MINNEAPOLIS — Robbie Hummel and A.J. Price each received one guarantee Saturday morning, in the form of a rare word of praise from Rick Adelman along with the promise of a Timberwolves contract that extends past preseason practice and games.
And that’s all.
After making Minnesota’s final 15-man roster, both training-camp invitees — one a well-traveled, fifth-year veteran, the other an oft-injured rookie — won’t see much court time until a player ahead of them in the pecking order becomes unavailable.
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That’s why they survived the final cut in the first place, Adelman said.
“The thing that you feel good about is if something did happen where they had to play, you wouldn’t hesitate to play them,” the coach said. “They’ve both proven that they can do that.”
The Timberwolves waived center Chris Johnson and guards Lorenzo Brown and Othyus Jeffers late last week ahead of Monday afternoon’s final roster deadline. They’ll move forward with Price’s ability to lead an offense and Hummel’s 3-point shooting and defensive skills lurking at the bottom of the rotation.
And that’s where those two will stay, meaning their jobs aren’t exactly safe.
“Your spot is never solidified,” Price said.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound guard is well aware. He joins his third NBA team in five years after the Pacers drafted him 52nd overall in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Price spent last season in Washington and followed Wizards exec turned Timberwolves general manager Milt Newton to the Twin Cities. He picked up Adelman’s offense quickly and notched 7.8 points and 2.4 assists in 13.2 minutes per game during the preseason.
Minneapolis is the latest stop on a winding path for Price. He missed a season of basketball at Connecticut due to an intracranial brain hemorrhage, sat out another due to a suspension for helping steal laptops, and tore his ACL at the end of his sophomore campaign.
So after several training-camp battles for a spot earlier in his career, he knew he couldn’t afford any passivity during training camp.
“You’ve got to go as if you’re not good to the very end, just try to play pretty much balls to the wall the whole camp,” Price said.
“All I wanted to do was try to make it tough on the coaches, I guess, try to make it hard for them to send me home. I guess I did a good job.”
So did Hummel, who tore his right ACL twice at Purdue and tore the meniscus in the same knee before playing in Spain last season. The Valparaiso, Ind., native found out Saturday morning he’d finally worked his way onto Minnesota’s roster, around the same time Adelman notified Price.
“I think the entire city of Valparaiso was tweeting at me last night,” Hummel said after practice Sunday afternoon.
Of course, Hummel had doubts he’d ever make it here, especially while rehabbing during his college days. Had he not suffered the ACL injuries, he may have declared for the draft early and been first-round material, Adelman said.
“To have it happen again and to go to Spain, it kind of makes it all the more, I guess, sweeter,” said Hummel, who said he felt like he was “jumping in concrete” while working himself back to full health. “But at the same time, there’s still a lot of work to be done. It’s great to accomplish your goal, but there’s more things that I want to do to just make the team.”
Hummel remains buried behind Corey Brewer and Derrick Williams in a small-forward position battle that will evolve well into the season. The absence of Chase Budinger — who had surgery on his own meniscus before camp and is out indefinitely — grants Hummel a few more chances at minutes, but first-round draft pick Shabazz Muhammad is also there to try and snatch up some of them.
Price said Adelman told him he’s the No. 3 point guard behind Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea. That alone doesn’t grant him much more than spot duty, especially with Alexey Shved playing both guard positions.
But Minnesota wanted to keep players its coach and front office felt could change the course of a game or two this year when called upon. That ended up being Price and Hummel.
“We just felt that with (Hummel) and A.J., we felt they could win us a game,” Adelman said. “We felt that if we had an injury, they would probably be stepping in to help us.”
And while the opening-day roster has been decided, it’s still not set. Newton and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders continue to monitor the landscape for potential trades or free-agent signings.
“Everybody is (looking around),” said Adelman, whose team opens the season at home Wednesday against Orlando. “I think all the teams are doing the same thing. Right now, this is the guys we’re gonna go with, and if something comes up, we’ll deal with that in time.”
So Hummel and Price better not spend too much time celebrating.