With roster cuts approaching, Robbie Hummel still battling for a spot
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Cuts are an inevitability of the preseason, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are closing in on decision time.
Only three games and less than two weeks remain before the Wolves must pare down their roster to a select 15 players.
Robbie Hummel knows this. Instead of the building anxiety one might feel battling for one of the last open spots, Hummel has found a semblance of peace in the process. It is a sense of ease and focus bred from a hard road traveled to get to this point.
"It's more of an excitement," Hummel said. "After my knee (problems), I just want an opportunity. It's one of those things where I'm not nervous. I'm not anxious. I'll play when I'm called upon and do what I can."
With Hummel, his confidence is believable, armed with a sincerity that gives less reason to write off his words as clichéd player speak.
His story is well established. An impressively effective star at Purdue, when healthy, Hummel at one point appeared to have the potential to crack into NBA draft lottery status. That was before two ACL injuries to the same knee in consecutive years put his NBA aspirations on hold.
But eventually the 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward reemerged, putting together a strong senior season that spurred the Wolves to draft him with a second round pick in 2012 (58th overall). Hummel gave a reassuring performance at the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League before signing with Obradoiro CAB of the Spanish League last season, another chance for him to prove his knees were once again healthy.
His stay overseas started on an ominous note after suffering another knee injury. But this time it turned out to be only a limited setback. Averaging 10.1 points and 6.8 rebounds in 30 games, Hummel did enough in Spain to earn an invite again to join the Wolves' Summer League squad, where he drew glowing reviews from the coaching staff. It eventually led to the chance to compete for 15th spot on the Wolves' roster.
Now at age 24, Hummel's poise and resiliency has kept him locked into the ongoing preseason competition. A smooth shooting forward with a formidable outside shot, Hummel has preformed well in limited minutes this preseason, totaling 15 points (5-of-13) in two preseason games. As for his knees, he has had no issues this year.
"I don't feel like a rookie. It's a weird thing," Hummel said with a smile. "Being 24 years old, you don't have the same mindset as maybe an 18, 19-year-old kid ... Unfortunately I still get hazed like a rookie."
Hummel's development in the last year has the garnered the praise of Wolves coach Rick Adelman, who admits he can see why Hummel was once considered a possible lottery pick.
"He can definitely shoot the ball, but he is a very smart player," Adelman said. "He's always in the right spot. He knows what he's doing, how to play the game on both ends ... He's a very good all-around player."
Adelman hasn't determined when he will begin narrowing his roster down from its current 18 players, but he must do so before the NBA's Oct. 28 deadline.
For now, Hummel and his fellow training camp invitees (A.J. Price, Othyus Jeffers and Lorenzo Brown) must continue to wait, taking the minutes they can get Sunday against the Boston Celtics, as well as in the Wolves' last two preseason match-ups next week, to make their final case for why they should survive the cut.
Hummel stands on the fringe. Indications are that he will likely be sent to the Wolves' D-League affiliate, the Iowa Energy, along with Brown. But even that would be a step forward for the Indiana native, inching closer to his goal of making it to the NBA.
Until then, don't expect Hummel's even-keeled demeanor to waver.