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Greg Monroe gives Timberwolves experience, flexibility heading into postseason

At age 31, Monroe has playoff experience. The 6-foot-11, 265 pound center also has a big body and physicality the Timberwolves, at times, desperately need.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago Bulls center Tristan Thompson drives against Minnesota center Greg Monroe on Sunday, April 10, 2022, at Target Center in Minneapolis. Monroe has become a key player as the Wolves enter the postseason.
Nick Wosika / USA Today Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- The moment Greg Monroe was brought up to Chris Finch after the Minnesota Timberwolves had officially signed the big man to a rest-of-season deal, the coach brought up what still remains in everyone’s mind.

“He was big for us,” Finch said. “He helped us win a big game.”

That would be the Celtics game at Target Center in late December, in which Monroe showed up at the team facility for the first time late in the afternoon, and hours later was the centerpiece of Minnesota’s attack on a night in which the Wolves’ roster was ravaged by COVID-19. The Wolves beat a good Celtics team that night, one of the more memorable wins of the season.

Monroe continued to help the Wolves throughout his 10-day contract with the team before moving on. Finch explained this week that Minnesota “thought about” keeping the veteran center way back when, “but were unable to do so.” Such an addition at that point in the season could’ve moved the Wolves into the luxury tax.

So instead, Monroe went on a tour of the NBA, traveling from one stop to the next on 10-day deals. He played for Washington, Milwaukee and then Utah before eventually finding his way back to Minnesota this week.

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“It’s a part of the game, especially with everything going on, COVID still. I ain’t the only guy that’s had to do it,” Monroe said of his frequent travels with brief layovers. “It’s a whirlwind, but it’s also been fun and I’m still playing the game I love, still playing basketball. Just take it in stride and adjust on the fly.”

But now he’s found a home, at least for the rest of the season — however long that lasts for Minnesota. Monroe will be on the Timberwolves’ playoff roster and could potentially play a role in the team’s postseason success. At age 31, Monroe has playoff experience. The 6-foot-11, 265 pound center also has a big body and physicality the Timberwolves, at times, desperately need.

Naz Reid has been great in many contests this season backing up Karl-Anthony Towns but doesn’t always fare well against bigger frontcourts.

“We just need some size, we need some rebounding, we need a different type of big. We just don’t know what’s on the horizon. He’s an excellent fit in our system with his passing and the way we like to play through the elbows and stuff like that,” Finch said. “I see a role for him. We play some big guys. (Clippers center Ivica) Zubac is a big guy. (Pelicans center Jonas) Valanciunas is a big guy. There’s some big guys out there.”

Monroe showed up just five days before the Wolves’ first postseason competition — Tuesday’s play-in game against the Clippers — but he noted having familiarity from his previous run with the Wolves is helpful to his transition.

“I mean anytime you have familiarity it makes it a little bit easier. Coming in, understanding the way they play already. Understanding some of the offenses,” Monroe said. “I learned a couple other playbooks since I was here. Once you get back out here, in practice we went over some stuff, it comes back a little bit. Definitely happy to be back here. It definitely helps to understand the concepts and what they’re trying to do as a team.”

Monroe entered Sunday’s contest against Chicago roughly seven minutes into the first quarter and instantly served as a plug for Minnesota’s interior issues on a night when Towns didn’t dress. The veteran knows what will be asked of him on this team.

“I know it’s one of the reasons I’m here, to bring some physicality to the team. So I understand that’s something that they want to see from not just me, but they want to see from all the guys to bring a level of physicality,” Monroe said. “Getting ready for the playoffs, you just have to. The game gets more physical, it slows down a little bit more, it’s more of a grind-it-out type of game in the playoffs. I think these guys are ready to take on the challenge. I’m definitely going to try to bring as much physicality as I can, knowing that’s something they’re focusing on getting ready for the playoffs.”

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