After Overcoming Injuries, Hummel Gets His Shot This Preseason

After Overcoming Injuries, Hummel Gets His Shot

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Robbie Hummel worked hard for this. He’s answered all the health questions, he’s gone overseas for a season, and he went through two Summer League sessions getting to know the Wolves coaching staff, the system and his fellow teammates.

He did it all for this moment, for this opportunity. Hummel is getting his chance to fulfill his NBA dream this preseason with the Timberwolves as he battles for the final available spot on the team’s 2013-14 roster. Now, at this juncture of his well-documented athletic career, he’s got the opportunity he’s worked for: All knee issues aside, the criteria above all else is production on the court.

He showcased that production on Monday night in his first preseason game, scoring five points on 2-of-3 shooting in six minutes during his Timberwolves debut—a 108-106 overtime loss to CSKA Moscow.

“I’m trying to play as much as I can to show that I’m OK, and I think I’ve done that,” Hummel said. “I think I’ve said it before, but the only way I can prove that is by playing and playing and playing. That’s what I’m going to keep doing.”

Hummel was a standout at Purdue during his years in West Lafayette, but a pair of anterior cruciate ligament surgeries put his career on hold and complicated his path toward his dream. He tore his right ACL at the end of the 2009-10 season with the Boilermakers, then tore it again in the 2010-11 preseason. That forced him to miss the entire year.

Hummel was considered a potential lottery pick and certainly a first-round talent, but his knee injuries made NBA teams wary. He slipped to the second round in the 2012 NBA Draft, where the Wolves selected him with the 58th overall pick.

He worked with the Wolves staff during Summer League in 2012, then went to Spain last year to further prove his knees could handle the workload of a professional basketball career. There he averaged 10.2 points per game for Blusens Monbus. He came back to the U.S. for another round of Summer League with the Timberwolves and impressed the coaching staff with his maturity on the court, his scoring touch and his ability to defend multiple positions on the floor.

Now here he is in Minnesota getting repetitions alongside guys guaranteed to be on the Wolves’ roster this winter. Some of those guys, like Kevin Love, are All-Star caliber players. Hummel is holding his own. He showcased enough of his talent to gain praise from coach Rick Adelman because of his skill level and his ability to play both the small forward and power forward positions.

Adelman said earlier this week that players who can play multiple spots are of great value on this team, and if Hummel can continue to show he can put together spot minutes at the 3 and the 4, he certainly adds to his chances of making this roster.

His challenge will be defending on the perimeter and handling the size of opposing players inside.

“I think he’s probably more comfortable at the 4, because when you get out and run the floor guarding the 3 men in our league, they’re very active,” Adelman said. “But he can play it offensively. But at the 4, he’s a battler. I think he’s more comfortable defensively there. I think in our league, a guy like that who is like Kevin [Love], they space the court, they become really effective players.”

Hummel agreed. He said he can use his size to his advantage at the 3 spot, but he has more natural comfort at the 4. He’s used to stretching the floor by moving out to the perimeter in college. Playing both spots provides a challenge, but it also ensure he has the most chances of earning playing time. Defensively, Hummel's attention to team play and his sheer work ethic made him a player the Wolves used to guard multiple positions during Summer League. The challenge at the NBA level will be matching up with the overall size at the 4 and speed at the 3 throughout the NBA.

Offensively, his shooting is shooting is a big part of his game. Hummel has a smooth jumper, and during camp he’s hit with enough efficiency from the floor that teammate Ricky Rubio said, “he seems like he hasn’t missed a shot all camp—he’s very good in that area.”

“I guess I just want to be on the floor,” he said. “Whatever it takes to have that happen, I’m cool with whatever.”

Adelman said he’s a tough kid who can flat out shoot the ball. The question about him is whether or not another injury will catch up with him.

The Wolves are through their first preseason game, but there are three more this week alone. Hummel will continue to have the opportunity to continue showcasing all those traits. Whether he makes the team or not—he, Lorenzo Brown, Othyus Jeffers and A.J. Price are all competing for the one spot currently available on the roster—this is the chance Hummel has waited for. 

He’s on an NBA court with a chance to secure a role on this Timberwolves team. Putting the past aside, he’s got his chance to stand out on the merits of his play.

“You really don’t get closer than this, and it’s been great,” Hummel said. “You always dream of playing in the NBA as a kid watching—the games are always on TV. You don’t get much closer than this.”

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