Wolves give Johnson, Gelabale new deals
JAN 29, 2013 1:24p ET
And so the thing plays out for 10 more days.
The Timberwolves announced Tuesday that they’d re-signed Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale to 10-day contracts. Both players were initially inked to such deals, which expired after Monday, on Jan. 19, and it’s hardly a surprise that the Timberwolves chose to extend them.
Johnson, a center, has averaged 9.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 17.2 minutes per game. His 72.0 percent shooting is the best of any player on the team, and he’s provided his fair share of explosive dunks an alley-oop finishes in his five games with the team. During the same time span, Gelabale, a forward, has been good for 7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, averaging 21.8 minutes. His 55.6 percent shooting is second only to Gelabale’s on the current roster, and he provides an option to back up Andrei Kirilenko at small forward and even to add some size at shooting guard if necessary.
With the numbers the two have been posting and the offense they’ve brought to a struggling team, the choice should be easy. Sign them. Extend them. Keep them around. That was coach Rick Adelman’s line of thinking, at least, after watching the two from afar for almost the entirety of their first stints. “The way things have gone this year, as soon as you get rid of somebody, somebody gets hurt," he said Tuesday. “Let’s err on the side of caution this time."
The Timberwolves are lucky. They’ve been allowed caution, granted it from on high, because if the NBA hadn’t agreed to extend their injury exception, the two signings would have been impossible. Gelabale is the 16th player on the roster, allowed to be there only because the Timberwolves have four players ( Kevin Love, Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee) who will be out for two or more weeks and because the league has agreed with that assessment.
The injury exception won’t run out, at least not until the team gets healthy. There’s no limit to how many times the 14-day doses of special treatment can be granted if the team remains this injured, and it looks to stay as such for a while, with Lee shut down for the season, Love out likely until mid-March, Budinger gone for at least another month and Brandon Roy hovering in cartilage-less limbo. The catch, though, is that time is going to run out on the other end, with Gelabale and Johnson.
A team can only offer two 10-day contracts per season, per player. That means that 10 days from now, at the end of the day on Feb. 7, a decision will have to be made. Even if that injury exception is granted again, one of the players will have to be out the door, unless the Timberwolves make another roster move. If one player succeeds in the next 10 days and the other fails, the decision should be easy: Sign success and axe failure, and if there’s still an exception in place, replace him with another player for 10 more days. If both play well, though, that’s where things get dicey.
Say that’s the case, that the two keep up their current levels of play and that the Timberwolves want to keep them around. In that case, the team would have to cut someone or make a minor trade to clear a roster spot, and the obvious someone in that case is Lou Amundson.
In just five games, Johnson and Gelabale have each made more field goals than Amundson has all season. By the end of this next 10-day contract, each will also likely have surpassed Amundson in minutes played in a Timberwolves uniform if things stay at their current pace. Acting coach Terry Porter was playing the two 10-day guys over Amundson in every game, and so it would seem logical that they get to stick around over him.
Here’s the issue, though: All of this has been done in five games. Five. That’s a teeny tiny sample size to justify throwing a guaranteed, $1.1 million contract down the drain, along with the fact that Amundson has played 40-plus games in a season four times in his NBA career. Johnson has never done so, and Gelabale has once, in 2006-07, before he blew out his knee.
So no, this is not to say mediocrity over time should overpower solid, even good play in a brief period. But it is to say in the case of the Timberwolves, thank goodness for 10-day contracts and injury exceptions. Thank goodness they are allowed to procrastinate, that procrastinating is the most viable option. Making a decision after 10 games is hardly circumspect, but it’s better than five, and 20 days is all they’re going to be allowed when it comes to Johnson and Gelabale in-season. If one, or both, makes a compelling case to stay, then you can hardly fault the Timberwolves for throwing around a bit more money, at them or down the drain in the case of Amundson.
Gelabale and Johnson, for their part, each know what they’re facing. With congratulations on the second deal showering down around him, Johnson was quick to point out on Tuesday that he felt he’d fallen off a bit in his past two games. He’s been working with Adelman since his return, he said, figuring out what he’s doing well and what he needs to work on.
Gelabale too, knows the value of improvement, knows that just doing what he’s done already isn’t going to be enough. You can’t rest on your laurels when they have a 10-day expiration date, and neither is about to do so.
“I am going to give everything I got and try to stay," Gelabale said.
Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.
+ SHOW COMMENTS +