Wolves Wednesday: Robbie Hummel gets first start

MINNEAPOLIS — Robbie Hummel politely asked reporters for a moment to go fix the cowlick standing erect on the back of his head before entertaining questions.

“My mom will get mad at me,” the personable rookie small forward said.

Before Wednesday, it hadn’t been necessary for Hummel to pay much mind to his postgame appearance. Not since his days at Purdue, anyway.

But shooting guard Kevin Martin stayed home with flu-like symptoms, prompting coach Rick Adelman to give Hummel his first career start. Corey Brewer slid over to the two spot, and Hummel manned the wing in Martin’s stead.

Then he had cameras and recorders thrust in his face just like the All-Star his locker sits next to — Kevin Love — does after every game.

It originally looked like a tough blow to the Minnesota lineup, which doesn’t possess a true shooting guard option behind Martin. The free-agent, sign-and-trade pickup is off to a scorching start this season — 23 or more points in his past six games and a 55.8-percent 3-point clip that ranks sixth among shooters with 20 or more outside attempts.

But his absence opened up a chance for Hummel, whom the Timberwolves drafted in the second round in 2012.

And with 10 points and  four rebounds in a 124-95 blowout, he didn’t disappoint.

“I said from the very start that I was tempted to put him in the first group,” Adelman said. “He is just kind of like a glue guy. He doesn’t need to do anything to help the team, because he does all the little things that people don’t notice.”

And some big things, too.

Hummel nailed the first two shots he took — both 3s — and helped Minnesota build a 38-24 lead heading into the second quarter. He finished 4-for-6 from the floor, but perhaps his best numbers were zero turnovers and three personal fouls.

“Robbie fits great,” Brewer said. “He doesn’t do anything wrong. He does what he needs to do and goes where he needs to go. He’s not in the wrong place, and that’s all you can ask for from a guy like that.”

It was a triumphant moment for a kid who had his NBA dream put on hold by two right ACL tears in college and a meniscus injury to the same knee shortly after. He spent last season in Spain and drew a training-camp invite after a solid NBA Summer League showing.

On Oct. 26, Hummel learned he’d made the team’s 15-man roster. Less than three weeks later, he was benefitting from Ricky Rubio setups and guarding Dion Waiters and Alonzo Gee.

“It’s crazy how the NBA works like that, I guess,” Hummel said. “Opportunity is everything here.”

Hummel had worked with the first unit in practice at times throughout the season and did his best to be prepared, he said. But when coach Terry Porter told him less than 40 minutes before game time Wednesday he’d be starting, Hummel — who hadn’t played more than 10:57 in three previous appearances — quickly dug out his iPad and poured over the scouting report one more time.

But afterward, he was able to enjoy the moment a little — once he fixed his hair.

“It’s been a hell of a road, for sure,” said Hummel, who was considering early draft entry before blowing out his knee. “My junior year of college, if you would’ve told me that this was the way I was gonna get to the NBA, I would’ve told you, ‘that kind of sucks,’ because I was looking at something else. It’s been an interesting way, but it feels good.”.

No more backpacks: There’s nothing incognito about a pink Jonas Brothers backpack.

Yet in an effort to avoid the nasty mess the NFL and the Miami Dolphins are currently trying to clean up, Timberwolves officials instructed their veterans recently to stop with the time-honored tradition of giving rookies florescent-hued, children’s backpacks to wear. Neither Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad nor any of Minnesota’s other first-year players will be required to carry them any longer.

Not that it was that big of a deal, Dieng said Wednesday before the Timberwolves’ game against Cleveland.

“I could care less about that, honestly,” said Dieng, the 21st overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. “Having backpack or not, that’s the last thing I’m worried about.”

But the controversy surrounding Richie Incognito, Jonathan Martin and the Miami Dolphins prompted the NBA to send out an anti-hazing memo to all teams. Not long after, Muhammad told the Los Angeles Times he was no longer required to wear his Jonas Brothers luggage, a mandate handed down by team president Chris Wright and general manager Milt Newton.

Muhammad laughed about the backpack situation, which has been a mainstay in NBA locker rooms for nearly two decades, during the preseason. “I’m good with it,” he said.

Dieng said the Timberwolves veterans — most of whom aren’t a whole lot older than him — have been nothing but respectful toward him and the other rookies since the beginning of training camp.

“I wouldn’t let anybody mistreat me,” he said. “I respect people, and I think I need to get that back. I don’t think anybody mistreated me.”

Good-natured hazing will likely always have its place in sports. It still does in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ dressing room; after their morning shootaround, veteran players punted basketballs all over the lower-bowl seats of the Target Center and sent rookies Matthew Dellavedova, Carrick Feeix, Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev to retrieve them.

When reporters left after talking to Kyrie Irving and coach Mike Brown, Karasev was still searching in front of suites for the last one.

“This is our job,” Brown said with a smile. “We just like to have fun, too.”

Sleeping in: The Timberwolves didn’t hold their normal pregame shootaround until Wednesday afternoon. Adelman said he encouraged his players to catch up on sleep after their flight back from Los Angeles didn’t return to the Twin Cities until 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Minnesota beat the Lakers on Sunday then fell by two to the Clippers on Monday. Adelman has made his qualms with NBA schedule-makers known, and three games in four days that includes a road trip to California are now on his list of grievances.

“It’s just one of those things that you’re always gonna complain about the scheduling, but you come back from the West Coast trip, maybe they think that we’re in the West Coast,” Adelman said. “But you should have two days off. We didn’t get home yesterday until around 4, so I just felt let them sleep in and we let them shoot around late this afternoon and went through everything.”

Timeout … way out: Adelman also said he’s still seeking an explanation for why Clippers coach Doc Rivers was allowed to walk halfway across the floor and call timeout in the Timberwolves’ loss Monday. With less than 20 seconds left and Los Angeles point guard Chris Paul dribbling in the frontcourt, Rivers’ timeout cries weren’t being heeded.

So he shuffled about 25 feet out onto the court and finally got the nearest official’s attention. That drew the considerable ire of Adelman, whose team trailed 109-107 at the time and wound up falling by the same tally.

“They said they didn’t see him; that doesn’t matter,” Adelman said Wednesday. “He has the best point guard in the league; I would think they can communicate when they want a timeout. I was really shocked at that and that they thought it was OK.

“I told (referee) Joey Crawford I get one the rest of the year when you’re refereeing, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”

Follow Phil Ervin on Twitter