The Timberwolves opened training camp Saturday morning in San Diego.
It was the first of two practices on the day for a team full of new faces including Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford and Aaron Brooks.
But a familiar face, although just recently signed, stole the show Saturday.
Muhammad told us that he dropped to 218 pounds after playing last season in the 230s at media day. That seems to be helping.
“He’s light, which I think is good for him,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said after practice. “He shot the ball well today. Ran the floor well. He gives us the opportunity to with (Andrew Wiggins) and Jimmy (Butler) to play three wings and we’re comfortable with that.”
Muhammad has never been short on energy and should be a nice scoring boost off the bench with Crawford. The two combined to score more than 21 points per game last season.
Gibson said that a lot of players’ legs were “gone” after scrimmaging today, but not Muhammad.
“I felt like Shabazz had a great day today,” Gibson. “He kind of set the tone in my eye of how hard he was playing and moving his feet and that’s what we’re going to need. Every day, you’re probably not going to have it, but it’s going to be up to your teammates up and going. And I felt like today he really got it going, and the coaching staff saw it, too.”
With everyone’s eyes on the new guys, it was cool to see a player who has put in his time with the franchise have a solid first impression on his new teammates.
Gorgui from 3?
Last season, Wolves big man Gorgui Dieng launched a career-high 43 3-pointers and the results were somewhat promising as Dieng connected on 37.2 percent of those attempts.
Thibodeau envisions Dieng even shooting more in 2017-18, which isn’t exactly a surprise considering Dieng’s success from deep and the growing importance of the 3-point shot.
“He’s very good shooting the corner 3,” Thibodeau said. “He’s got good touch. Just stretching him out. I think he’s capable of doing it.”
In true Gorgui Dieng fashion, he gave the team-first response to whether or not he’s willing to shoot more 3-pointers.
“Whether I shoot or I don’t shoot it, I try to do my job and try to understand my role on this basketball team.”
First impressions from Towns are on defense
It’s early, but Karl-Anthony Towns was impressed by the team’s defense Saturday morning. Not only did he give credit to the new players, he also said it was important for players to have a year under their belt with Thibodeau.
“First impressions, defense is at another level for us,” Towns said. “We just look better right away on the defensive end. A lot of us have said we’re ahead of the curve defensively already. Now it’s just about getting the timing down.”
With the team adding defensive studs and Thibodeau focusing on defense, this shouldn’t exactly be a surprise. But if the Wolves can play defense as well as they played offense last year, watch out.
Other important stuff
- It sounded like forward Nemanja Bjelica got the majority of practice in and according to Thibodeau, he did well. Bjelica missed the end of last season with a left foot injury. And when Bjelica’s at his best, he’s a big difference maker for this team as a playmaker, rebounder and scorer.
- The West seems to continue to get better and better. Towns is well aware that it will be a tough conference in 2017-18: “Always getting harder and stronger. It’s the one thing. The West is already so powerful. It gets better every single day.”
- The Wolves only have a week of practice before taking on the Lakers in their first preseason game. Will that be enough time to have with each other before a game? What do you think, Andrew Wiggins? “Definitely.” There you have it.
We’ll be sure to check back in after practice tomorrow.