Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson was limited to just over eight minutes in Monday’s 113-94 victory over Memphis before the pain in his neck and into his shoulder drove him back into the locker room.
“I tried to play through it,” he said. “I tried to give it a go. Just so much pain. So I had to check out.”
Gibson’s status for Wednesday’s crucial regular-season finale with Denver could be in doubt.
Gibson, one of four players on the Wolves roster who has played in every game, first suffered the injury in a victory over the Lakers on Friday night. He has gotten treatment, had regular visits with the chiropractor. But, just minutes into Monday’s game, he had to leave.
“It was muscular,” he said. “We did everything. But it just kept spasming. Just one of those freak injuries that happened in the Laker game. Julius [Randle] fell on my neck. I’ve just got to play through it and try to get some health and rest. So we’ll see.”
Gibson’s health will be a big issue as the Wolves head into what will be a do-or-die game with the Nuggets on Wednesday. His veteran presence has been vital, as has his steady defense and offense in the post.
Nemanja Bjelica — who started 17 games while Jimmy Butler was recovering from knee surgery — moved up to take Gibson’s place with the starters.
Wolves backup center Cole Aldrich became the third winner of the Flip Saunders Legacy Award for his work in the community.
The award, created to honor the former coach’s life, was chosen by a vote of Wolves players.
“It’s a huge honor for my wife and I,” Aldrich said. “We do community stuff because we love it. It’s not about getting awards, it’s about helping people.”
He and his wife, Brittany, have relationships with organizations like Children’s Minnesota, Starkey Hearing Foudation, Salvation Army and the Kids in Need Foundation. Aldrich, a Bloomington Jefferson product, regularly visits Children’s Hospital and appears on the hospital’s in-house TV station.
The Western Conference playoff picture keeps changing, at times, by the hour.
So, do the players try to keep up with the particulars of the playoff pursuit?
Depends. It might be generational.
Jeff Teague, the veteran, doesn’t pay any attention to that. At all.
“Nah,” he said Monday. “I don’t even pay attention. I don’t read any newspapers, I don’t watch ESPN. I just watched Wrestlemania last night.”
All seven hours? “I watched it all,” he said. “Pretty decent.”
But Andrew Wiggins takes another tack.
With the Western Conference playoff picture constantly in flux, Wiggins watches.
“It is pretty crazy,” Wiggins said. “But we think about every possibility. We think about everything, because everything matters.”
Keeping options open
The Wolves went the season without filling their final roster spot.
“We wanted to keep the flexibility,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We felt good about our two-way guys, where we are.”
With Iowa so close to the Twin Cities, a player could be called up to the big club quickly. And with Thibodeau keeping his rotation tight for much of the season, the final spot on the roster didn’t appear to have a lot of significance.
“But we’ll take a look at it into the future, too,” Thibodeau said.