Leandro Bolmaro has put in his time, on the bench, learning. He has put in the miles, traveling between the Timberwolves and the Iowa Wolves of the G League, getting playing time and doing what he can to transition from playing in Spain to the NBA.
In Philadelphia on Saturday, in a tension-packed, two-overtime victory over the 76ers, Wolves coach Chris Finch put Bolmaro in a real, important spot.
With Patrick Beverley injured and Jordan McLaughlin struggling on offense, Finch made the 6-6 Bolmaro the primary backup to point guard D'Angelo Russell, looking for Bolmaro's combination of size and quickness to be a benefit on defense.
Bolmaro played 17 minutes. He played good defense on Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey. He scored three points, got three boards and an assist in 17 minutes.
"It's good," Bolmaro said after morning shootaround Monday. "I'm really happy for that, for the work that I am doing every day. I wait 20 games to be in the rotation. So this is, for me, amazing. To have this opportunity is really nice for me."
Finch said Bolmaro — whose defense is ahead of his offense at this point — acquitted himself well. Noting that Bolmaro has played in a lot of big games in Europe and has done well when sent to the G League, Finch was impressed with the 17 minutes Bolmaro played Saturday.
"What he did the other night is what everybody should do with their first opportunities,'' Finch said. "Go in, be solid, don't make mistakes."
Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns complimented Bolmaro after Saturday's game, comparing the role he might eventually play for the Wolves would be akin to what Shaun Livingston used to do as a reserve for the Warriors.
Bolmaro said he loved the feeling of playing in a big game, on the road, in front of a big, loud crowd. He also said he has learned a lot from Beverley.
"A lot, a lot," he said. "He always says good things to learn — not just to me, to everybody. It's not just on defense, it's offense also. I am always listening to everybody. I want to improve."
Room to improve
The Wolves' offensive rating the past 10 games is 112.2, tied for fifth in the NBA. While going 6-1 over the past seven games, that number is 116.0, good for fourth in the league.
But Finch said there is still plenty of room to grow.
"Our pace is not consistently where we want it to be," Finch said. "I think we can get more out of our transition game. I think we can do a little bit better job [in] late-game execution. I think we can do a better job just understanding defensive tendencies right now. That usually takes about 25, 30 games, because by then you've see things enough times. I think there are growth areas across the board."
- The Wolves reached the 10-win plateau in 20 games this season. It took 41 games last season.
- Minnesota entered Monday's game having hit 10 or more three-pointers in 20 games.