Johnson, Gelabale To Stay For Rest Of Season
Wolves forward Mickael Gelabale didn’t have any expectations when he left Spain to join the Wolves on a 10-day contract in mid-January. He simply hadn’t played in the NBA for five years and jumped at the opportunity to make his way back to the league any way he could.
So you can forgive him, now that he’s got a guaranteed contract with the Wolves through the end of the season, if he didn’t fully prepare for the extended stay in the clothing department.
“I’m going to buy some,” Gelabale said, smiling.
With good reason. Gelabale and center Chris Johnson were both rewarded for their efforts over the past three weeks, signing contracts through the end of the season after wrapping up the second of their two 10-day contracts on Thursday. They will be in uniform tonight against the New York Knicks.
The move means the team waived Lou Amundson to make room for both players on the 15-man roster.
Both Johnson and Gelabale filled needed roles on the team during their stays in Minnesota over the past three weeks. Gelabale, a 6-foot-7 wing, added length on the perimeter not only as a backup for forward Andrei Kirilenko at the 3 but also filling in for Kirilenko in the starting lineup while he is currently injured. Gelabale has also spent time in the shooting guard spot to add a little extra size at that position.
He has played in 10 games this season, averaging 6.5 points per game and shooting 54.3 percent from the floor.
"It's a big opportunity for me," Gelabale said. "Now I have to get everything for two months, because the season is over in April. If we play playoffs, it's maybe four months. We have to wait because we have a couple games."
Johnson is an athletic center that not only can run the fast break and produce good help defense but he is also a shot-blocking threat. He has been a situational play for coach Rick Adelman over the last few games when his length and quickness can be an asset against the opposing team’s lineup.
“We don’t have somebody like that, we just don’t,” President of Basketball Operations David Kahn said. “Somebody that plays above the rim like that. Even though it’s not something that coach has shown necessary maybe every night, it’s nice to have that capability on the roster.”
Johnson is currently averaging 9.3 points on 73.3 percent shooting (22-of-30) while also bringing down 4.0 rebounds per night. The 27-year-old LSU product was with the team during training camp and made good on his opportunity to jump from the D-League when called upon in January.
“[I’m] just trying to prove that I want to be here,” Johnson said. “I want to belong here. I feel like I proved that in the last 20 days.”
The two certainly made their impact right from the start.
When Gelabale and Johnson made their debuts on Jan. 19 against Houston, the duo combined to shoot 6-of-9 from the field, hit 11-of-13 free throws and scored the first 23 points of the quarter in a win over Houston. It was Minnesota’s first look at both players, and they came through when it mattered most and made a big difference in the game’s final outcome.
But in order to retain both players on the 15-man roster, the Wolves needed to part ways with Amundson, who joined the Wolves in the offseason. He played in 20 games this season and averaged 1.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 minutes per night.
Kahn said making roster decisions like this one is one of the most difficult parts of the job.
“Especially when you have Lou’s character and professionalism, but given the situation we found ourselves in over the last several weeks with so few bodies, so much change, this was just the right thing to do at the time,” Kahn said. “And I think Lou probably understood that, too.”
Still, for Gelabale and Johnson, it’s the opportunity they’ve been waiting for. They’re relishing the chance to stay with the Wolves. More than anything, the job security for the rest of the year takes some of the pressure off.
“I can just play and not worry about if I'm going to be here. It helps out a lot,” Johnson said. “I can just focus on basketball and continue to keep working.”