Anthony Gill doesn't often play, which means his teammates rarely talk about him. So, it wasn't until Friday night, the Wizards' 60th game of the season that we learned a very interesting fact about the 28-year-old rookie. Not only is he arguably the hardest worker on the Wizards, he's the hardest working player Raul Neto has ever seen.
That made what Gill did on Friday night that much more gratifying for him, his coaches and teammates. Gill had previously only appeared in 18 games this season, basically never getting meaningful minutes outside of garbage time. A former UVa standout, he was brought over from the EuroLeague because of his 3-point shooting but has yet to find a consistent role in the Wizards' rotation.
The Wizards, though, were playing the Thunder in their first game since learning starting forward Deni Avdija was lost for the season due to a hairline fracture in his fibula. A door was opened for others to step up.
Isaac Bonga got the start and Chandler Hutchison got some playing time. But it was Gill who made the most of the opportunity, playing so well in the first half he supplanted Bonga to start the third quarter. He had nine points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes.
"AG, I'm proud of him. He hasn't played much," head coach Scott Brooks said. "The guy works harder than anybody on our team. He comes in every day. He comes in early. He's always cheering his teammates on, he's the first one up [off the bench]."
Brooks said he was looking for a "jolt" when he turned to Gill in the second quarter. The Wizards have won seven straight games and nine of 10 in large part due to their defense, but it didn't look that way early in Oklahoma City, as they allowed 68 first-half points.
Gill came in and brought energy to that end of the floor. He also had a smooth drive with a Eurostep in the lane and he knocked down a 3.
Gill looked much more decisive with the ball than he did earlier this season, a sign he is adjusting to the speed of the NBA game. That improvement, of course, goes back to the work ethic.
"For me it's been big this year and every year, no matter what team I'm on or where I'm at in the country or out of the country, to be the hardest worker. I want to be the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. That's always my goal," Gill said.
"It's good to see that guys have noticed. I don't do it for everyone to notice. I do it to support the team as best I can and set the tone as far as working hard. I figure if I'm in the gym every day then so can everybody else. I just want to motivate everybody I can in whatever way I can."
Having that hard work pay off was clearly a positive for the Wizards. Everyone who spoke of Gill explained how satisfying it was to see him have success, knowing what he does behind the scenes.
"Anthony works his tail off every single day, every morning. He does all the right things," Russell Westbrook said. "When you see that happen, you want to make sure guys like that get rewarded. It's a blessing to be able to see him on the floor doing great things."
"AG's one of our best teammates. He's one of our hardest workers," Bradley Beal said. "He doesn't complain. He shows up every day and puts the work in. It's all about opportunity and being ready when your name is called."
All that effort for Gill may now come in handy with Avdija out. It was an unfortunate development for the team, but Gill could be the next man up. He's waited a long time for this opportunity, now it's time to take advantage.