Wessel: Unlikely heros just another turn in Wolves' Bizarro world
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The NBA allows teams to carry 15 players on the roster. The Minnesota Timberwolves played Saturday's game with nine healthy bodies, two of which were signed in the morning just hours before the game.
And in a story that would be asinine in any other realm other than the Bizarro world that is the Wolves' season, Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale helped lead the Wolves to a 92-79 win over the Houston Rockets.
The pair combined for 26 points -- including the first 23 points of the fourth quarter.
"That's why we signed them. That's why we got them," Andrei Kirilenko joked.
Johnson scored 15 points on 4-of-4 shooting and grabbed six rebounds in 18 minutes. Gelabale scored 11 on 3-of-6 shooting in 22 minutes.
Yep, things have gotten to the point with the Wolves that a couple 10-dayers helped snap an ugly five-game losing streak before the ink on their contracts was dry.
J.J Barea walked over to Johnson's locker to congratulate him after the game. A reporter jokingly asked if Barea was saying congratulations or introducing himself.
Trying to predict this team has long become a fool's errand. Raise your hand if put you money on the prop bet Johnson would get multiple "MVP" chants while at the free-throw line.
"Yeah, I heard (the MVP chants)," Johnson said. "I don't agree with that at all."
It has been a season full of oddities and firsts. The superstar (Kevin Love) broke the same hand twice, the head coach (Rick Adelman) has now missed seven games and there have been countless other injuries. But even this was something new for acting coach Terry Porter.
"I don't recall in my experiences getting two guys like that and have them step in, put in the type of work for us tonight at both ends of the court," Porter said. "It was a great job by those guys. It was great to see."
A player signing a 10-day contract in the NBA is typically an afterthought. A roster spot needs filling, so a warm body is grabbed. Nobody pays much attention to him. Sometimes, he doesn't even get an actual locker, just a place to set his gear down and a folding chair to sit on. If he actually dresses for the game, he sits on the end of the bench and stands in the back of huddles.
But the Wolves aren't afforded the luxury of treating their 10-dayers as castoffs. The pair hadn't even joined the team until this morning, Gelabale last playing in the league in 2008 while Johnson had a cup of coffee last season in New Orleans.
The two haven't even practiced yet. They were present at shoot-around and were given an idea of the offense, but that isn't really something you can fully learn in an hour.
Johnson was in camp with the team before getting cut, giving him at least an idea.
"The guards put me in the right position because at times I really didn't know what to do offensively," Johnson said. "They put me in the right spots to be successful tonight."
They were learning on the fly. During one break in the action in the fourth quarter, with the game still in the balance, Rubio grabbed Johnson and frantically pointed out defensive positioning to him.
Somehow, someway, they found a way to do it. The Rockets came into the game reeling themselves, having played a physical Indiana Pacers team the night before and having lost six straight.
But this was a win the Wolves desperately needed. And they will take the wins any way they can get them, even if it means throwing two 10-day contract signees into the mix for a baptism by fire.
"We needed this one," Barea said. "We really did."