Gorgui Dieng missed the Timberwolves’ first two games out of the All-Star break because of personal reasons.

When he came rejoined, Dieng was out of the rotation.

The backup center has not played in any of the past three games, including Thursday night’s 122-115 loss to the Indiana Pacers, even though he was healthy. Dieng’s benching was a call interim coach Ryan Saunders made.

Saunders said he made the decision because of how others, such as Anthony Tolliver, were playing in Dieng’s absence. Saunders also said he liked how Taj Gibson was performing as the backup center.

“A lot of times in absences guys step up and you find things you like within a group,” Saunders said. “We like what Anthony has given us. We liked how he’s spread the court as well. Playing Taj as a backup 5 at times has been giving us a good interior presence.”

The writing was on the wall before the All-Star break as Dieng played only 1 minute, 50 seconds in a victory over the Rockets. Saunders said he had a conversation with Dieng before slashing his playing time.

‘It’s not going to be every game …” Saunders said. “Until further notice this is how I’m going, why we feel it’s best for the team at the moment, but as always we’re professionals and we should all be ready.”

Dieng, averaging 5.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, didn’t complain when asked about the move and said he had to stay ready for when he would play.

“It’s the pros, you know? People make decisions and we have to live with it,” said Dieng, who had played in every game this season before missing the past five. “We all have to put the team first. That’s the most important thing. I might not have an opportunity now, but tomorrow I might play 30 minutes. Who knows? So I have to stay ready and try and be the best teammate I can be.”

That includes staying engaged on the bench and active in the game plan if he sees something he can point out to a teammate.

“I’ve been doubted my whole life,” Dieng said. “I’m used to it, but this time it’s different. You put the team first and whatever we can to help this team we will do it.”

Deng out, Teague in

Luol Deng sat out Thursday because of a sore left Achilles’ tendon that caused him to exit Wednesday’s overtime loss at Atlanta. But point guard Jeff Teague was able to return after missing the previous two games because of left knee soreness. Teague spent 2016-17 with Indiana before signing with the Wolves.

International gig

Iowa G-League coach Scott Roth has been named the top assistant to the Chinese men’s national team for this summer’s FIFA Basketball World Championship, to be played in eight cities across China Aug. 31-Sept. 15. He will work with head coach Li Nan and Chinese Federation President Yao Ming, who hired him.

Auction sets record

The Wolves and Fox Sports North helped the Wolves’ FastBreak Foundation raise $45,118 in their annual charity auction during Wednesday’s broadcast. That figure is a record in the six years the Wolves have been doing the auction. All money goes to the FastBreak foundation, which helps youth in Minnesota.


Star Tribune staff writer Jerry Zgoda contributed to this report.