Robbie Hummel achieves NBA dream
By Michael Osipoff firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-2485 October 27, 2013 11:00PM
Updated: December 1, 2013 7:04AM
There has been a bit of an opportunity to reflect on the jagged path he has traversed.
The twice-torn ACL in his right knee, primarily. The stint in Spain. Heck, the stress fracture in his back. The meniscus damage in that same right knee that delayed the start of his pro career.
Make no mistake, Robbie Hummel celebrated. The Valparaiso High and Purdue graduate has realized a childhood dream by reaching the NBA, a dream of so many kids but realized by so few. But though he has made the Minnesota Timberwolves’ season-opening roster — receiving widespread congratulations, given his good-guy likeability and that high-profile journey of perseverance, with him saying he was “overwhelmed” by the outpouring of texts, tweets and calls — he’s focused on sticking for the long-term, making an impact.
“It’s obviously exciting, and obviously something I’ve worked for for a long time,” Hummel said. “It’s something you dream about as a kid when you’re in your back yard or driveway, so to finally have it come to fruition, it’s a good feeling. But you have to take the perspective, the hard work’s not done, it’s just beginning. You don’t want to be in the league for one season and flame out. You have to prove you belong in this league.”
As the preseason unfolded, Hummel emerged from what proved to be a five-player competition for two spots, with point guard A.J. Price also making the 15-man roster and the Timberwolves waiving big man Chris Johnson (who had a guaranteed contract), 2013 second-round draft pick guard Lorenzo Brown and swingman Othyus Jeffers.
Hummel played in four of the Timberwolves’ seven exhibition games, including one start, averaging 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 15.5 minutes. He shot 30.4 percent (7-of-23) from the field, including 2-of-6 from 3-point range, and made all three of his free throws. Beyond any numbers, the former Boilermakers All-American impressed with his fundamentals, work ethic, shooting, versatility (playing both forward spots) and intangibles, something he has done at every level.
He officially found out on Saturday morning that he had made the team.
“I felt really good about things, because I was playing well in practice,” Hummel said. “Things were trending upward, but you never know. It’s a crazy business I’ve found myself employed in.”
The Timberwolves had selected Hummel in the second round (No. 58 overall) in the 2012 NBA Draft, and the parties agreed he would spend the 2012-13 season in Spain — because of Minnesota’s glut of forwards, and for him to fully demonstrate his health and further develop his game. There were no guarantees, but if things went according to plan, Hummel would get his chance to make the 2013-14 Timberwolves.
He had a productive season abroad, averaging 10.1 points — shooting 49.2 percent from the field, 41.2 from 3 and 89.1 from the line — and 3.8 rebounds for Blusens Monbus Obradoiro, helping the team qualify for the Liga ACB playoffs for the first time in franchise history. But things didn’t go totally smoothly.
Hummel missed the first six games of the season after undergoing (relatively minor, in comparison) knee surgery. And toward the end of his season in Spain, in May, the Timberwolves let go David Kahn — who had drafted Hummel — and named Flip Saunders president of basketball operations.
“I kind of got thrown into limbo with the new management,” Hummel said. “But Flip and Milt (Newton, who was hired as the team’s general manager in September) have been very fair. They said I’d have a chance to make the team and they meant it. I’m grateful.”
In July, Hummel played on the Timberwolves’ Las Vegas Summer League team for the second time, performing well. As a sort of veteran, he averaged 8.6 points and a team-high 5.8 rebounds in a team-high 21.4 minutes in five games, all starts, shooting 47.1 percent (16-of-34).
The next step was an invitation to training camp. And he proceeded to earn his place on the team.
“Everything that’s happened, it’s made it sweeter,” Hummel said. “You accomplish some things in high school, and then after my freshman year in college, you start realizing the NBA really is a possibility. Then the knees happened. If you would’ve told me my junior year in college it would take this long, I would’ve been very surprised. But at the end of the day, I can say I got through it.
“The biggest doubts for me came during the rehab process, when I didn’t have anything in my leg — you’re jumping and you’re just not going anywhere. But once I started feeling back to normal, I always thought I could make it.”
The Timberwolves open the regular season on Wednesday at home against East Chicago Central and Purdue grad E’Twaun Moore and Orlando, with the Magic opening on Tuesday at the Pacers.
“It’s pretty hilarious, pretty crazy,” Hummel said. “We’ve talked a couple times in the last few weeks. The last time we played against each other was in 2007 (as high school seniors) and that didn’t work out so well for me (the Cardinals beat the Vikings in a regional final). That guy is very special to me. He’s one of my best friends and one of my favorite teammates at Purdue. It will be cool to play against him. It’s amazing how things come full circle like that.”