Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez5 minute read
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves descended into a state of chaos on Sunday as they lost forward Jaden McDaniels for the season with a fractured right hand after hitting a wall of frustration and facing the possibility that center Rudy Gobert could be leveled with a suspension from the team for Tuesday’s Western Conference playoff against the Los Angeles Lakers for hitting teammate Kyle Anderson during a huddle, sources told ESPN on Sunday night.
The Timberwolves beat the New Orleans Pelicans to secure the eighth seed in the West, but team officials are debating whether to bar Gobert from going to Los Angeles on Monday, it said. sources.
What Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly planned to do with Gobert was still unclear Sunday night; the team announced after the game that Gobert had been sent home after a verbal altercation with Anderson escalated into a punch to the chest during a second quarter huddle following a timeout.
McDaniels hit the wall leading to the tunnel late in the first quarter, an apparent reaction after committing his second foul. McDaniels immediately began shaking his right hand and X-rays soon revealed a season-ending fracture, sources said.
It wouldn’t be the Timberwolves’ last punch in the first half.
Gobert and Anderson were arguing on opposite sides of a huddled second quarter, with sources describing the verbiage, including Anderson telling Gobert to block some shots, and Gobert telling Anderson to grab a “beep” rebound. For starters, it was a fairly ordinary emotional NBA huddle with a playoff berth on the line in the final game of the regular season, but sources say Gobert lost his temper and pulled a punch. in Anderson’s chest after Anderson told him: the f—- up, b—-.”
“That’s what sparked Rudy,” a source told ESPN, and soon the dispute escalated into the 7-foot-1 Gobert overtaking coaches and teammates to throw a punch that landed in the chest of Anderson. The two players continued the verbal tussle at half-time, sources said, but nothing turned physical again.
Gobert tweeted an apology to the team, fans and Anderson after the game, saying Anderson “is someone I really love and respect as a teammate”.
Gobert injured his back in a win over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday and barely played Sunday, sources said. He was in pain and believed he was fighting discomfort and referenced the limitations of his back when he argued with Anderson, sources told ESPN’s Zach Lowe on Sunday night.
Anderson said it was all “competitive in nature” when asked about the altercation after the game.
“Tempers are racing, you’re in the middle of a game, a game we all want to win, a huge game, that’s what it is,” Anderson said. “You know, it happens. It’s not the first time something like this has happened.”
Anderson, who replaced Gobert after the incident at 4:23 of the second quarter and started for Gobert in the second half, said it was something the two could overcome.
“We’re going to move forward,” Anderson said. “We want to win games. It’s what it is. We’re going to keep it at home. I mean, it’s not the first time someone has swung at me. … I think our tempers just broke. That’s all. That’s what it is. We’ll talk about it and move on. We’re grown men.
Mike Conley, who was Gobert’s teammate at Utah from 2019-22 and back to Minnesota after being traded to the Timberwolves at the deadline, called it one of the “crueldest victories” ever. all team members will be part of it.
“We could have easily parted ways,” Conley said. “Whether it’s Kyle and Rudy or hearing the Jaden news, it’s just like one hit after another. But it just brought us more.”
Conley added that Gobert had already texted the team’s group chat to apologize for the incident.
“It’s an emotional game,” Conley said. “You talk about two guys in Kyle and Rudy, two of the biggest competitors you’ll ever meet and things happen, honestly. Rudy will tell you first hand, he’s lost control and he’ll apologize for it. … But We have to be men. We have to be mature. Especially late in the season like this. We can’t let our emotions take over. He knows better than that. Kyle has challenged everyone. We know how it works. We must be able to accept it and move on.
The Timberwolves were trailing 48-36 when Gobert left the game and the team became more focused after the incident, Conley said. Minnesota trailed until the fourth quarter and took its first lead in the first bucket of the final period when Karl-Anthony Towns drained a 3-pointer.
Towns finished with 30 points and Anthony Edwards had 26 points and 13 rebounds to go along with 4 assists, 4 steals and 4 blocks.
“I’m super proud of my teammates, man,” Edwards said. “We were down about 14 in the third at one point and battled through that same quarter. Then KAT comes out and gets the upper hand in the fourth. That’s super big, man.”
While the Timberwolves were able to advance to give themselves two chances to make the play-in tournament, they will have to do so without McDaniels.
“Certainly immaturity has been one of our issues all season,” Finch said. “We’ve been immature at the wrong times. That probably explains why we’re 3-9 or 3-10 against some of the teams we should be better against.
“But those days are over. Now we have to focus on what we have and what we’re going forward. I guess we’re playing the Lakers, so we have to go.”
The injury is a huge loss for the Timberwolves as they head to a playoff against LeBron James and the Lakers. McDaniels was one of six players to defend the 2022-23 All-Stars at least 1,000 times this season, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information research.
The Timberwolves are already without backup center Naz Reid – who had had his most productive NBA season – with a broken wrist on March 29.
“We’re going to have more adversity to deal with,” Towns said. “We always have to earn it. So we just have to go out there and earn it.”
The winner of Wolves’ playoff against the Lakers will face the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. The loser will face the winner of Game 2 of the play-in between the Pelicans and the Oklahoma City Thunder for the right to play against the No. 1 seed Denver Nuggets.
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