LAS VEGAS — The life of an NBA hopeful is all about maximizing the opportunities presented to you and hoping someone notices you. That’s the job description for D.J. Kennedy, who has turned his opportunities into a professional career spanning the NBA, NBA Developmental League, France and Israel. Now he has an opportunity with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA Summer League, and he impressed with a strong first half Tuesday as Alexey Shved sat out with a groin injury.
Kennedy entered the game against the Chicago Bulls late in the first quarter and ignited a struggling Timberwolves offense with nine points and three rebounds in 10 first-half minutes, and the strong showing could earn him more playing time in the team’s last two games given Shved’s health issues.
"It’s really just wanting to get out on the court and show people that I have talent, being ready and staying ready," he said of his best game of the week. "I just wanted to be aggressive, try to get my teammates going and give them something to feed off of."
He’s no stranger to playing well. Once a key senior on a strong St. John’s team, Kennedy’s collegiate career was halted by an ACL injury suffered during the 2011 Big East quarterfinals, but he worked his way back to a spot with the D-League’s Erie Bayhawks where his 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game earned him All-Rookie 2nd team honors and a contract from the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 21, 2012. A series of trades cut off his NBA career, and he was back with the Bayhawks for the 2012-13 season. Kennedy excelled once again, earning all-D-League 3rd-team honors, but he hasn’t been able to make it back to the NBA since. Still, he knows that all he can do is work hard and let the results sort themselves out.
"It’s always a little bit of luck with all these players trying to do the same thing. You just got to worry about what you can take control of," Kennedy said. "Everything else you let them decide. What they like, when I play . . . you just got to be ready. You can’t be down, that’s just life in the NBA. I’m going to be ready if it happens."
"The ultimate goal is to play in the NBA. I just got to keep fighting and just be ready. Keep working hard and people will take notice of me," the 24-year-old added. "I really just want to show teams that I’m always ready and I can make an impact in a short amount of time."
And people have taken notice of him internationally, as Kennedy has played for France’s BCM Gravelines and Israel’s Hapoel Unet Holon since 2013. It’s been a great experience for Kennedy, even though it’s not the NBA.
"Israel is great. It’s one of the best places I’ve been to. Great people. One of the best fan bases in all of basketball," the free agent said. "I played a lot, I had a good run. There’s a lot of competition and a lot of good players there."
Kennedy has already improved as a player thanks to new Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders’ approach to teaching new concepts and defensive strategies that will be invaluable to Kennedy’s career whether or not he is able to carve out a spot on the team’s crowded roster.
"(Flip) has been really hands-on throughout the whole training camp and Summer League," Kennedy said. "He’s really a defense guy. He’s great and I really learned a lot from him."
GAME NOTES: Glenn Robinson III’s shooting struggles continued Tuesday as he made just two of eight field-goal attempts. He had made six of 20 field-goal attempts over his first three games. . . . Markel Starks had a good showing with eight points, five assists, a rebound and a steal in 20 minutes off the bench. . . . Shabazz Muhammad had an impressive block on Tony Snell’s dunk attempt. . . . Kyrylo Fesenko started at center and had 12 points first half points as he made all five of his shot attempts.