Let’s clarify the facts on Shabazz Muhamad. He has great potential and showed a knack for scoring at UCLA. In fact, he led the Bruins in scoring. That’s true. He also carries a load of baggage wider than his lanky frame. That’s also true.
It’s no wonder then that Shabazz was kicked out of a rookie transition program and sent home Saturday for having a female visitor to his dorm room, a rule that was explained to all players just hours before. There was no word on whether any other players were sent home, but the decision-making by Muhammad was questionable at best.
The Minnesota Timberwolves responded by threatening the rookie this week, suggesting a ‘demotion’ to the development league. Really, that just might be what he needs. A D-League assignment has and always will be seen as a demotion, but it’s really a foundation.
For Muhammad, it could be time well spent out of the spotlight, a chance to actually get quality minutes for a week or two, and a chance to dominate and gain confidence. For the Timberwolves, it allows them to gauge whether Muhammad is fully on board with his obligations and responsibilities before bringing him onto the roster.
This isn’t the first time after-parties have cost young players transitioning to the NBA. In 2008, Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur were sent home and fined after officials found women and marijuana in their rooms, and those two went on have successful careers. Chalmers won championships for the Miami Heat while Arthur flourished with the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Timberwolves felt Shabazz was a steal at No.14 in the draft, but character issues are the reason he was still available in the first place, something that the Timberwolves are now finding out.
Muhammad’s story mirrors another troubled star with promise that’s frustrated every team he’s ever played for: DeMarcus Cousins. To his credit, Cousins has actually received a game check from the league; Shabazz, on the other hand, has not. So it’s puzzling and very telling of his character that he would risk his standing with the team and the league for a night of conquest when he hasn’t even suited up for his new employer.
If Shabazz wants to put up the same numbers from college and contribute to a team that’s eyeing a playoff run, he will need to step up and grow up, and do it quickly. Let him learn in the D-League — it can’t hurt.