ST PAUL (FOX 9) - Work ethic won’t be an issue when it comes to the three newest rookies with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas arrived to the Timberwolves’ facility Thursday morning, met by one of his rookies on his way out. Jarrett Culver was in working out at 6 a.m. Crafting his game at all hours is a thing of regular occurrence lately. On NBA Draft night, Culver went and worked out after being picked and fulfilling media obligations.
The gym is his comfort zone, his second home.
“It speaks to who he is and what he’s about. We want to build a championship, sustainable program. Those are the individuals that you want and when your best players are your hardest workers, they set the tone for the program,” Rosas said.
Culver and second round pick Jaylen Nowell were introduced Thursday at the Conway Community Center in St. Paul as the Wolves’ newest additions. They weren’t alone. The team announced they signed versatile forward Naz Reid to a multi-year contract after an impressive showing at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
“It’s a great day for Minnesota Timberwolves basketball. Not only are we getting very talented, individual basketball players and winners who will buy into a program, but we’re getting three high-character individuals,” head coach Ryan Saunders said.
The three rookies are now teammates, but took different paths in getting to the NBA.
Culver settling in with Wolves
Culver had an unusual NBA Draft night. Rosas made the move to send Dario Saric and the No. 11 pick to the Phoenix Suns for the No. 6 pick. With that choice, the Wolves picked Culver. Not that long ago, he was in Minneapolis for the Final Four trying to win a national title with his hometown college. Texas Tech lost the title game in overtime to Virginia.
The trade couldn’t become official until July 6, so Culver had to wear a Suns’ hat even though he was headed to Minnesota. It was still the realization of a dream becoming reality.
“It was different with the trade and stuff, but being a part of that is something you work for as a kid. It’s something you dream about,” Culver said. “It was a surreal feeling just being drafted No. 6, it’s something I’ll never forget. I’ll tell my kids, kids’ kids, it’s generational and it’s life-changing.”
Culver found a gym later that night, and got to work. He spent about two weeks with the Wolves in Las Vegas doing everything but playing in live games. He practiced with the team, did team activities. He crossed paths with Rosas at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, after already having finished a workout.
Last season, Culver averaged 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game for the Red Raiders. He scored 15 points in the national title game loss to Virginia. The Lubbock native was the Big 12 Player of the Year last season.
“To have a college kid who comes out of Lubbock, who leads his local school the NCAA championship game, those things don’t happen by accident,” Rosas said.
Culver is keeping his expectations simple for his rookie season: Work hard and be coachable. He hopes it translates to playing time, and wins.
“I’m trying to win just as bad as these coaches and everybody else, so I’m going to go out and give it my all and do my best that I can every night,” Culver said.
Nowell: Not playing Summer League was one of his “toughest experiences”
The Timberwolves arguably over-achieved at the NBA Summer League, going undefeated until losing to the Memphis Grizzlies in the title game. It’s even more impressive when you consider they did it without Culver and Nowell ever stepping foot on the court.
Nowell practiced, spent time with his new teammates and did everything but play in a game. It’s a foreign concept to him. He called it one of the toughest experiences he’s ever had to go through. It was the first time he’s ever missed games.
Flash back to NBA Draft night, and the emotions were 180 degrees different. The Seattle native, 19 years old at the time, had his life change forever when the Wolves called with the No. 43 pick.
“I was with the family, they were all screaming. There was just so much going on that I barely even got to see my name pop up on the screen,” Nowell said. “It was really amazing, I couldn’t stop cheezing. I went to bed so happy that night.”
Nowell, a guard at Washington, was the Pac-12 Player of the Year last season. He averaged 16.2 points per game for the Huskies, and shot 44 percent from three-point range.
He’s now 20 years old, is ready to don Wolves gear daily and get to work. He looked more than comfortable in it Thursday, helping kids with the Sanneh Foundation through basketball drills after media duties.
“It’s been an amazing journey. Worked very hard to get to this point. The Timberwolves took a chance on a 19-year-old at the time. I just turned 20, I’m ready to come in and be a part of this program and just work my butt off every day,” Nowell said.
Reid impresses at Summer League, signs multi-year deal
Naz Reid didn’t get the thrill that Culver and Nowell got on draft night. His phone never rang, at least not until after the NBA Draft was over. His name wasn’t called, but the Wolves came calling with an opportunity to play on a two-way contract.
Reid, a 6-10 forward, was a top-15 recruit out of high school at LSU. He found a fit with the Wolves and their new up-tempo, perimeter shooting style in the NBA Summer League. In seven games, he averaged 11.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18.4 minutes per game.
“It was pretty evident early on, even in the practices, you see his talent and you see what he can be. Especially being 19 and you see the upside, it’s an unbelievable find for us,” Saunders said.
He was consistently Minnesota’s best player in Las Vegas, and the front office noticed. Under his two-way contract, Reid would’ve spent a maximum of 45 days with the Wolves and a majority of the season in the G League in Iowa. His size, versatility and ability to shoot from the perimeter was too much to pass up. Rosas what Reid did in the Summer League is “just scratching the surface.”
The Wolves signed Reid to a multi-year deal on Thursday. He’ll now call the Twin Cities home.
“I just tried to play to the best of my abilities. Do the things that I could do and more right than wrong. I’m blessed to have this opportunity this soon. I’m excited and I’m ready to get to work,” Reid said.
New era for Wolves
The Summer League gave a bit of a glimpse into what the Wolves could look like next season. They played up-tempo, were aggressive in going to the rim and took shots from the perimeter. The mid-range jumper was virtually non-existent.
Saunders couldn’t contain his smile Thursday when talking about Culver, saying it’s been a long time since a player beat him to the gym.
The three rookies from different paths, and different places, will now call Minnesota home. Saunders is ready to welcome them, though it might mean babysitting duties as he and his wife just had their first child.
“I told these guys whenever they need a place for a home-cooked meal, they can come over to our house. I just might have them get on babysitting duty a little bit too,” Saunders said.