Glut of centers has become an asset for Timberwolves

NEW ORLEANS — Coming into the season, the Timberwolves had Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns on the roster. That's two centers taking up spots, with both penciled in for major minutes.

They still had Naz Reid, who has proved to be a reliable backup, as their third center. They had re-signed Nathan Knight, who has primarily played center when he has gotten into the lineup, and then the team decided to keep Luka Garza as a fifth center with their 17 roster spots.

Coach Chris Finch said he understands if people around the NBA thought the Wolves were "crazy" coming out of training camp.

"But all those guys earned their opportunities onto this team in a variety of ways," Finch said.

The glut of centers has turned out to be a strength of the Wolves roster because they have been able to carry on at the position despite Towns missing nearly two months now because of a right calf strain and Gobert being in and out of the lineup with injuries.

"The season comes with ebbs and flows, minutes come in ebbs and flows, so you just got to come in with the goal of just being a little bit better than you were the day before," Knight said. "The opportunities will always find you."

Reid has earned seven starts and is playing 17.9 minutes per game. Early in the season with Towns and Gobert healthy, there were nights he didn't play.

Garza has had productive moments in games against Denver and Portland while Knight has earned his most minutes the past few games and helped the Wolves overcome a sleepy performance to win Saturday's game against the Rockets.

"We're always bouncing constructive criticism off each other," Knight said. "I don't think I'd be where I am right now without Luka and Naz. All summer we were here getting better. Luka comes in and fits like a glove. We are pretty much the same person mentally in how we approach the game."

There is competition among Reid, Knight and Garza, but there is also a lot of support to see one another thrive when they get minutes.

"You still want them to be successful," Reid said. "So you talk to each and every one of those guys. I might see something on the court, say something to them adjustment-wise of whatever the case may be and they might say something to me. At the same time, we're all trying to help each other get better."

Ingram returns

The Wolves happened to be in town the night forward Brandon Ingram returned to the lineup for the Pelicans. Ingram had been out since Nov. 28 because of an injury to a big toe.

The Pelicans were 16-14 in this stretch of games with Ingram out and had lost their previous five entering Wednesday night.

"I didn't think it would take this long," Ingram told reporters on Tuesday. "But I had to listen to my body before I got back on the floor with my teammates and before I got back to playing basketball."

Ingram was averaging 20.8 points in the 15 games he played this season and was shooting 47% from three-point range.

Injury updates

Forward Taurean Prince missed his second consecutive game because of a sprained left ankle. Prince was not in uniform for shootaround. Finch said Prince was considered "day to day."

Gobert came into the game questionable again because of right groin soreness after playing in Monday's game, but he wound up starting Wednesday.