Every NBA player wants minutes, especially when he is in a contract year. That's the situation guard Josh Okogie is in this season for the Timberwolves, as he is playing through the last year of his rookie deal.
Okogie will be a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning the Wolves control his free-agent rights. He hasn't played less in any of his previous three seasons for the Wolves and has been out of the rotation for weeks.
But Okogie hasn't let whatever disappointment he may feel bleed over into the team, coach Chris Finch said, and Finch considers Okogie one of the leaders even though he isn't playing on a regular basis.
"When you have leaders who don't play, it means you have true leadership on your team," Finch said.
Okogie got to play in the Wolves' 124-81 win over Portland on Monday, with the reserves taking up the minutes in the fourth quarter. He finished with nine points.
"He has the same approach every single day," Finch said. "I know a lot of times he's been frustrated not being able to play or not being able to hold a consistent role as things changed around him, and sometimes it wasn't his fault. … But he's been a great pro. Really mature, into the game, into the practice and the preparation, and he has a bright future in this league."
Okogie said that attitude comes with the territory of being in the NBA, no matter what his playing time may be.
"I'm a professional. Each day calls for me to be a professional," he said. "I love my teammates genuinely, I love the game genuinely. My playing time doesn't have anything to do with who I am as a person or how I can support the team."
That still means being a voice on the bench while he's not playing, pointing things out to teammates and making sure he's available to play should the Wolves need him again, like they did Saturday night when multiple players were hurt and Malik Beasley was ejected.
"All in all, individually we're trying to win and as a team collectively we're trying to win so I'm going to do my part if I'm not playing to make sure everybody's locked in," Okogie said. "If I see something on the court if they don't see something on the court, cheer my teammates on and do the best I can to be part of it."