AL HAMNIK: NBA life 'suits' Hummel just fine

2014-01-27T20:00:00Z 2014-01-31T16:50:14Z AL HAMNIK: NBA life 'suits' Hummel just fineAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
January 27, 2014 8:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Inactive? Robbie Hummel inactive, again? Put this kid in the game and he's a spinning top with legs.

But playing in the NBA is a different world for many ex-college stars. Some have to sit longer than a librarian. They need patience, a trait many aren't familiar with.

Hummel, the pride of Valparaiso and Purdue University, has made the transition quite well, thank you.

The Minnesota Timberwolves' rookie small forward was listed as "inactive" for the sixth straight game since Jan. 17 and had to watch Monday night's showdown with the Bulls from his team's bench.

It's nothing personal, said Minnesota coach Rick Adelman, who has used the Timberwolves' second-round pick of the 2012 NBA draft in 27 games this season.

The return of Chase Budinger from injury and the recall of Shabazz Muhammad from the D-League put the 6-foot-8 Hummel back in street clothes.

"We have 15 guys so someone has to be inactive," Adelman explained. "It's just a matter of numbers. You can only suit up 13. We have a lot of guys at that (small forward) spot that we're playing.

"It isn't anything Robbie's done. He's been really solid for us. Somebody has to be inactive."

Against the Bulls on this bone-chilling night, it was Hummel and guard A.J. Price.

"The thing is about Robbie, if someone got hurt and he's inactive, we wouldn't hesitate to put him in that spot and play him," Adelman said.

"He's done a nice job all year for us."

That makes Hummel feel good, feel wanted, but nothing beats actually being on the court when the ball is thrown up.

"You're still in the NBA," Hummel said. "It's a great job to have. I get to watch all the guys who are really good players. Obviously, I'd rather play, but it's still a good opportunity to see them first hand and learn the game."

Hummel has been a go-to player since he first dribbled a basketball. He's got all the tools and the needed smarts to adapt, break down defenses and create his own shot.

Normally, when he's inactive, he's sleeping.

"It's tough but it's part of the job, part of being a rookie," Hummel said. "You gotta pay your dues, wait your turn. I still do everything I need to do to stay ready."

That includes practicing and traveling with the team. He got to shoot around at the United Center before Monday's game, which was a pretty cool feeling. Ironically, it was his second time on that floor, once with Purdue.

"The NCAA Tournament when we lost to VCU, I was in a suit, too," said Hummel, who overcame two major knee surgeries in college to get here.

Though his stats this season don't jump out at you — 2.9 points per game, .361 field-goal shooting and .289 from beyond the arc — there is no reason for alarm.

"It's tough when I get one or two shots a game," he said. "Part of it is just being young and trying to adjust to the NBA game. My percentages aren't great, but I believe I've played well and that's a good thing.

"The more I play, my percentages will climb."

His season-highs are impressive, I'll say that: eight rebounds at Philadelphia on Jan. 6; a 10-point fourth quarter vs. Philly on Dec. 11; and 28 minutes vs. Cleveland Nov. 13.

Thankfully, Adelman doesn't treat Hummel like old news. They talk often and candidly.

"I know he likes the way I play and my rebounding, and he tells me to keep shooting the basketball, which is frustrating because coming in, that was the one thing I thought I'd do well," said Hummel, who's always been a deep threat.

"He's shown a lot of confidence in me."

Hummel said it was good to come home Monday night, to see family and friends.

Hopefully, the next time they'll get to see him in action.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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