LOS ANGELES – Last week when the Nets and Bucks were clobbering the Timberwolves without Karl-Anthony Towns in the lineup, there was plenty of garbage time for the Wolves.
That may seem like inconsequential time, but it was enough time for Jarred Vanderbilt to reassert himself in the eyes of Chris Finch.
Vanderbilt has been a starter at times this season, but had fallen out of the rotation of late in part because of the ascension of Jaden McDaniels to the starting lineup. Vanderbilt hadn't played in six of the eight games before Tuesday's loss to the Nets.
But against Milwaukee and Brooklyn, Vanderbilt got another chance.
"Even though we didn't play well as a team, he played very well in those games," Finch said.
Vanderbilt had nine points and four rebounds against Brooklyn, then four points and 10 rebounds against Milwaukee.
So when McDaniels got into early foul trouble Friday against Miami, Finch turned to Vanderbilt because of how he played earlier in the week. It led to a nine-point, 14-rebound performance from Vanderbilt, who was instrumental in the Wolves' win over old friend Jimmy Butler.
"With me my mind-set is always the same, whether we're up 30, down 30, I still try to play the same way, just play hard, bring the energy and just never take any moment for granted," Vanderbilt said. "There's a lot of people that want to be in this position and wish they could be in here, so I try to take advantage of every opportunity I'm on that floor, just play hard and that's the least you can do."
For the season Vanderbilt is averaging 5.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and Finch said Vanderbilt was likely to keep playing in the short term to see if he can build off his good week.
"Everything matters. It's a long season," Finch said. "People fall in and out of the rotation for a variety of reasons. You just have to stay ready, and when he got his opportunity this week he proved to us that he deserves to be back in the rotation. Now it's his challenge to continue to play at this level."
Vanderbilt has tried to stay prepared even when he's not playing. That's how he first cracked the rotation when he had an eye-opening performance in a road game at Denver earlier this season, and it's how he may gain minutes again.
"That's just part of the game," Vanderbilt said. "Just staying ready, always be prepared, especially for nights like this. Just staying in the gym extra, trying to stay in shape, stay in rhythm, still being in games and talking to the guys on the bench. It's very important in this league to always be ready when your number is called."
Edwards eager to please
Finch was asked before Sunday's game about the development of rookie Anthony Edwards, and Finch's answer delved into how coachable Edwards is.
"If you ask him to do something, he'll try to go out and do it right away," Finch said. "Almost to the point where he kind of overpleases you. I think with a great summer and a great training camp, you're going to see exponential gains with him as a player understanding the NBA, understanding his own game, and how to master the parts that he's really already good at."
One thing Finch has wanted to see from Edwards since taking over as coach is better shot selection. Finch said Edwards has been improving in that area.
"He's got so much untapped potential," Finch said. "I think he's extremely raw with great skill sets. He has the ability to do something at a high level, which is get to the rim, get to the basket. Such a force getting downhill. His shot is getting better. I'm really comfortable with his shot selection right now. He's taken a lot of really good threes in rhythm, not taking as many tough twos."