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The Timberwolves Are Throwing Punches At The Worst Possible Time

9:29 AM EDT on April 10, 2023

Rudy Gobert swings at Kyle Anderson in a team huddle.

The final day of the NBA regular season was a good opportunity for guys like Udonis Haslem, Kenneth Lofton Jr., and Thanasis Antetokounmpo to show out, since many stars on playoff-bound teams were resting. But the most meaningful moment on Sunday was watching the job security of Minnesota Timberwolves executive Tim Connelly dwindle as his big offseason acquisition tried to punch one of his teammates.

During a huddle in the second quarter of the Timberwolves' game against the Pelicans, Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson began to argue with each other. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski would later report that the conversation included "Anderson telling Gobert to block some shots, and Gobert telling Anderson to grab a 'bleeping' rebound." ESPN's Zach Lowe also reported that the argument involved Gobert talking about a back injury he suffered on Saturday. What prompted Gobert to throw a punch, though, was Anderson reportedly telling him to "shut the fuck up, bitch."

After the tussle, Gobert skulked back to the locker room; the team told him to hit the showers and not return. Anderson was furious for about five seconds before his teammates successfully calmed him down. The T-Wolves were losing by 12 when Gobert swung at Slow Mo. They ended up beating New Orleans, 113-108. The Pelicans must be really fucked up if they're losing to those guys.

Somehow this was the Timberwolves' second internal fight of the day. The first occurred a little earlier between Jaden McDaniels and a wall. The wall won; McDaniels fractured his hand and was ruled out for the rest of the season, however long that may be (for this team, probably not too much longer).

After the win, Anderson was much calmer about the huddle fight, possibly because he was no longer in the presence of a guy who tried to hit him. "It ain't the first time someone has swung on me. It is what it is. We keep it in-house," he told reporters. "Tempers just flared, that's all."

A funny twist to all of this is that Gobert conducted an interview with T-Wolves beat writer Chris Hine on Saturday and said that he appreciated Anderson's tough love and honesty. Only a day later, he seemed to have found the limits of that appreciation.

Hours after the game, Gobert tweeted an apology to everyone, including Anderson:

The Timberwolves have a choice to make for Tuesday's play-in game against the Lakers: Does Gobert play, or do they suspend him? Realistically, you don't want to shorten your roster, especially in light of McDaniels's injury. Then again, the team seemed to get along better once the 7-foot-1 agitator was no longer on the sideline, and this conduct was definitely detrimental. (Update: They've suspended him!)

Regardless of whether Gobert dresses or sits, it is a deeply humiliating situation for Connelly, the team's president of basketball operations. Last summer he traded Walker Kessler, a bunch of less important guys, and four first-round picks to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Gobert. The Timberwolves will pay Gobert more than $40 million per season over the next three seasons. Ever since making the trade, Connelly has had to defend that decision. ("I'm a big boy," he said in February when asked about criticism of the trade.) Gobert was supposed to be a central piece of this team, someone who would take the Timberwolves to the next level. They couldn't finish in the top six of the West, and right now, he looks like the thing holding them back.

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