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Shabazz Muhammad could be headed to D-League if he doesn’t shape up

Aug 10, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Shabazz Muhammad Getty Images

Some believed the Minnesota Timberwolves got a steal when they selected Shabazz Muhammad with the last pick in this year’s lottery. The former top prospect has some off-court problems, sure, but most believed he’d be fine as long as he was able to keep his nose clean at the next level.

That unfortunately hasn’t been the case for Muhammad, however. The 20-year-old UCLA product struggled at the NBA Summer League for the Timberwolves and didn’t help himself by being the only player kicked out of this year’s NBA Rookie Transition Program. The violation was minor — he reportedly had a female guest in his room that wasn’t pre-approved by the faculty — but it was just the latest in what’s been a tough year for the former Bruin.

And, if it doesn’t get better soon, things could get worse: New general manager Flip Saunders was pretty blunt when talking with KFAN’s Dan Barreiro regarding the Muhammad situation:

“In our league, you have to be disciplined and being ‘disciplined’ is being able to adhere to whatever rules are given and you gotta abide by the rules,” Saunders said on the local radio host’s show. “So that’s been disappointing. But when I talk to him, he’s either gonna learn the rules and learn to abide by things with the big boys or he’s gonna really quick learn a geography class: where Des Moines is in the NBDL down in Iowa.”

The idea of using the D-League as punishment isn’t a good one — I’ve argued that many times in many places in the past — but playing for the Iowa Energy might be just what Muhammad needs in order to get a reality check. Players in the D-League isn’t for the mentally weak and the veterans that have scratched and clawed just to get into the world’s most-scouted league would likely put a target on the back of a player many considered to be a potential top pick during his younger years.

If Muhammad is assigned to the D-League and thrives with the reality check, it’ll be worth it and likely a humbling experience. If he takes the assignment as punishment and blows it off, however, it’ll be one more bad step in a career that’s beginning to have too many for a 20-year-old rookie.

  1. Gordon - Aug 10, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    This guy is an average talent, & will have a mediocre career (at best).

    • sportsfan18 - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:06 AM

      Agree with you. Write up after write up earlier in the summer spoke about him dominating in high school and to an extent in his lone yr in college because he was bigger and stronger. The articles mentioned that won’t be the case in the NBA, which is obvious.

      The articles mentioned that he’s a black hole when he gets the ball. He had only 27 assists all yr last season in college.

      Articles talking about his performance (well one of them in particular) spoke of how funny it was watching him trying to play defense and chasing his man through the lane and picks and described him as being all elbows and legs flying out while chasing his man. The author described it in a funny way.

      His only talent is that he is a scorer but he has to change. He began last yr in college out of shape. At his age (which remember he didn’t know – funny, but reports came out he was a yr older than he was – didn’t know he came South America or similar places where the Latin baseball players are always younger than their real age) he was out of shape.

      I’m sure he was playing some sort of ball and lifting weights etc… and at 19 or 20 yrs old and working out, how is one NOT in shape?

      Many rookies hit a wall in their first NBA seasons because they’ve never played that many games and this kid is a great bet to be one that hits this so called wall.

      Yes, the infraction was minor that he got tossed out on, but he was the ONLY one who was tossed out regardless of what the infraction was. All the others there didn’t do what he did.

      He’s had issues before and he’s already showing that he will still have issues.

      He doesn’t/can’t play “D”, can’t/won’t pass the ball, won’t be nearly the strongest, quickest, best, hardest working player in the league by a long shot and he has issues with decision making with respect to off court issues…

  2. jhuck92 - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:04 AM

    Shabazz doesn’t know how good of an opportunity he has right now, and he’s taking it for granted.

  3. esotericmindguy - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    Are you kidding me people? Oh my goodness, he had a girl in his room! Give me a break, he’s freakin 20 years old and not in college anymore.

  4. paydamanpayrez - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    He will be exposed against NBA level talent and doesn’t have the mental toughness to be a good NBA player. When he walked off the court when his teamate hit a gaming winning shot that said it all. I wouldn’t have drafted him with any pick. He will be out of the league after a few unproductive years. BUST.

  5. silverdeer - Aug 10, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    I can sum this up with one word. “Entitlement”

  6. ghelton03 - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    Shabazz should be fined or suspended or both, but not sent down to the D League. That sends a bad message to the other players in the D League who are working to improve their skills to make it into the NBA.

    • sprint32 - Aug 11, 2013 at 1:34 AM

      fine or suspended for having a guest in his room. What he did wasnt illegal. Give the kid a break!

  7. stayhigh_247 - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    Shabazz, please dont make me call you the B word……

  8. edwardemanuelson - Aug 10, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    Send him down and send a message. It starts up top. Establish a culture that doesn’t put up with ANY crap from its players – and yes, I’ll go here – like the Spurs or the Patriots. If your team continues to suck, you’ll at least have your culture working in your favor.

    And last I heard, those D-league game checks are a lot less than that “NBA money.”

  9. motobus - Aug 10, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Pretty sure his contract is fully guaranteed.

  10. scottieplongballs - Aug 10, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    Another punk that needs a lesson. I’d tell him he has one more strike then boot his aars. First draft under Flip = failure

    • sprint32 - Aug 11, 2013 at 1:34 AM

      Just for being in the room with a woman. Over reaction!

  11. shanelsweet - Aug 10, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    I never liked Flip when he was with the Wizards because he kept denigrating his players in public. The young man broke a minor rule with an established minor punishment already imposed. I’m sure he’s regretful. Now, his boss wants to pile on. Flip should talk to him in private. That’s what good managers do when their employees screw something up.

  12. jackvcr - Aug 10, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    A punk with mediocre talent. He wasn’t a stud in the PAC-12 and he won’t be in the NBA. Bury him, Flip.

  13. gmsalpha - Aug 10, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    That’s just a great line though. Shabazz is going to learn to abide by the big boy rules or he’s going to learn a geography lesson.

    It might be too harsh to some, but that’s not the point. It is what it is, and if these are the rules he’s being given, he has to follow them or risk a very short NBA career. Des Moines or San Diego or Tampa. It doesn’t matter where the D-League affiliate is located. It’s the fact that it’s the D-League and you were a lottery pick.

    Get your Sh’zz together, man!

  14. northstarnic - Aug 10, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    Just another spoiled brat with an out of control sense of entitlement. Hope he can pull his head out, but seems like he probably won’t realize how lucky he is until it’s too late.

  15. olsont7675 - Aug 10, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    Pretty sure the “world’s most scouted league” is not the D-League. More like the European leagues or the NCAA if that counts. How many guys come out of the D-League to make an impact and stick around? 5 total? Maybe 10?

    • asimonetti88 - Aug 10, 2013 at 3:06 PM

      Rafer Alston, Louis Amundson, Chris Andersen, Kelenna Azubuike, Matt Barnes, Devin Brown, Will Bynum, Matt Carroll, Eddie Gill, Stephen Graham, Jason Hart, Chuck Hayes, Anthony Johnson, Dahntay Jones, Jamario Moon, Mikki Moore, Smush Parker, Bobby Simmons, Ime Udoka, Von Wafer, C. J. Watson, Mike Wilks, José Juan Barea, Brandon Bass, Andray Blatche, Avery Bradley, Aaron Brooks, Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Marcin Gortat, Ramon Sessions, Jeremy Lin, Danny Green, Martell Webster, Rodrigue Beaubois, Ian Mahinmi, Dominique Jones, Bobby Simmons, Aaron Brooks, Tremaine Fowlkes, Earl Barron, Dorrell Wright, James White, Shannon Brown

    • Scott Schroeder - Aug 10, 2013 at 4:27 PM

      most scouted league doesn’t mean it has the most future NBA players.

  16. davidly - Aug 10, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Wanna talk about privilege? How about a bunch of bitter white guys condescending over their laptops & mobile devices, throwing around words like “punk” and “brat” regarding someone they’ve never met who violated a minor rule, and calling for the proverbial emperor’s boot to stomp into the dirt. That’s some pretty sociopath privilege if you ask me.

    • kb2408 - Aug 10, 2013 at 3:32 PM

      I was thinking the same thing…but thanks for putting it into words.

    • adamsjohn714 - Aug 10, 2013 at 4:47 PM

      He should be in the D-League. Not for behavior or anything as silly and trivial as that. He should be in the D-League because, at his current level, he isn’t good enough to play in the NBA.

  17. lhollis74 - Aug 10, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    Really, I’m surprised at how many self righteous people there are sitting at computers around the world. I only wish there were as many people ready to make judgements on your entire career and personalty flaws anytime you make a mistake or poor decision at your job. By the way some of these people speak, you’d think they’ve never been late to work, never make a mistake at work, and sacrificed their own wants desires and needs for the good of the employer and customer. Here comes the “but they are millionaires” argument. Collective bargaining ensures a fair salary for the job being performed based on earning produced by employers by said employees, dummies. Yeah, I make $80k per year on average, it’s because my employer makes approx $6 billion in profits every year after operating costs. If my employer made less, so would I, which is exactly why the nba and other union based employers put out false info trying to get every one to believe they are making less money than they actually are. So many idiots, not enough education to go around I guess.

  18. Wege - Aug 10, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    Shabazz is a contract employee. The “camp” was held in a metro area. It was not a retreat, and only the rookies were prohibited from having women in their rooms.

    What part of paying a man millions of dollars to play basketball suggests that you have the right to control his sex life? She wasn’t a hooker, there was no wild party and no allegations of drugs or drunkenness.

    Do you all really, truly think the Great White Fathers who run the NBA should be allowed to exert this much control over their players? If going without sex is so freaking important to the game, why not make this a retreat, hold it in a rural area, and, in a moment of solidarity and actual leadership, make the organizers and guests live by the same rules as the rookies?

    I think the Great White Fathers were mostly just angry that Shabazz got some, and they didn’t.

  19. unfly - Aug 10, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    Flip Saunders seems to think he’s Shabazz’s daddy or something. Threatening to put him on a timeout, and in public no less.

  20. going4iton4th - Aug 10, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    It sounds like Flip has laid down the law to Muhammad. There are less heralded prospects that have come out of college that have worked to become good NBA players. Muhammad’s been catered to his whole life and I would argue all his hype at UCLA was just that—hype. You could argue the guy wasn’t even the best player his one year. He’s high on the bust list.

  21. breakpoint10s - Aug 10, 2013 at 8:08 PM

    definitely all hype and little talent. He’ll be broke by the time he is 30 because it is obvious he has little discipline and takes rules for granted. Glad to see “anybody” punished who thinks they are “oh so gifted”.
    How far did his Bruins go? Farmar and Westbrook” have some klout, not “Bean Pie”. And I like that sh!t a lot. He is embarrassing UCLA with this kind of BS.
    And don’t come me thinking I am some laptop skinny jean wearing wimp.

  22. pistolpete0903 - Aug 11, 2013 at 2:34 AM

    Ha….who didn’t see that coming? (sarcasm)

    As a highly recruited player at UCLA, he already had red flags. Then, he didn’t exactly light up the college basketball world. He ought to tread very carefully now; or he might just kiss the NBA good bye.
    As for the Wolves, he is a low-risk sign. If he doesn’t pan out, they cut him for cheap.

    (PS: Wouldn’t care much if he had a female guest; what happens when most NBA players are on road is not exactly a secret. Having said that, he ought to realize that he is going to be scrutinized more heavily for past transgressions)

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