It seems Minnesota Timberwolves guard Shabazz Muhammad's decision to break the rules won't just earn him a trip back to the NBA's Rookie Transition Program next year. It could cost him a spot on the Timberwolves' 15-man roster if he doesn't learn his lesson.
Flip Saunders, Minnesota's president of basketball operations, spoke with Dan Barreiro of KFAN about Muhammad's recent behavior Friday and made clear the organization wasn't pleased.
While the former Timberwolves coach acknowledged he hasn't talked to the former UCLA standout quite yet, Saunders said discipline is coming down the pike. Specifically, he noted a trip to the Timberwolves' D-League affiliate in Des Moines if Muhammad's maturation problems continue (h/t Pro Basketball Talk's Scott Schroeder):
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. 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.
Saunders later tweeted:
Set story straight D League is development for both skills and and mental transition to NBA not punishment. I spent 7 yrs coaching there.— Flip Saunders (@Flip_Saunders) August 11, 2013
The Timberwolves traded for the rights to Muhammad, the No. 14 pick in this year's draft, in a deal with the Utah Jazz. Minnesota also received the rights to the No. 21 pick, Louisville center Gorgui Dieng, in exchange for No. 9 pick Trey Burke, the reigning national player of the year in college basketball.
Muhammad was sent home Tuesday evening from the 2013 Rookie Transition program due to a rules violation. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reported that Muhammad brought a female guest back to his hotel room for the night, just hours after being given specific instructions that said no guests were allowed—regardless of gender.
The league's four-day seminar is meant to give rookies a learning experience of how to adjust from college to the NBA lifestyle. Players and coaches, past and present, give presentations on things such as money management and how to handle the nightly grind of being a pro basketball player.
About 50 players enrolled in the program this year. Muhammad was the only one who was kicked out before Friday's end date. He will be expected to re-enroll in the class for next season and will be fined an undetermined amount.
The incident is the latest in a string of disappointments for Muhammad, who has battled troubles on and off the floor. Expected to resurrect UCLA's basketball program and become a top-five pick, the 6'6" swingman ran afoul of NCAA bylaw and had a rather inconsistent season.
Muhammad was suspended for the first three games of the 2012-13 season after being found in violation of amateurism rules. An investigation had uncovered that he received impermissible benefits, including his lodging and travel expenses paid in a total of about $1,600. He was ordered to repay the money as part of his eligibility agreement.
On the floor, Muhammad averaged 17.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, struggling at times with his shot. The Bruins won the Pac-12 regular-season championship, but were eliminated in their round of 64 game in the NCAA tournament.
It was also found out that Muhammad had lied about his age while playing youth basketball. He was a year older than most freshmen players last season, having been born in 1992 rather than 1993.
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