Photo: Minnesota Timberwolves/Twitter

The final day of the 2022-23 regular season can’t be more unforgettable because of the Rudy Gobert-Kyle Anderson fiasco. The two Minnesota Timberwolves teammates forged a fracas in the middle of their Sunday showcase against the New Orleans Pelicans, with Gobert hurling a punch at Anderson out of anger on their heated exchange, and were eventually ousted by the team at halftime.

Apparently, the event could have not happened if Gobert sat out of the game due to back spasms, but it was Anderson who made a key push for the big man to appear in the must-win matchup against the Pels.

According to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, Anderson, a known vocal team leader, emerged as one of the T-Wolves players who convinced Gobert to play on the weekend ender against the Pelicans. The French tower sustained back spasms last Saturday’s matchup with the San Antonio Spurs and was initially listed as questionable to play on Sunday. 

Amid this, he still proceeded to play upon the demands of Anderson, who made it clear to the star center that the duel is an urgent one while their teammates were expecting him to suit up. As noted by Krawczynski, the forward understands the back injury that Gobert has been nursing, as he missed 12 games due to the same condition this season. 

Gobert gave it a go, starting at the center as usual for Minnesota. But he struggled and was outmatched by his main matchup Jonas Valanciunas, who tallied seven points and seven boards in the first frame. New Orleans also came up huge in the said quarter, outrebounding the Wolves (16-6) while tallying 10-0 second-chance points – all of these can be connected to Gobert.

As the Pelicans maintained their hold of momentum in the second quarter, tensions and frustrations were already boiling at the Wolves camp. During a timeout, down 48-36, with 4:23 remaining in the first half, tempers have finally flared up between Gobert and Anderson.

As Anderson demanded him to play better defense on their sizzling argument, Gobert, having limited play due to back issues, reached the peak after he was referred to as “bitch” by the vet. He went on to hurl a punch over Anderson, which panicked the entire Wolves bench and went on to separate them.

Gobert was escorted out of the floor for the remainder of the first half, but his heat with Anderson remained steaming. The two still exchange verbal jabs within the locker room at halftime, as Anderson threatened him one time with “I’ll knock your ass out.” As such, team president Tim Connelly and front office executive Dell Demps entered the intensifying scene, noting Gobert that he is being sent home by the club prematurely. Mike Conley Jr., for his part, played an important role in calming down the stressed Timberwolves dugout and refocusing them on their challenging bout against the Pels heading to the second frame.

Even without the defensive big and Jaden McDaniels, who notoriously sustained a season-ending fractured right hand upon punching the wall minutes before the Gobert-Anderson altercation, the Timberwolves stood up resiliently against the adversity behind the lead of both Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns to etch a 113-108 victory, allowing themselves to evade the 9th-10th positioning in the Play-In tournament.

Moments after the match, Gobert penned down a tweet, expressing his remorse for the incident he had with Anderson. The veteran, for his part, already appeared willing to move on from the drama that took place which caught the entire attention of league circles.

The Timberwolves will advance to the Play-In stage in the dilemma of whether to bar Gobert with team sanctions due to what happened. Facing an L.A. Lakers team that is composed of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and D’Angelo Russell, the team can only brace for a daunting presentation regardless of the big man’s status on Tuesday.