PHOENIX – Taj Gibson didn’t play for the Timberwolves on Saturday night, as he left the team to deal with a personal matter.
But Gibson’s shouldn’t be out long, with coach Tom Thibodeau saying Gibson should play in Monday’s home game against Sacramento.
His absence Saturday created a vacuum at power forward for the Wolves and meant Dario Saric made his first start since joining the Wolves from Philadelphia. Of late, Saric has been playing more minutes than Gibson even though Gibson is starting. In each of the Wolves’ two games before Saturday, Saric logged 31 minutes to Gibson’s 17. Saric said he was going to alter his pregame routine since he was in the starting lineup.
“I’ll go a little bit harder in warmup, try to take a few more shots and try to get the body temperature right to play,” Saric said.
Saric joining the starting lineup meant another player was going to get his minutes in reserve and Thibodeau said at shoot-around that player was likely to be Anthony Tolliver. Before Saturday, Tolliver had not played in 11 of the 15 games since the trade, logging just 23 minutes, 28 seconds of game time since.
“It’s the toughest job in the NBA, I say that all the time, being a role player in the NBA,” Tolliver said. “It has a lot of ups and downs, and so you just have to stay even keel, stay ready and continue to work.”
Tolliver said he was cognizant of the fact that others might be monitoring how he handles himself when he wasn’t playing, and that list of people goes beyond his teammates.
“People are always watching, not just players but other teams and other coaches and everybody that’s around you,” Tolliver said. “They’re always watching. You just always have to be mindful of the energy you put out there whether it be on the bench or in the locker room or wherever you’re at.”
Thibodeau said Tolliver has handled himself well while being out of the rotation and wasn’t hesitant about calling his number.
“It’s a great example, and it’s something he’s done throughout his career when you talk to every team and every coach he’s played for,” Thibodeau said. “There’s been situations he’s handled every year, whether he’s been a starter or rotation player or a guy not in the rotation. It’s one of the things he adds to a team.”
Deal finally done
The Suns went through one of the strangest nights in recent memory in the NBA on Friday when it appeared they had agreed to a three-team trade that included Trevor Ariza going to the Wizards, Kelly Oubre Jr. to the Grizzlies and Dillon Brooks going from Memphis to Phoenix.
Except there was a miscommunication, according to multiple reports, and the Grizzlies thought they were sending MarShon Brooks to the Suns, not Dillon. When the teams realized the mistake, the deal fell apart.
Early Saturday, Phoenix and Washington reportedly agreed to a separate deal involving Ariza going to the Wizards and Oubre and Austin Rivers coming to Phoenix. Because of the reported trade, Ariza wasn’t slated to play Saturday against the Wolves before the trade was set to become official Monday.
“I’m not up to speed on everything that happened there,” Thibodeau said. “As they say it’s never done until it’s done and so, but it’s part of our league and there’s always things that can change at the last minute.”