Dieng Keeps Rolling In Starting Roll




Wolves center Gorgui Dieng might be a rookie who didn’t see much action in the first four months of this season, but he’s not acting like it. Far from it. In fact, he’s beginning to do things no Timberwolves rookie has ever done.


Dieng started his third straight game for the injured Nikola Pekovic on Thursday night, and despite the 129-106 loss Dieng stood out as a bright spot. He registered his third straight double-double, which means he’s had one in every game he’s ever started in the NBA to date—and he became the first Timberwolves player to register a 20-point, 20-rebound game as a rookie.

 

In fact, only four other players have accomplished that feat as rookies in the past 20 years: DeJuan Blair in 2009-10, Tim Duncan in 1997-98 and Joe Smith in 1995-96.

 

 



Dieng finished the game with 22 points and 21 rebounds while also dishing out four assists.

 


“You have to give him a lot of credit,” coach Rick Adelman said. “It says a lot about him that he’s ready to play and he has the opportunity, and he’s doing it.”


Dieng said after Sunday’s win over the Kings that when he’s not playing a lot of minutes in the games, he believes he needs to work harder. That means keeping up his conditioning on his own, working with assistant coach Jack Sikma after practice on his footwork and post-up moves, and getting extra workouts in after games to simulate the workload he’d otherwise receive on the court.

 


Since arriving in Minnesota last summer, Dieng has carried himself with poise and insight well beyond his years. He’s a humble, grateful and dedicated player who is reaping the benefits of his outlook right now.


Not only that, but he’s impacting games in several ways and providing those Don’t Blink moments each night.


In Dieng’s first start, he racked up five blocked shots and showcased he can indeed be the rim protector and shot-altering presence the Wolves have looked for inside. In his second start, a win over the Mavs, you could see Dallas did at times clear him out of the paint with their offensive sets to try and keep his length away from the rim. But on the offensive end, he responded with a 5-for-5 shooting night while racking up his second double-double.


On Thursday in Houston, he was all over the place. He picked up eight offensive rebounds, dished out four assists and got to the line 11 times.


He’s gotten a few breaks matchup-wise in these three games—Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Houston’s Dwight Howard were both injured and didn’t play against the Wolves this week—but to his credit Dieng has taken advantage of their absences and hasn’t gotten himself into a ton of foul trouble. In two of his last three games, he’s played at least 37 minutes. Adelman said that’s a testament to Dieng’s focus and work ethic—he hadn’t been getting a lot of run on the court prior to Pekovic’s injury, but he kept his body ready and was able to jump in and play big minutes at the NBA level when called upon.


That’s Dieng in a nutshell.


“I was just ready to play. I don’t care if you’re up or down, as long as I am on the court. I’m just trying to play for my teammates and do my job,” Dieng said. “We lost tonight, but I think I gave everything I had when I was on the floor. I always say stats don’t mean anything. Personal stats, I don’t care anything about. I’m more like a team guy and I want to win.”

 

 

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