Timberwolves suspend Rudy Gobert for play-in game at Lakers after punching Kyle Anderson
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Timberwolves regular season came to an end Sunday at Target Center with more drama than a daytime soap opera.
The day started with the Timberwolves needing to beat the New Orleans Pelicans in the finale, and have the L.A. Lakers lose to the Jazz to host a game in the NBA’s Play-In Tournament Tuesday night for the No. 7 seed. Before the Timberwolves left the Target Center court with a victory, they sent star center Rudy Gobert home and lost Jaden McDaniels, likely for the rest of the season, because of a pair of punches.
Coming out of a timeout in the second quarter, Gobert was arguing with Kyle Anderson. With the Timberwolves down 12 at the time, Anderson was telling him to block shots. Gobert responded by telling his teammate to grab rebounds. Anderson followed it with an expletive at Gobert, and Gobert then took a swing at him.
The two were separated, and Gobert went straight to the locker room. Attempts to calm the situation down at half only made it worse, and the Timberwolves sent Gobert home. In the most important game of the season with playoff seeding on the line, the team couldn’t keep its cool.
The Timberwolves announced Monday they are suspending Gobert for Tuesday's play-in game at L.A. for throwing a punch at Anderson. Because it was a hit to the chest without intent to injure, Gobert could return if the Timberwolves lose Tuesday and play the Pelicans/Thunder winner Friday night, or if they earn the No. 7 seed in the West with a win over the Lakers.
"We want to win games. It is what it is, it ain’t the first time someone has swung on me," Anderson said in the locker room after the game. "It is what it is, we keep it in-house."
Timberwolves front office head Tim Connelly issued a statement after the game.
"We made the decision to send Rudy Gobert home after the incident in the second quarter. His behavior on the bench was unacceptable and we will handle the situation internally," Connelly said.
Gobert went to social media Sunday night to apologize.
"Emotions got the best of me today. I should not have reacted the way I did regardless of what was said. I wanna apologize to the fans, the organization and particularly to Kyle, who is someone that I truly love and respect as a teammate," Gobert wrote on Twitter.
"It was kind of a microcosm of our season, if you think about it. All the stuff that went on in that game," Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. "It’s not something we condone. Veterans can get upset, too, so I don’t want to be too hard on him. But obviously it’s not something we’re going to be able to tolerate here."
Timberwolves’ players said after the game Gobert had already reached out to them in a group text to apologize.
The Timberwolves will now be without their biggest offseason acquisition for their first playoff game, and McDaniels.
Letting out some frustration, McDaniels went down a tunnel and punched a wall. By his reaction, he knew immediately something was wrong. The Timberwolves announced Monday that after X-rays and further imagine, results showed McDaniels suffered fractures in the third and fourth metacarpals. His right hand has been put in a cast, and he's out indefinitely.
McDaniels missed only three regular season games, averaging a career-high 12.1 points per game. He shot 59 percent from the field, and averaged 3.9 rebounds per game.
McDaniels has thrived as a role player with the Timberwolves, often guarding the opponent’s best offensive player. But he's also had times where emotions have gotten the best of him. It couldn't have happened at a worse time Sunday.
"Certainly immaturity has been one of our issues all season," Finch said. "We’ve been immature at the wrong times, probably points to why we’re 3-9 or 3-10 against some of the teams we should be better against. But those days are gone, we’ve got to focus now on what we’ve got and I guess we play the Lakers."
What might be lost in Sunday’s drama is that the Timberwolves beat the Pelicans 113-108, and finished in the No. 8 spot in the West. Win Tuesday in L.A., and they’re the No. 7 seed for the playoffs. Lose, and the Timberwolves host the Pelicans/Thunder winner Friday night for the final playoff spot.