Teammates, Coaches Taking Notice Of Muhammad's Play At Camp

Teammates, Coaches Taking Notice Of Muhammad's Play At Camp



Kyle Ratke
Web Editorial Associate

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Diving all over the place. Asking coaches for advice constantly. Down 10-15 pounds. Making the extra effort to make the extra pass. Fighting on the glass.

That was Timberwolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad during the first two days of Training Camp in Mankato. His head coach is noticing.

“He’s played really hard. He’s come in and he’s competed. The one thing he’s done consistently the first two days, he goes to the offensive boards and he really pounds people in there,” coach Rick Adelman said. “I think for a young guy, if they got to know that they have to play hard and they’ve got to try to impose their will. They have their strengths, and he’s been doing that the first two days.”

The rookie out of UCLA has turned heads for reasons that have come as a bit as a surprise. Muhammad was scouted as a natural scorer coming out of college and for good reason. The small forward/shooting guard finished his first and final year in college averaging 17.9 points per game. But he knows the Timberwolves have plenty of scorers: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, J.J. Barea, Nikola Pekovic to name a few.

The Wolves need Muhammad to do the dirty work.

“Obviously as a rookie you’re going to come in and be a second, third team guy,” Muhammad said “You have to work your way up. That’s the way it is in every sport. So I don’t mind, I’m just going to work hard and see what happens.”

Over the last year, Muhammad has answered his fair share of questions about his commitment to team basketball.

Since then, though, he’s been focused on doing all the right things, mentally and physically. He’s come into camp noticeably slimmer, down about 10-15 pounds since he was drafted.

How did he do it?

“I mean it’s just diet. Watching what I eat,” Muhammad said. “I have a chef now. Just carrying yourself as a pro is something you really need to look at. Being mature as a player is something you really need to look at.”

Not even any cheeseburgers?

“No, no cheeseburgers or nothing like that,” Muhammad said. “It’s been great.”

His mental approach to the game seems to have gone up another level as well and that will be important for Muhammad. With the recent news about Chase Budinger undergoing knee surgery this week, the rookie will have a chance to get some minutes to fill Budinger’s role. He knows nothing will be handed to him, especially with a coach like Adelman who has been known to make his rookies fight for everything.

“I don’t expect anything,” Muhammad said. “Coming in, I just wanted to work hard and that’s coach Adelman’s decision and at the end of the day I’m going to try to do what’s best for the team and rebound the ball and work hard.”

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Muhammad has been his decision-making on the court. He doesn’t look like he’s forcing that extra pass or is telling himself to hustle down the court. He knows that his given talent isn’t going to will him to playing time.

“That’s one thing I’ve been changing my game, is learning how to pass the ball,” he said. “That’s one thing I think I’m doing a good job of the past two days. I think I’m going to continue to do that and everything will work out fine.”

The veterans have given him a helping hand along the way as well. During Tuesday’s practice, there was a time when Muhammad slowed down and had a question about the offensive scheme. Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin both came over to explain things to Muhammad. Learning experiences like that are invaluable during camp. Also going against those two players will help keep a player’s ego in check as well.

If Muhammad keeps this up, he’ll likely earn a few more minutes in preseason that could eventually turn into the regular season. There’s never been a doubt about his talent, but over the last two days, everything else has been clicking.

“He listens, you know. He’s got that good one-year UCLA education,” Love said. “He’s been a quick learner. We’re happy to have him, especially because he talks on defense but off the court he’s very respectful. He goes through the whole rookie process as we can see so far, and he just works hard.”


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