Shabazz Muhammad lost his one and only NCAA Tournament game in March. In June, he slipped to the No. 14 overall pick in the NBA Draft. And now, things for the former UCLA shooting guard and small forward and current member of the Minnesota Timberwolves have only managed to get worse.
On Wednesday, USA Today reported that the Pac-12 Freshman Player of the Year was sent home from the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program for breaking a rule he had just been told about several hours before when he brought an unauthorized female guest into his hotel room.
Sister, cousin, friend or significant other? That’s still unknown. What is painfully clear is what a horrible first impression Muhammad has made in the NBA, and like a young man who refers to his girlfriend’s father as “dude” in their first meeting, Muhammad will be forced to suffer the consequences.
Truth is, this is just the latest in a laundry list of unfavorable incidents Muhammad was party to while at UCLA. First came allegations that he accepted monetary benefits during the recruitment period, which saw Muhammad suspended for three games while much of the UCLA community, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, advocated for his quick release. Then he was criticized for apparently snubbing teammate Larry Drew after Drew sank a game-winner against Washington. Muhammad’s pouting made it clear he felt the final shot should have been his own to take. As if that wasn’t enough, reports emerged in March that Muhammad’s father, Ron Holmes, had been lying about his son’s age, and that Muhammad was 20, not 19 as had been indicated previously. The UCLA star committed no legal transgression, but the incident left yet another black mark on a record that many NBA teams no longer wanted to touch.
To be fair, Muhammad isn’t the first player to have been dismissed from a four-day NBA rookie seminar. Others, including the Miami Heat’s Mario Chalmers, have been sent home for marijuana use and unauthorized guests in the past, but none of those instances induced the “here we go again” eye roll.
The penalty this time is a slap on the wrist: A small fine and a required four-day stay at next year’s Rookie Transition Program, since the first one didn’t go over too well. Next time he might not be so lucky.
What bothers me most about Muhammad’s most questionable extracurricular activities is that he has the potential to pay dividends on the court. At UCLA, he averaged 17.9 points per game and occasionally showed the ability to score at will. His consistency and ability to pass the ball in the NBA linger are question marks, but don’t be surprised if Muhammad establishes himself as a reliable double-digit scorer over a lengthy career. Like the new kid in school, Shabazz Muhammad’s first few days in the NBA have been his most trying. Whether or not they stay that way is largely up to him.