The Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday suspended center Rudy Gobert for Tuesday's play-in game against the Los Angeles Lakers after he threw a punch at teammate Kyle Anderson in a team huddle Sunday.
The Timberwolves will be without Gobert and power forward Jaden McDaniels, who fractured the third and fourth metacarpals of his right hand after punching a wall in an arena tunnel in Sunday's costly victory over New Orleans.
If the eighth-seeded Timberwolves lose to the seventh-seeded Lakers on Tuesday, they'll return home Friday to play the winner of the New Orleans-Oklahoma City play-in game for a chance to advance into the Western Conference playoffs. If Minnesota wins on Tuesday, it will move on to a first-round playoff series.
Gobert, who is not traveling with the team to Los Angeles, publicly apologized and privately talked through the incident with Anderson, sources told ESPN, but the organization believed it had no choice but to suspend Gobert for Tuesday's crucial game against the Lakers.
The organization was unhappy with Anderson's part that started as a verbal squabble in a second-quarter timeout Sunday and escalated into Gobert throwing a punch at Anderson's chest after Anderson called him a "b----" several times, sources said.
Gobert had injured his back in Saturday's victory over San Antonio and insisted that he was playing through pain in Sunday's game and didn't deserve to have his effort challenged in the huddle, sources said. Still, it was understood that Gobert couldn't throw a punch at a teammate in an NBA game -- wherever it landed on him -- without facing team punishment.
McDaniels, who was averaging career-highs of 12.1 points and 59.1% shooting this season, punched the wall late in the first quarter after picking up his second foul and immediately started clutching his right hand. X-rays and further imaging Monday revealed the fractures, and he will be out indefinitely after having his hand placed in a cast.
The Timberwolves will also be without key backup center Naz Reid, who was lost for the season following surgery on his left wrist.
Minnesota acquired Gobert in a blockbuster deal with the Utah Jazz in July, giving up four first-round picks and All-Rookie center Walker Kessler as part of a trade package.