Lee Comfortable With NBA Transition

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Long before Kevin Love and Malcolm Lee became Timberwolves teammates, the two shared a sacred bond in the college basketball world. It was Love, a freshman at UCLA at the time, who acted as a host for Lee during one of his recruiting visits to the campus.

From Day 1, Love said he saw the potential in the 6-foot-5 guard. Lee's versatility playing both positions in the back court—and his knowledge of the game—beamed through even as a senior at John W. North High in Riverside, Calif. And even though Love left college before Lee joined the Bruins' squad, he knew the young guard had potential to do big things.

"I definitely saw it in him," Love said. "I'm glad he's playing at this level, and I'm glad he's on my team."

Lee will likely get a chance to showcase his talent tonight in the Timberwovles' exhibition finale in Milwaukee. The Wolves will be shorthanded in their back court with both Ricky Rubio and JJ Barea limited in action this week.

It's an opportunity Lee is relishing.

Coming out of high school, Lee ranked as Rival.com's No. 5 shooting guard in the country, and that athleticism translated to the collegiate level. With the Bruins, he played in 94 games during his three years and averaged 13.1 points per game in his junior season.

His background playing both guard positions was a bright spot for the Timberwolves, prompting the franchise to trade for Lee after he was drafted by the Bulls in the second round of last year's draft.

In camp, Love said the rookie is making strides each day. He's putting in the extra effort on the floor and showing an ability to quickly grasp the team's game plans.

During Saturday's first preseason contest with the Bucks, Lee played just four minutes and picked up three points and one rebound. Tonight, he'll look to take the next step in his progression.

The biggest change from the college game?

"I'd probably just say how quickly things move," Lee said. "Not necessarily pace-wise, but just learning the offense. They give you a lot of things to learn, and you've got to go out there and do it on the court. But it's just learning."

His coaching staff is seeing the progress.

Head coach Rick Adelman said he's looking forward to seeing Lee, among others who got fewer than five minutes of playing time on Saturday, get some extra minutes. Assistant coach Terry Porter said Lee's biggest asset on the floor is his physical ability to perform both offensively and defensively—both parts of his game that can develop in time.

"He just plays. He does a lot on the defensive end," Porter said. "He's very quick, physical, explosive. Offensively, he can get to the basket. He is shooting the ball well off from the NBA three."

Part of that ability to adapt to the NBA could be his background with the Bruins. UCLA has produced several talented guards in the past 12 years, including Baron Davis, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday.

That Bruins back court lineage—as well as his longtime connection to Love on the Wolves—is making the transition a little bit easier for the former UCLA standout.

Now, he'll get his chance to contribute to youthful Wolves squad with high hopes for the winter.

"We'll have a lot of potential because all of the talent we've got," Lee said. "I think we'll be fun to watch, because we've got fresh legs and we can run out on the open court and can make things happen."

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