Last week on the JRSportBrief podcast, Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard/small forward Shabazz Muhammad shared with listeners exactly what it’s been like playing with Kevin Garnett. Muhammad has played 157 games with the T’wolves since he was drafted in the first round in 2013 as the 14th overall pick out of UCLA, and last season, he played in all 82 games.
Averaging 10.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game last season while averaging just over 20 minutes, Muhammad doesn’t turn 24 until November. He should compete for the starting small forward position next season in Minnesota, and Muhammad knows he wouldn’t be where he is without the help of a future Hall of Fame legend like Garnett on his team.
“He’s great,” Muhammad said. “He’s helped me out a lot and helped my game out. He’s like a second coach out there for us in practice and even in the locker room. He’s doing a tremendous job, and I can’t wait to be back with him again next year.”
Garnett will turn 40 this Thursday, and it’s still unclear if he will be back for a 20th NBA season in the fall. Either way, playing with the Big Ticket last year has been a special experience for Muhammad.
“I can’t even describe it,” Muhammad added. “He’s really humble. He was always helping us out. Even if it’s not about basketball, it’s about life. He’s really been tremendous for us, and we really have been on him about coming back next year. He’s just great to have in the locker room. He’s just a great dude.”
With or without Garnett in 2016-17, the Timberwolves are loaded with young talent. Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine are all going to be just 21 next season, while Ricky Rubio turns 26. Toss in Muhammad, and that’s an excellent young core of amazing players to build around for a NBA playoff run — even in the loaded Western Conference.
“We got a lot of buzz playing some good teams … and getting wins,” Muhammad noted. “I finished out the season really strong, which was big for me. I’m going to go all out on my summer, really work hard and have another strong season next year.”
Muhammad scored 35 points against the Golden State Warriors on the road April 5 to hand the defending champions one of their rare losses this season. He plans to workout this summer in San Francisco, so Muhammad certainly can keep an eye on the Warriors and their personnel from that vantage point. Minnesota may have only won 29 games last year, but NBA fans should look for Muhammad and his teammates to do a lot better next season.
“We’re going to be good next year, and hopefully we can get that playoff look,” Muhammad stated.
The Timberwolves will have a new coach in 2016-17, Tom Thibodeau, who never finished worst than second place in the division during a five-year, NBA head-coaching stint with the Chicago Bulls while posting a .647 winning percentage in the Windy City. Put it all together, and Minnesota will be an exciting team to watch for seasons to come.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS, and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.