Muhammad's D-League Assignment An Opportunity To Grow, Develop For The NBA Game

Muhammad's D-League Assignment An Opportunity To Grow, Develop For The NBA Game

Shabazz Muhammad seems to be approaching his rookie season the right way. For a player who was a highly-touted high school recruit and a one-and-done standout at UCLA, Muhammad’s rookie season hasn’t been a continuation what he’s used to on the basketball court. His minutes have been scarce—often coming when the game’s outcome is secured.

But Muhammad has maintained his focus throughout. He’s continued to be committed to improving his game on a daily basis, and he understands his role as a young player in the league is to learn each day regardless of playing time.

“There’s a lot of guys ahead of me on the team right now,” Muhammad said. “So that’s just something I have to do.”

This week, Muhammad will get an opportunity to gain more minutes and apply the lessons and tricks he’s learned from the Wolves veterans and coaching staff as he makes the transition to the NBA Development League’s Iowa Energy. Muhammad will join the team for their two-game stint in Reno as part of the D-League Showcase, then likely stay with the Energy as they head back to Des Moines in order to get more time on the court, showcase his skills and get his conditioning back to game shape.

All along, coach Rick Adelman has maintained Muhammad’s work ethic—the issue has been finding minutes on a team where others are ahead of him on the depth chart.

This trip to the Energy will help Muhammad get back on the court.

“I don’t think it’s an easy situation, but I think just the way he’s handled the not playing and everything, he’s been terrific all year long,” Adelman said. “His attitude and the way he’s approaching everything—I think he’s going to be fine. He’s going to have a chance, and he’s not going to be down there very long. So I think he’ll make the most out of his opportunity.”

Muhammad will join the Energy for their first game of the showcase on Tuesday night against Bakersfield at 2:45 p.m. CT on NBATV. Iowa’s second game of the showcase is at 5:30 p.m. CT on Thursday and can be watched on the Energy’s YouTube channel.

Bottom line for Muhammad is this will get him more minutes on the floor and help him develop his game.

“I’d rather go down and play right now to be honest with you,” he said. “Watching is a good thing, but sometimes you just want to go out and play. And it feels like I haven’t played a game in a while. That’s something I’m excited to do.”

This is the first year of Minnesota’s partnership with the Iowa Energy, and it’s an opportunity for the Timberwolves to fully use its D-League affiliate to help develop its younger players for the future. Over the past two years, only Malcolm Lee went back and forth between Minnesota’s former D-League team—the Sioux Falls Skyforce—and that was after a knee rehab stint.

But with new President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders in the front office, the Wolves have a chance to build a strong relationship with the Energy through player development. Saunders, of course, got his coaching start in the Continental Basketball Association, and he’s aware through his own experiences how NBA personnel can thrive when given the opportunity to learn and grow in the D-League.

Part of the NBA’s fabric is developing players and helping them move on to the next level, Saunders said in an interview with in October. Muhammad said Saunders told him he’d watch his games with the Energy and would call him daily to discuss his play.

Adelman has similar success stories with making a similar roster move. He did the same thing with Aaron Brooks in Houston, and Brooks returned to the Rockets, got an opportunity to play and became an important piece of the team’s success.

“[Adelman] says keep working hard—he sees that I’m doing a really good job of staying after practice and getting shots up,” Muhammad said. “He said he likes the way I’m playing, and there will be an opportunity sooner or later so just be ready. That’s something I will put in my mind and just be ready to play.”

Muhammad said he understands there is a pecking order to getting minutes and achieving success in the NBA, and he’s willing to work toward earning his time on the court.

It starts Tuesday with the Energy.

“It gets me really excited,” he said. “To go out there and show everybody I can play, going to Reno and getting opportunities. It’s something I’m looking forward to.”

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.