89 victory over the Spurs on Wednesday, Okogie got a chance to play 10 minutes — and he didn’t waste it.
He got a hearty ovation upon his entrance and added a thunderous dunk along with three three-pointers in scoring 12 points. It showed how Okogie quickly endeared himself with fans.
“That’s just what I bring, energy,” Okogie said. “Even when I was playing consistently, it’s always something that I view as nonnegotiable for me whether I make shots or don’t make shots. My energy is always going to be there.”
Okogie said while he would like to play more, it has been easier to take given the team’s success — 7-2 since the trade.
“As long as we win, there’s not much I can say,” he said. “I’m just going to be here for my teammates. I’ll be ready whenever my number is called.”
Thibodeau said he hoped Tolliver and Luol Deng, who hasn’t been part of the rotation all season, could be models for Okogie on how to handle his lack of minutes.
“I walk in the gym early and [Tolliver’s] already there,” Thibodeau said. “He’s in a full lather and when you watch his workouts, you see great focus on everything that he’s doing. And he’s totally into the game.”
It might seem easy to forget the Wolves got a third player in the Butler trade, but guard Jerryd Bayless continues to work his way back from a left knee injury that has kept him sidelined since the beginning of the season. Thibodeau mentioned Tuesday the team wanted Bayless to finish rehabilitating his knee in New York in the aftermath of the trade.
“He pretty much finished that,” Thibodeau said. “He’s still not ready, so now there will be more work here and we’ll go from there.”
There isn’t a timetable for his return. Thibodeau mentioned Bayless isn’t cleared yet for contact.
“We just want to make sure he’s completely healthy,” Thibodeau said.
Since Covington joined the team, it’s been evident how well he and Karl-Anthony Towns get along. The two previously trained together and are frequently joking with each other in the locker room. Covington stopped by Towns’ media session during shootaround and acted like a reporter to ask him a few questions.
Covington’s query was: “How much do I bail you out on defense?”
Towns’ answer: “When ‘Roco’ is beat on a cut, I’m usually the one there waiting for the person. I’m pretty happy about my ability to help him out.”