There is one particular falsehood about professional life that Keita Bates-Diop has quickly learned.
The former Ohio State star will open his NBA career as the Minnesota Timberwolves start their season at San Antonio on Wednesday night. After a strong preseason, the second-round draft pick will be in uniform and ready to assume whatever role coach Tom Thibodeau has planned for him.
Plus, he will start getting paid soon.
“Here’s what they don’t tell you: We haven’t actually gotten our first official NBA check,” Bates-Diop told The Dispatch in a phone interview after Tuesday’s practice. “We get maybe an advance or different stuff from Nike or whatever, but we actually haven’t gotten an official NBA check yet. I thought we started getting paid shortly after that draft. No, that’s not the case.”
As a result, Bates-Diop said his lifestyle has been much like the one he enjoyed for four years at Ohio State, but the similarities end there. Like most new pros, Bates-Diop said he has had to adjust to all the free time that is suddenly available without the looming pressures of homework and studying.
It has been a welcome change for Bates-Diop, who graduated midway through his final year at Ohio State.
“It was super weird at first,” he said. “We have practices in the morning now, and in college you have classes in the morning. We’re doing stuff all through the morning and we’re done officially at 1 or 2 and I have nothing I have to do.”
Each step of the journey, from predraft workouts to summer league to training camp and through the preseason, has come with another step up in speed and intensity, Bates-Diop said. During Minnesota’s five preseason games, he averaged 7.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in 20.4 minutes per game.
His first assignment? The two-time defending champions when the Timberwolves opened the preseason at Golden State.
“I’m out there in my first preseason game guarding Klay Thompson and Iggy (Andre Iguodala) and all those guys I’ve watched all through college dominate the NBA,” he said. “The stuff they were doing, how fast they were moving, the speed of the game, that was my ‘welcome to the NBA’ moment. I’ll probably have another one, but for now that’s definitely the one.”
Bates-Diop, a Normal, Illinois native who grew up watching the Chicago Bulls, said he has settled into a locker room that includes veteran Derrick Rose, a key member of those Chicago teams from his formative years. His locker at the practice facility is next to Tyus Jones, a former Duke guard entering his fourth NBA season who was in Bates-Diop’s recruiting class.
He likely won’t get as many minutes per game as he did during the preseason, but Bates-Diop said he is looking forward to assuming his role and building his career from there.
“I’m not the star of the team anymore,” he said. “That has been an adjustment, but I wasn’t the star early in my career in college, so I’m kind of used to filling in a role and doing what I can to help the team win.”