Before even starting his NBA career, Shabazz Muhammad is being put on a very short leash by the Minnesota Timberwolves, using threats of being demoted to the D-League through the media if his behavior problems, which might be a bit blown out of proportions by the media, the team and the NBA persist.
Once described a once-in-a-generation kind of talent, Muhammad is now being pegged as somewhat of a troublemaker for bringing a lady friend to his room during the NBA’s rookie transition camp. While that’s not the worse thing in the world a player can do to violate protocol, teams and especially the league take anyone who disobeys regulation very seriously, and it seems Flip Saunders, the team’s President of Basketball Operations, doesn’t really have the patience for it either.
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.
Muhammad was taken as the 14th overall pick in the NBA draft, projected to be a backup for Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger, occupying the starting spots on the wings. However, his summer league performances showed more of what everyone saw and feared during his freshman and only season with UCLA: Muhammad doesn’t do much than simply shoot the ball at every opportunity he gets, and shows no interest in contributing differently or sharing the ball.
The crosshairs were already on Muhammad when entering the league due to how his enrollment to UCLA and the findings later on. Not just being declared ineligible just before the season after the NCAA ruled he had received benefits for travel expenses and lodging from family friend Benjamin Lincoln, who had befriended Muhammad’s father when Muhammad was in seventh grade, during unofficial visits to Duke and North Carolina.
The bigger exclamation mark came in March, when the Los Angeles Times revealed that Muhammad was actually born exactly one year earlier than his thought-to-be birthday of November 13, 1993, assuming he lied about his age to look better “competing against younger, smaller athletes, particularly in the fast-growing years of early adolescence”, and compared the case to that of baseball’s Danny Almonte.
Is Muhammad already a bust? Too soon to tell, but the signs aren’t promising. One-tool kind of players rarely succeed in the league unless they’re exceptional at what they do, and from the early goings, Muhammad doesn’t seem to be worthy of the hype he managed to build up during his high-school days. Making threats about sending him to the D-League might not be the most productive way of educating the Wolves might have chosen, but if he keeps going on this current path his NBA career will be quite short and forgettable.