About a half hour prior to Wednesday night’s game against Cleveland, assistant coach Terry Porter informed Robbie Hummel that he’d be making his first career start. “My heart instantly started beating a lot faster,” Hummel commented after the game, reflecting on the experience. “The butterflies (set in)… I knew the scouting report, but I went back to my iPad, because, now I really needed to know the scouting report.” Hummel handled the newfound postgame media attention gracefully — almost as well as he handled his minutes on the floor with the first unit.
With Kevin Martin sitting out due to flu-like symptoms, Hummel stepped in at small forward, Corey Brewer slid down to shooting guard, and the Timberwolves annihilated the slumping Cavaliers, carrying a lead of 20-to-30 points from the 2nd quarter through the end of the game. “(Hummel) does all the little things you don’t notice,” said head coach, Rick Adelman. “He’s always in the right spot defending, helping out, he rebounds the ball. He’s just kind of a glue guy. I had a lot of confidence he was going to do well.”
If Hummel was the glue, he held together four fantastic performances around him. Kevin Love tallied 33 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, Ricky Rubio racked up 16 points and 16 assists, Nikola Pekovic hit 5-of-7 shots, and Corey Brewer played his finest game of what’s been a stellar start to the season, finishing with 27 points, including a 5-for-5 mark from beyond the arc. Hummel was good on both ends of the court; he fit into the offense seamlessly, made smart passes, helped with interior defense, and fired away when he had open looks (he connected on 2-of-4 three pointers and 4-of-6 shots overall). Without the dynamic Martin, the Timberwolves didn’t miss a beat.
It’s old news by now that over the weekend the Wolves waived Othyus Jeffers and Lorenzo Brown, instead retaining Robbie Hummel and A.J. Price. Color me a little surprised they didn’t keep Jeffers given his physicality in the backcourt and based on Hummel’s ho-hum(mel) preseason, but Adelman praised both him and A.J. Price, singling out Hummel’s work ethic during the week gap between preseason games the Wolves had.
What was less surprising, though — given how little floor time he saw in the preseason — was the release of Chris Johnson. In the grand scheme of things, Johnson’s tenure with the Timberwolves will not much matter, either to the team or to the league as a whole. But there are so many subtle undercurrents inside of it that are worthy of attention, revealing things that may not always be as apparent in the more opaque dealings that happen around star players. Continue Reading…
This move Kevin Love worked on in the offseason isn’t great. (Getty)
I tried. I really tried to churn out some thoughts on the Wolves losing to CSKA Moscow on Monday night and just nothing appeared. The effort was there for me trying to write about what was an on-the-surface embarrassing loss to a really talented Euroleague team. But ultimately, I just didn’t care enough about the result or what we saw on the court from a team standpoint.
And really, that was the problem with the Wolves in that game as well. I’m not sure they cared enough about their opponent throughout the 53 minutes of action to really want to do what they were supposed to do. There were individual players like Derrick Williams, Othyus Jeffers, A.J. Price, and Ronny Turiaf that appeared to give a damn. They fought through as much as they could against CSKA Moscow and nearly walked away with a victory. But there were too many mental mistakes, too many lazy offensive sets, too many poor defensive rotations throughout the game to end up defeating a quality opponent.
Make no mistake about it either; CSKA Moscow was a quality opponent. They have six guys (seven if Sonny Weems is playing) that can play in the NBA right now. The rest of their team is full of solid players as well. It’s an opponent that even the third string of the Wolves should be able to close out, but you have to have a full game of effort in order to do that. The Wolves didn’t have that and it showed both in their play and in the way Rick Adelman discussed the game afterward.
Media got let into the gym with about 15-20 minutes left in a scrimmage between the A Team (no Mr. T) and the B Team. As I sat down, someone who was already in the gym leaned over to me and said, “By the way, that score is not a scoreboard malfunction.”
The B Team was wiping the floor with the A Team. They were up 20 points on them. By the time the clock on the scrimmage had run out, the final score was the B Team winning by 12 but even some late execution by the A Team wasn’t nearly enough to erase a deficit. There’s some good and some bad in the “other players” pushing the “main players” so much. It’s good to see adversity, no matter how irrelevant it might be a couple weeks from now, for the main unit of guys who should be dominating these scrimmage based on talent. To see how they respond in Day 3 of training camp will be very interesting.
“Well, I think all of our young guys are playing really hard,” Rick Adelman said after practice on Wednesday. “They just kicked the tails of our nine guys who are going to play a lot. They got killed in the first quarter against our young guys because they played their tails off.”
Guys like Lorenzo Brown, Dante Cunningham, Othyus Jeffers, Chris Johnson, and Shabazz Muhammad were scrambling all over the court, swiping down in the post, and causing the kind of havoc you’d hope from a second unit. They were catching the Wolves’ top guys off guard with offensive rebounding, lob plays, and just executing the basics on both ends of the floor. You saw the usual frustration out of guys like Kevin Love and J.J. Barea, who took a couple of chances to plead to the referees that they needed to call certain things.
Thursday, the Wolves’ starters will have a chance to take it out on the young guys. Here’s a look at a couple of notes I took while watching the scrimmage moments I got to see: Continue Reading…
Brown and Jeffers pics by @jermcon, Hummel pic from USATSI
Time to do a little housecleaning with Media Day on Monday and training camp in Mankato starting on Tuesday. The team has added players to the roster for training camp purposes and three of the four names are pretty familiar to fans. The Minnesota Timberwolves announced yesterday that they signed three players. Those three players were the 2013 second round pick Lorenzo Brown, Othyus Jeffers from the summer league squad, and 2012 second round pick Robbie Hummel. From the team’s press release: Continue Reading…
Here’s what an NBA Summer League game can give you a clear picture of: nothing. Put together a couple of Wolves rookies (Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng), a guy who played overseas last year (Robbie Hummel), the brother of a hot-shooting Golden State Warrior (Mychel Thompson—who didn’t even see the floor), an assistant coach’s son (Luke Sikma) and a squadron of guys looking for enough burn to catch someone’s eye and you have a complete lack of what makes a team be about something. An NBA team is a conglomeration of approaches, toolsets, hopes and dreams, all angled (hopefully with some precision) towards the goal of becoming something greater than the sum of their parts. A Summer League team is the mismatched toolbox you found in the basement when you moved into the first house you bought. It might get the job done, but that’s about it. Continue Reading…
Poor Robbie Hummel. Torn meniscus isn’t that bad of an injury and he should be back in about a month, but I do feel bad for someone that keeps getting setbacks every time he’s moving forward with his career.
It’s not nearly as bad as him tearing his ACL multiple times, which is good. I just hope he’s able to move on from this injury and get a good season in with Blu:sens Monbús in Liga ACB in Spain. If he can be healthy, Hummel definitely can play in the NBA. With guys like Steve Novak and James Jones making long careers for themselves by shooting the ball from outside, it’s hard to imagine Hummel can’t find a role.
Hoping for a speedy recovery for Robbie, and that we get a chance to see him on an international court real soon.
Final two games of the Wolves’ Summer League ended in wins, giving the Wolves a 4-1 record for the summer and a berth into the Las Vegas playoffs. Wait, they don’t have Summer League playoffs? The wins aren’t so important as the quality of play from the guys on the roster are. The two players everyone seems to care the most about are Derrick Williams and Wes Johnson so let’s start with them.
Williams’ play in the last two games wasn’t as promising as his play in games two and three, but there was still some good stuff to extract from Game 4 against the D-League Select Team. Derrick kept getting to the free throw line all week. In fact, he shot 56 free throws in five games during this stretch of games. Those are point-shaving by a referee totals. Williams was aggressive, for the most part, all week and wasn’t floating and settling like we saw for much of his rookie campaign. He may not have put up dominating statistics but he found a way to set the tone for his team quite often by getting to the charity stripe so much.
Game 5 was the big disappointment of the week for Derrick. He shot just 1/10 and didn’t really try to be the aggressor. That could have just been a case of Summer League senioritis. Maybe that just put him in the mindset of “I just want to get out of here” or maybe he just had a bad game and reverted to poor habits. Some people will freak out about it, but you shouldn’t. I think you can tell he just wanted the game to be over, based on the rebounding totals. He didn’t attack the glass at all in the final game. He had just one offensive rebound and zero defensive rebounds in 21 minutes.
Early in the week, he talked about wanting to showcase some passing ability and try to get his teammates involved. I think he kind of accomplished that in relative terms. During the season, he had just 0.6 assists per game, which is what happens when you’re just floating and taking bad jumpers. When we saw him in attack mode for the Summer League, he definitely tried to get more shots for his teammates. He averaged 1.8 assists per game in the five games, but the natural instincts for playmaking didn’t seem to be there. I think we saw much more playmaking ability for others by Wes Johnson than by Derrick.
I was disappointed in his defense for the week. I didn’t think he showed a real tenacity on defense and if that carries over to the regular season, it could affect him getting consistent minutes. It’s not even necessarily that Derrick has to be good. He just has to show effort and I’m not sure he did that this week.
I think it’s safe to say that when Derrick shows aggression in all aspects of his game, he’s a player you can see growing in Adelman’s system. When he’s a ball-stopper and a guy that seems unsure of what to do, he looks like a guy you want to ship out for high value. Personally, I liked the attempted change in mentality during the week.
This is the part of the summer in which I try to talk myself out of talking myself into believing Wes Johnson has a good season, relatively speaking.
I talked to Wes after his 28-point explosion against the D-League Select Team, and he talked about the differences between last year and how he was playing now. Obviously, you can just point to the talent of player opposing him and say that’s the reason. However, it seemed more like he played a different game, rather than just took advantage of worse players. Here’s what he had to say:
- On his improved play from the end of his second game in Vegas and the 28-point game, “I’ve just been relaxed. I think that’s the main goal for me coming into this is to relax more. I think the previous season I was a little tense and they were throwing a lot of stuff at me. I got away from being myself. So me coming out to Summer League is establishing myself back to the player I was, and I’ve been doing that so far.”
- On confidence going into next season with a year of Adelman’s system under his belt, “I would think this will be the first solid year I have. When I came into my rookie year, I got hurt and didn’t get to play in Summer League. The lockout shortened season with no training camp. This year is like my rookie year all over again.”
- On what he meant by the coaching staff throwing a lot at him last year, “It was the system. It was a lot of defensive stuff they wanted me to do. They wanted me to be a defensive stopper on the team. So I was really focused in and geared toward that. And you know, it’s the offensive side of the game too. I got away from that. So me coming in here is to help me get my stroke back.”
- On the passing ability he showed during the Summer League, “I feel comfortable with it a lot. It’s me out there playing a game, just playing basketball. I think if I get to go out there, relax and play, then everything will take care of itself.”
Now, you can take these comments with a grain of salt all you want, but part of me believes the sincerity with which he said them. He wasn’t ducking his poor play but he wasn’t feeling like he couldn’t improve. Granted, I don’t think he “justifies” being selected over guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Paul George, and any other players who have had early success. But I also think it’s unlikely he plays as poorly next season as he did last season. If he’s showing a much more comfortable demeanor on the court and it allows him to relax and make plays, he could be a pretty decent backup wing player.
The key thing I saw from Wes, outside of his passing ability which looked like a nice addition to his game, was the comfort with which he took his shots. Last year, there were hitches in his shot and hesitations in his decisions. You could tell he had very little confidence. This year? Who knows? Maybe he’ll go from a bad shooter to a decent shooter. Maybe he’ll think about putting the ball on the ground more like he promised on Media Day in 2011.
Again, I can’t stress enough that I’m not advocating for Wes Johnson having a breakout year. I just don’t think he’ll be as bad as last year. IF he actually ends up being more comfortable with his basketball surroundings, I think we won’t mind him being in the rotation. Or perhaps, he could have another terrible season. Regardless, it seems like he’s in the right mindset right now.
And hey, he shot 16 free throws in four games. That’s nearly half of his 34 attempts in 65 games last year. Progress?
Other key players from Summer League
Robbie Hummel – I love his shooting stroke and think he could be a fantastic player in the corner. Kind of like a small forward version of Steve Novak or maybe a less athletic James Jones. But his defense looked really bad for most of the week. He was active and kept some rebounding chances alive for the Wolves, but he looks like he’s playing on ice when he’s matched up with a quicker player.
Mike Harris – Harris had a really good week overall and showed he belongs on somebody’s depth chart. He has great touch around the basket, a solid jumper and he’s physical. His big problem is he’s already 29 and he’s also a 6’6″ power forward. At worst, he’s a guy you want challenging your rotation guys in practice.
Kammron Taylor – Kam showed a really smooth shooting stroke and did a decent job of running the “offense.” I think he needs more time in the D-League, but it would shock me if he became the third point guard on a team in a couple years.
Coby Karl – This guy is a professional basketball player. I know he’s bounced around and hasn’t been in the NBA since 2010, but he can set guys up, knock down shots, and shows grittiness in the backcourt. Wouldn’t mind him getting a camp invite from the Wolves.
Luke Sikma – I was impressed with Luke the last two games of the Summer League. Seemed like he realized he is bigger than a lot of guys and was willing to throw his body around inside to make things happen. He grabbed key rebounds on both ends and showed some ferocity down around the basket. A year or two in the D-League could help him figure out how to become an NBA power forward/center.
Lior Eliyahu – Everything Noam Schiller has ever told me about Lior showed out in Summer League. He’s a very good athlete that has almost no basketball skills. He’s not an NBA guy.
Paulo Prestes – I don’t really see how this guy can be a rotation player in the NBA. He’s very big and does a good job of keeping rebounding chances alive. But he’s incredibly slow defensively and brings the ball down too much on offense. He seems like a liability. He could stand to get into better shape, and if that happens, then maybe he’ll be quick enough for this league.
Corey Fisher – I had an irrational fascination with his game when he was at Villanova. Now that I’ve seen him in person, he looks like a guy that stopped taking his game seriously. He’s out of shape and incredibly slow for a guard. You can tell he still has an incredible amount of skill. His jumper is really solid and he created space pretty well to get it off. But he has to get quicker to make the league.
Zabian Dowdell – He didn’t shoot the ball well at all, but I loved his tenacity on defense. He’s very opportunistic and finds a way to contribute by moving the ball. Seemed like he got a lot of hockey assists during the week. He’s another guy that’s definitely an NBA player who just needs to latch on with the right training camp roster.
That’s all I’ve got with the happening-ons with Las Vegas Summer League. Did anybody leave lasting impressions on you?
I never got to watch the first game of the Wolves’ Summer League campaign when they beat the Clippers, but I was in the building for the loss to the Bobcats Monday night. After talking to a few media members and people around the league, I thought I’d share some thoughts about what’s been going on:
First, let me do some plugging in a shameless manner. I was asked to write about Derrick Williams for the Daily Dime on ESPN.com Tuesday night. Here is the link for that. To extrapolate on those thoughts a bit, I think it’s somewhat concerning that Derrick isn’t dominating this competition, and yet at the same time I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal. With lesser competition and talent on the floor, it seems like Derrick should be able to do whatever he wants, but it’s still not that simple. Something I noticed during the possessions in which Williams was attacking off the dribble from the perimeter, Charlotte was in position to get in his way if he beat Biyombo or Mullens off the dribble.
This doesn’t excuse Williams from not “dominating.” He clearly has things he still has to work on with how he attacks from the outside-in. His dribble is quick right now but his first step with that dribble is still slow. He also was having problems protecting the ball, but considering Charlotte’s plan was to swarm the ball at all times, it seems like he did a pretty decent job attack and trying to find the contact that he’s previously avoided. There are signs of concern but you can tell he’s working on those things when he’s on the court.
Where has this Wes Johnson been? I don’t think I’m going to allow myself to get too excited with his performance against the Bobcats Tuesday, but it’s a revelation — even against SL talent — to see him moving toward the basket to get shots. He wasn’t just spotting up on the wings and waiting to hesitate on jumpers. He dribbled into shots, he posted up, and he attacked the basket a bit. Toward the end of the game, he went and got some really good and key buckets. I don’t necessarily expect him to make this a regular thing. And I’m not holding out hope that he’ll finally get it. It’s just nice to see him remember how to be effective on offense for once.
Robbie Hummel can mix it up on the offensive boards a bit and his jumper is confident. After last season’s shooting debacle that was our perimeter, it’s weird seeing a guy raise up for a jumper, look completely calm and balanced, and then have a wave of confidence rush over you as he releases the shot. When Hummel takes a shot, it seems like a good shot. He doesn’t force anything and he doesn’t leave you wondering what he’s doing with the ball. If anything, he should probably be a bit more aggressive. I like his presence, even if he’s deep in the depth chart, because you can always use a confident shooter.
Paulo Prestes does not look like a big man that belongs in the NBA right now. He can mix it up inside a bit and get offensive rebounds. He can keep possessions alive decently. But when he gets the ball or has to rotate, it’s like watching an unathletic version of Ryan Hollins.
I have no idea how he fits into the roster, but I wouldn’t be mad if Zabian Dowdell stuck around the team. He’s a solid backup PG off the bench and you can do a lot worse than having him fighting for minutes in the rotation. If Luke or JJ end up getting moved as part of a bigger acquisition, I think Zabian has a real chance at a camp invite and staying around this organization.
Robbie Hummel, small forward from Purdue University.
I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do with a 58th pick. Do you grab someone you can stash away in Europe for a couple of years? Do you essentially pick a guy that can develop in the D-League for you? Is there a way to address a need at 58? Are you just grabbing someone you hope can push the guys on your roster to compete in Summer League and training camp?
Wolves took Robbie Hummel with the 58th pick for two reasons:
1) He can shoot the lights out and this team sucked at shooting last season.
2) He’s torn his ACL twice.
I’m not sure that Hummel will ever be able to truly compete in the NBA after his injuries. We don’t know if it’s completely robbed him of the athletic ability and quickness to stay with NBA talent on a nightly basis. Before he was injured, Hummel was being picked as an All-American candidate and projecting to be a first round pick. He could have probably gone anywhere from late lottery to the mid-20s in the first round. On February 24, 2010, he tore his right ACL in a game here against the Gophers. About eight months later, Hummel tore the same ACL in a team practice on October 16th. Because these injuries happened to him, he fell drastically over the past two years. He essentially ended up in the Wolves’ reach because his ACL tore twice.
Through both of these devastating injuries, he’s come back. After two ACL injuries in the same knee, Robbie scored 16.4 points per game (career-high) for the Boilermakers last season. Sure, he shot a career-worst 41.7% from the field to get those scoring numbers but he also averaged a career-best 7.2 rebounds per game. He doesn’t turn the ball over. He doesn’t make a ton of plays. He just knows how to shoot the ball and find ways to score.
As far as his athleticism, he’s doing okay. Hummel was never the guy to wow you with his movement from a pure athletic standpoint. But when he measured out for the Draft Combine a couple weeks ago, he finished 23rd out of 40 small forwards in the 3/4 court sprint. He finished 25th out of 39 small forwards in the lane agility test. When he had his workout here in Minneapolis, he looked to be in phenomenal shape and moving quite well without even wearing a knee brace.
It’s unrealistic to think the 58th pick is going to come to the team and have an impact. In the last 10 years, only Luis Scola has been the third-to-last player drafted and made a real impact. The second best player in this classification is a fight between Brandon Hunter, Lester Hudson and Derrick Caracter. No, seriously. But Robbie Hummel isn’t your typical end of the draft guy. He was a legit NBA prospect before blowing out the same knee twice. He came back from those injuries to prove he can still play, and he showed enough in the pre-draft workout to let the Wolves think, “what the hell?” and give him a shot.
This week, the Wolves added two really incredible shooters to their roster. This is a good thing considering the Wolves were 27th in FG%, 23rd in 3FG%, 18th in TS%, and 20th in EFG%. If there was a way to measure shooting from anywhere that wasn’t the free throw line, the Wolves pretty much struggled. Now with guys like Chase Budinger and Robbie Hummel on the roster, you can feel a little confident spreading the floor. And when you can spread the floor, you open up driving lanes for Ricky Rubio (when he’s back) and J.J. Barea. You also open up entire sides of the floor for Kevin Love, which in turn opens up the middle for Nikola Pekovic. Adding shooting to this attack is a symbiotic relationship. It allows the offense to be a living and breathing organism.
Chase Budinger and Robbie Hummel may not be the sexiest of moves for this team, but the Wolves are addressing a huge need. They need a specific set of skills (like Liam Neeson in Taken) and are grasping them in the morning sunrise of the 2012 offseason.