Gorgui Dieng said he would try his best. But even he predicted there would be some growing pains.
With Nikola Pekovic back in the mix the past two games after missing 31 games because of ankle soreness, Wolves coach Flip Saunders is interested in having Pekovic and Dieng play on the floor together.
That means Dieng will, in those situations, have to move from center to power forward.
And that is no small change. “It will be great,” Dieng said. “But it’s going to take some time. It will be a learning process. It’s not going to be perfect for the first, maybe, two or three games.’’
On defense, the move means Dieng will have to do more guarding on the perimeter, so his quickness and footwork will be tested. He will have to play the pick and roll differently than when he is at center. On offense, he will play away from the block more. So all the work he’s done on his midrange jump shot will be tested, too.
Is he ready for such a move?
Well, Saunders said, maybe not.
“But sometimes that’s the best way to learn,” he said. “Throw ’em in. That’s how babies have learned to swim, throw ’em in the pool.’’
Why the move?
Saunders likes the possibility that Pekovic and Dieng will be able to control things in the paint, protect the rim better, be more physical.
“Offensively, we have two big guys who can set screens and get guys open,” Saunders said.
Dieng said he has played some power forward before. He has done it with the Senegal national team, where he often plays the four spot with Hamady N’Diaye at center.
But it still will push Dieng, who has to learn to find his spots on the offensive end without getting in Pekovic’s way. But, if he can prove capable of hitting his shots, it should give Pekovic more room to work with on offense.
“In the beginning it might be hard until we get used to it,” Pekovic said.
“It will be more difficult for him than for me. I’ll just do what I do. But he likes to play more away from the basket. He likes to face up, take some jumpers. I’m sure, in the future, he’s going to develop his game more. Hopefully it will be fine.”
Bumps and bruises
A number of players were held out of practice Saturday, according to Saunders. They include: Anthony Bennett (knee soreness), Mo Williams (general soreness), Zach LaVine (hyperextended elbow), Shabazz Muhammad (oblique muscle injury), and Kevin Martin, who was unable to do any shooting because of continued soreness in his surgically-repaired right wrist.
All are making the trip, and Saunders said he expected Bennet, LaVine and Williams to be available Sunday.
Maybe he’s amazed
There was a bit of talk about Klay Thompson’s big night Saturday, when he scored 37 points in the third quarter in Golden State’s victory over Sacramento. Thompson, whose 52 total points tied him with Williams for most in a game this season, made all 13 of his shots in the quarter, including all nine three-pointers and both free throws.
In fact, after practice, Saunders said you could have a guy playing one-on-zero in a drill.
“You let him shoot one shot [per possession], because [Thompson] made 13 straight, and they couldn’t score 37 in a quarter. That was amazing.”