WASHINGTON – There's one word that gets thrown in almost any conversation with a member of the Timberwolves when talking about Gorgui Dieng: professional.
There was no shortage of praise for Dieng, who did more than just start in place of the suspended Karl-Anthony Towns during Saturday night's 131-109 victory over the Washington Wizards. He was a force on both ends of the floor in compiling 18 points, eight rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals.
Nobody was surprised Dieng stepped in and played like he did.
"It says a lot about him as a person," coach Ryan Saunders said. "Says a lot about him as a player and his ability to stay ready. I think he deserves a lot of credit — all the credit. We have guys who have helped him stay in, too. He's a great veteran for our team, and that's a nice luxury to have."
Dieng played just six minutes in the first four games this season, and if he was frustrated with his lack of playing time, he didn't let it show.
"It's good to be out there and play," Dieng said. "I always get myself ready to do what I can because I know it's going to be at least one time that you're going to get out there to play."
Dieng made the case that he deserves playing time when Towns returns following Monday's game against Milwaukee. He said he wasn't motivated in that way — he just wanted to play well.
"I'm not trying to make a case," Dieng said. "I'm just out there to do what I can. I can do this. I've been working on it and that's the result."
His teammates and his coach took notice, and the Wolves were able to turn what could have been a difficult night without Towns into a laugher.
That's the mentality that the guys have to have," Robert Covington said. "Gorgui is a living example. Wasn't in the rotation, but he was sitting up here and he made it happen. He stayed ready. He put the time in. Gorgui is a true professional."
Culver gets going
There was another positive development for the Wolves on Saturday — rookie Jarrett Culver had a career high 20 points. That included a 4-for-9 effort from three-point range.
"I'm just sticking to the process," Culver said. "Through ups and downs, I'm continuing to work hard, and my team and coaches have confidence in me."
Saunders cautioned against terming Culver's start slow, and said the NBA is still very much an adjustment at this stage for Culver.
"I don't consider it a slow start. I don't," Saunders said. "Because rookies, everything is different in the NBA. … There's little things that you have to get comfortable with and the pace to everything, the speed of the game. Sometimes all it takes is one game, even one quarter to really slow the game down, slow your mind down a little bit. He was very good tonight."