TORONTO – Over the past week, Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie saw some of his best friends on the team head to other destinations. Gorgui Dieng is gone, so is Andrew Wiggins and the Wolves traded Jeff Teague last month as part of a massive roster overhaul.
Those were three of Okogie’s closest friends on the team, and at first it was a blow for Okogie to take.
“Initially my reaction was kind of like, ‘Whoa. Everybody’s gone,’ ” Okogie said. “That’s the hardest part about this job. You form relationships with guys and you form memories and you don’t forget, but it slips your mind sometimes that it’s still a business and the business of basketball is you might get traded.”
Okogie was one of the few left standing in a Wolves uniform when the smoke cleared. It’s a unique position for him. Okogie was the last first-round draft pick of the Tom Thibodeau regime, and President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas has rid the Wolves roster of every player Thibodeau acquired … except for Okogie.
The Wolves spent the first half of the season evaluating who fit their style of play and who didn’t. Rosas came to the conclusion that the roster still needed a big overhaul, but Okogie is still a part of the team’s plans.
“I’m here, so they must think they have me in their future plans,” Okogie said. “But I’ll have to turn the notch up even higher, perform my best, keep going and building on every game.”
Coach Ryan Saunders said a few things helped Okogie stand out — his effort, his ability to cut and his offensive rebounding ability.
“His intentions for the team are always right … ” Saunders said. “He’s an active cutter. We like how he rebounds the ball. He’s in the top 5 percentile-wise for his offensive rebounding from the guard position. So he’s bought into that principle of ours, and the way he’s cutting, and he’s an improving shooter.”
Okogie said he tried to not to think about if the Wolves would try to move him as well.
“I let God control all that,” he said. “For me, that’s the easiest way to kind of get through all this stuff. I know God got my back.”
Okogie said he has had time to process all the moves and will stay in touch with his former teammates.
“The good thing about those memories and friendships is they last forever,” Okogie said. “Initially I was kind of, I don’t want to use the word hurt, but it was a weird feeling. Imagine a Timberwolves team without Gorgui, without [Wiggins]. It’s kind of weird to expect. These guys that came in, they’re really great guys and I enjoy sharing the court with them.”
Now there are memories to create with new teammates.
Spellman not with team
Omari Spellman, who came over in the D’Angelo Russell trade, was not available for the second consecutive game. Per the Wolves, he was not with the team. Saunders said he liked the Wolves’ frontcourt rotation as currently constructed with Towns and Naz Reid at center and Juancho Hernangomez and James Johnson at power forward.
A source said the Wolves’ plan for Spellman is to eventually send him to Iowa.
To show their thanks to fans for their support Saturday night, Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns each purchased 1,000 tickets for Wednesday’s game against Charlotte that the Wolves offered for free via their website on a first-come, first-serve basis. The tickets were gone in less than an hour.