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Notebook | Timberwolves Introduce Bell, Graham, Layman, Napier & Vonleh

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

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There was nothing groundbreaking discussed at Tuesday’s press conference in which the Wolves introduced Jordan Bell, Noah Vonleh, Jake Layman, Treveon Graham and Shabazz Napier. 

But with that, there were some fun tidbits that I found interesting! So here we go!

Also, we recorded a podcast with Vonleh, Graham and Napier after the press conference and I think it’s going to be awesome. So listen to that.

Bell Wants To Play For Saunders

For Bell, a player who can definitely guard all five positions, one intriguing aspect of playing for the Timberwolves is playing for head coach Ryan Saunders.

Saunders has an engaging personality and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t feel welcome when having a conversation with him.

For example, while in Las Vegas for Summer League, Saunders and Bell hung out and had a conversation about Drake. Yes, Drake. 

Can we have the audio for an upcoming episode of The Layup Line?!

“Coach Kerr’s never talked to me about Drake before,” Bell joked.

Of course, having conversations about Drake doesn’t mean you’ll win 50 games. But casual conversations can start to lay the foundation for a culture of communication.

“I think you don’t really find coaches you can relate to,” Bell said. “ . . . You can talk to him about certain things and so, it just makes it a lot easier to communicate with someone, someone you want to play for.”

A Season Of Growth

Last season with the Knicks, Vonleh received an opportunity he hadn’t yet in the NBA. Vonleh played a career-high 25.3 minutes per game and that equated to 8.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He also shot the ball 6.5 times per game, two more than his previous career-high. Despite the shot increase, he didn’t see his efficiency drop off, shooting 47 percent from the field.

For Vonleh, those extra shots were intentional. He takes pride in his work ethic and trusted himself to take shots in games that he routinely makes in practice.

“I put the work in,” Vonleh said. “When I get in the game, I don’t see why I should be shy looking for my shot, so I looked for it a lot last year compared to other places where I didn’t really have the opportunity to showcase some of those things. Being in New York, they kind of let me spread my wings and grow as a player.”

One thing to keep an eye on with Vonleh is his 3-point shot. He attempted two 3-pointers per game last season, which was a career-high. While he only shot 33.6 percent from deep, it’s a shot that he’s confident with. 

A Heck Of A Honeymoon 

Layman was in attendance even though the guy just got married on Saturday. Hats off to his wife.

He did ensure us, however, that this was not his honeymoon. Probably the right decision.

While Layman was technically acquired via a sign-and-trade, if he had not wanted to go to Minnesota, there would have been no sign-and-trade.

So, why the Wolves?

Because the Wolves simply made it known they wanted Layman. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

“For me in free agency, it was all about going somewhere that really wanted me and wanted me to be part of their system and really believed in me with (Gersson Rosas) and Coach Ryan,” Layman said. “I definitely felt that was. I felt comfortable talking with them on the phone and everything. I feel great about being here.”

We are hoping Layman is off to his real honeymoon now.

Bringing A New Culture

Last season, Graham was part of the culture shift in Brooklyn that led to the team’s first playoff appearance since 2015. 

Graham, a player who shot 41.2 percent from the 3-point line in 2017-18, wants to bring that experience to his new team and hopefully it will rub off on his new teammates.

“Just about winning mentalities,” Graham said. “I want to bring that same thing and the fight that I have to play hard and come every day and attack and get my teammates better. That’s something I bring to the table and something I want to bring here.”

Keep an eye on how Graham fits in with this team. While we’re looking at a lot of the other names here, I think Graham could end up being a very valuable 3-and-D guy for this squad. 

The Ups And Downs Of A Career

The last two seasons have been great for Shabazz Napier. He’s established himself as one of the better backup point guards in the NBA, averaging 9.0 points per game with the Blazers and Nets, respectively.

But that didn’t come with trials and tribulations. After struggling to find a place in Miami and Orlando in the first two years of his career, Napier credits his two-year stint with Portland for getting his career back on track.

“I think that helped me a lot,” Napier said. “I always tell my family members and friends, I needed to be in Portland. It was a rough start for me and at times I didn’t feel like I was meant to be in the NBA. I wasn’t really confident in the NBA. . . My time there has helped me to get where I am now.”

Expect Napier to be a big locker room presence in all the right ways. He’s an easy guy to get along with and he’ll have a familiar face with Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach. Prigioni was on Brooklyn’s staff last season.

While Napier was traded here and didn’t sign freely, he’s thinks he’s in the right place.

“I’m excited to be here,” he said. “Whether it was trade or whether I signed here, this is a place I want to be.”

Each one of these players has an interesting and unique story. It will be interesting to see how the next chapter unfolds in Minnesota.

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