Wolves reserve Robbie Hummel capitalizing on chances when he gets them
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MINNEAPOLIS -- A group of reporters were crowded around Robbie Hummel's locker when the Minnesota Timberwolves rookie forward entered the room.
"You guys waiting for me?" Hummel asked with an edge of surprise in his voice.
Hummel, a three-time All-Big Ten honoree in his extended career at Purdue, had been in the media spotlight before, but it had been a while. Certainly he wasn't expecting the heightened attention to come in a postgame NBA setting.
Hummel had given reason to take notice. With Kevin Martin out sick, Rick Adelman made the surprise move to give the 24-year-old rookie the last-minute start, first of his career, Wednesday night against Cleveland. And despite early nerves, he gave the Wolves' lineup exactly what they needed from him (10 points, 4-of-6) in a 124-95 romp.
Martin, who watched the game from home, couldn't help but smile when he saw Hummel validate the confidence coach Rick Adelman and the Wolves have saddled him with since opting to grant him a roster spot coming out of training camp.
"I was just a proud big brother of Robbie's last night," Martin said after practice Thursday. "I think Robbie is a lot more mature than the years on the roster say. He's been through a lot with injuries. Last night was just another step in his development, and we're very proud of the way we played."
The wait for that moment was one that once appeared may never come.
In what Hummel described as "a hell of a road" he has traveled, a promising collegiate career and his once potential NBA draft lottery status were derailed by a pair of major knee injuries. After being taken late in the second round of the 2012 draft and spending a year playing in Spain, Hummel's NBA dreams still seemed slim.
But his once seemingly long-shot status has since undergone a drastic metamorphosis. Given another shot to make the Wolves' roster, a healthy Hummel won over Adelman with a scrappy, no-nonsense showing in training camp, making up for what he lacks in defensive range, to nab one of the last open roster spots.
Once he made the team, it was still unclear how much, if at all, he would end up seeing playing time. That made Adelman's choice to give Hummel, who had played only sparingly in the Wolves' first eight games, the starting nod on Wednesday even more noteworthy.
Adelman sees Hummel as a guy willing and able to do whatever is needed from him in the unglamorous position as a limited role player. And Hummel has done exactly that.
"He does all the little things you don't notice all the time," Adelman said. "He's just kind of the glue guy."
When assistant coach Terry Porter came up to Hummel about an hour before game time to inform he would be starting, a wave of surprise hit him, followed immediately by a flurry of nerves.
"I knew the scouting report, but I went back to my iPad and said, 'I really need to know the scouting report now,'" Hummel joked.
The first-game jitters were still there when the game began, but they faded rapidly after he converted on his first shot, his first career 3-pointer. His shot was part of the initial scoring frenzy that kick-started the Wolves' offensive explosion (108 points in the first three quarters). Hummel was on the floor for 28 minutes of it, eight minutes longer than his previous season total.
His strong response to Adelman's gamble of throwing him in with the starters may have earned him an increased role on the Wolves' second unit. The progression is still likely to be gradual, but the chances are going to be their for Hummel, maybe more so than they would have been before Wednesday.
"He's going to get an opportunity to see how consistent he can be," Adelman said. "The two or three times we played him with the starters in practice and games he was really solid. That's why I went to him last night, because I felt with Kevin out that he was going to fit right in, let the other guys do their things and be the guy who could help."
That was what Hummel did. It's the role the Wolves need to have filled behind a starting lineup that is expected to carry a heavy load throughout the season.