MINNEAPOLIS — There’s nothing quite like an international excursion to become acquainted with the colleagues.
In Luc Mbah a Moute’s case, he received a little more than he’d expected when he and his new Timberwolves teammates were asked to exit a smoke-filled gym about an hour before game time Wednesday in Mexico City. But other than a brief moment of uncertainty as he walked out of Mexico City Arena, Mbah a Moute viewed the team’s NBA Global Games trip as an opportunity to embrace his new franchise a little more fully.
A month into the season, every chance bears meaning.
“Spending time on the plane, at the airport, the hotels, building camaraderie, that’s what this is all about,” the versatile, defense-first forward told reporters after practice Friday. “I’m continuing to get to know the guys.
“It’s been good so far.”
Mbah a Moute was traded from Sacramento to Minnesota in a straight-up exchange for Derrick Williams last Tuesday. Since then, his life has become a crash course on the ins and outs of playing alongside Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio and the Rick Adelman school of basketball philosophy.
He’s done his best to adapt on the fly, but it’s going to take time, the Cameroon native said. With a fully-loaded early-season schedule, there hasn’t been much practice time to absorb and start executing.
“Obviously, two practices isn’t going to cut it,” Mbah a Moute said. “It’s a little more complex than that. But I’m getting comfortable. Again, it’s a process. It’s not going to happen overnight. I know that. And the team knows that.”
Against Dallas and Oklahoma City this past weekend, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound UCLA product — a former teammate of Kevin Love — logged 43 minutes and 36 seconds. The stopper’s role he gleaned during five seasons in Milwaukee peeked through occasionally; he was credited with two blocks, a steal and nine rebounds.
Capable of guarding almost any position on the floor, Mbah a Moute’s progression will come more naturally on defense. Offensively, his flexibility is actually more of a burden.
Instead of learning just one spot, Mbah a Moute is charged with memorizing at least three different positions and their various cuts and spacing. The power forward, for example, has a considerably different set of duties than a shooting guard does in Adelman’s pass-and-move system.
“It’s going to take him a while to get all the positions,” said assistant coach Terry Porter, who filled in for Adelman on Friday while he witnessed the birth of a grandchild. “Some of those positions he just needs to get more reps and more practice and more game time at.
“In regards to him getting along with the guys and fitting in, he’s been great that way. We haven’t had any problems with that whatsoever.”
Not even during the commotion when a faulty generator forced the postponement of Minnesota’s contest against San Antonio, set to be played Wednesday night in Mexico’s capital.
Like most of his teammates, Mbah a Moute headed straight for the team bus and waited there until it was announced the game would not be played that night. That was a letdown, Mbah a Moute said, but the three-day trip afforded him chances to converse and interact with his newfound comrades.
That, Mbah a Moute said, is just as important as picking up on the playbook.
“Just getting to know the guys, getting to know the spots on the floor, getting to know the system itself, the cuts, the calls, all that stuff,” said Mbah a Moute, a prince in his native African village of Bafia. “But that’s why we do it. We can be here today, be here tomorrow. Have a different coach today, a different coach tomorrow. It’s still basketball at the end of the day. It’s just getting to know and be familiar with everything.”
He’ll have a prime shot at displaying his fledgling familiarity Saturday against the NBA’s defending champions. Love won’t be with the team as he and his family mourn the death of his grandmother in Portland, Ore., meaning Mbah a Moute is in line for a lot more playing time at the four.
Porter even went so far as to suggest he might start.
“Luc could get the call, I guess,” Porter said. “It just depends how Coach is going to go. We don’t know that yet.”