Wolves newcomer Gorgui Dieng is a big fan of 'U' coach Richard Pitino
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Gorgui Dieng's first days with the Minnesota Timberwolves have been a hectic whirlwind of getting acquainted with his new team and an unfamiliar city.
But luckily for Dieng, whom the Wolves mounted a draft day trade with the Jazz to grab at No. 21, his arrival in Minnesota has created an unexpected reunion between two friends.
Dieng and University of Minnesota coach Richard Pitino formed a close bond when Dieng was a sophomore at Louisville and Pitino was serving as a Cardinals assistant under his dad, Rick. Pitino left in 2011 to become the head coach at Florida International, but the young coach and the 6-foot-11 center from Senegal stayed close.
So when the one-in-thirty odds fell in his favor on draft day, Dieng was excited about the extra bonus of being in Minneapolis.
"Richard is just like a brother to me," Dieng said Wednesday, talking after the first day of the Wolves' Summer League practices. "He will always be there anytime I need him. I'm sure I'm going to get to see him plenty of the time while I'm here."
Pitino and Dieng have gone out to dinner together since the Wolves picked up the shot-blocking big man two weeks ago, but Pitino is still waiting on Dieng to take him up on his offer to come by campus and meet his new Gophers team.
Dieng, who expects to stop by a Gophers practice once Summer League wraps up, laughed when he said that Pitino was asking him to come work out at Williams Arena during the lead-up to the draft, but his agent told him no.
Dieng should have plenty of time to roll by Minnesota's campus now. The Wolves are hoping Dieng, with his size and fine-tuned instincts on the defensive end, can be a valuable commodity off the bench in the post.
The spotlight is on Dieng and fellow Wolves first round pick Shabazz Muhammad (No. 14 overall), as the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League gets ready to kick-off this weekend. It will be the Wolves' first look at their newest additions as they try to quickly adapt to the offensive and defensive schemes used by coach Rick Adelman.
If the transition has been anything but smooth for Dieng, you wouldn't be able to tell by talking to him. His reserved and mature off-court demeanor and a notable on-court focus make him the ideal candidate to quickly absorb the flurry of instructions he and the 15 others on the Wolves' Summer League roster are having thrown at them.
"I'm trying to be a listener, take it in and I'm sure they're going to make me a better basketball player," Dieng said. "I have no worries about anything right now. The one thing I can do is just be a good listener and emphasize everything they give me."
• Thursday is the second day of the Wolves' Summer League practices. They will wrap up with their fifth practice in a three-day stretch on Friday and head to Las Vegas, where they will open play on July 13 (5:30 p.m. CT) against the NBA D-League Select team.
For the players on the Wolves' squad, which includes Dieng, Muhammad, second round pick Lorenzo Brown and several free agent invitees, the Summer League practices can be a bit of information overload.
"It's a lot to take in," said Wolves assistant coach David Adelman, who is handling the Summer League head coaching duties.
"It's different for each guy," Adelman said. "Guys who were in programs in college that maybe were more set-oriented have a harder time, because it's a lot of motion, a lot of options to choose from, and they have to kind of get used to being independent, playing on their own. You're trying to give them a structure, but not make them feel like they're a robot."
• When asked if where he plans to use Muhammad, the Wolves' 6-foot-6, 222-pound top draft pick, more at the two or the three spot, David Adelman shook off the distinction.
"For us the two and the three are the same," Adelman said. "On all of our offensive schemes, pretty much 95% of it, the two and the three have equal responsibility ... We'll try to match up a lot of different people and see what he can and can't do."