Timberwolves general manager Flip Saunders is not pleased with rookie Shabazz Muhammad's career to this point, leading him to make one of the emptier threats in the NBA: If you don't shape up, we'll send you to THE D-LEAGUE.
This is what we have from Saunders, as told to a radio show, which isn't a lot to go on:
What has Muhammad done to this point to deserve that sort of condemnation? He had a woman in his room during the NBA's Rookie Transition Program, leading to his dismissal, but that cannot actually be grounds for banishment from the Wolves, presuming Saunders and the rest of the team's front office don't expect their players to keep no female company; he wasn't great in Summer League play, like many other players who have and will struggle in those quasi-audition games; the saga of his one year in college, which included a birth certificate making him a year older than advertised, a mind-numbing suggestion that he wasn't enjoying victory correctly, and a stupid flap over a backpack, didn't prevent Minnesota from taking him with the 13th pick in this year's draft.
So this is less a prediction than a threat. And as threats go, it's empty, and pointless. NBA teams generally don't send down first-rounders to the D-League unless they're grooming them (which the Thunder did last year with Jeremy Lamb, for example, and which is not what this seems to be) or giving up on them; the guys who do get sent down as punishment (Hasheem Thabeet, Royce White) tend not to return with the same team. The D-League probably wouldn't humble Muhammad, because the D-League is for guys who are already humble and hungry, as D-League expert Scott Schroeder notes. He'd just do what he does, shooting and scoring and inspiring gripes from people who wish he would do more.
But what a demotion would do is show that Minnesota has done its due diligence with a player it concluded it missed on, and keep Muhammad's trade value from tanking when he's stuck on the bench in January. And even the shadow of a demotion might be enough for appearances. Shabazz, buddy, if you learn where Des Moines is, recognize that you probably don't need to get to know Minnesota.
Photo: Craig Ruttle/AP