Flip Saunders says if T’Wolves send Shabazz Muhammad to D-League, it wouldn’t be meant as a punishment

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Shabazz Muhammad was sent home from the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program for a simple rules violation, and it didn’t appear to go over well with Timberwolves president Flip Saunders.

Speaking in a radio interview on Friday, Saunders said that Muhammad would either “learn the rules and learn to abide by things with the big boys or he’s gonna really quick learn a geography class: where Des Moines is in the NBDL down in Iowa.”

That sure sounds like a D-League assignment would be used to punish Muhammad in this case, and that’s not how teams should be using the developmental league, for a variety of reasons.

The D-League has made progress in recent seasons, and is getting to the point where the majority of NBA teams value it as a legitimate place to develop young talent, or to find a player to add to the roster as a mid-season injury replacement. There should be no negative connotation associated with sending players to develop there, and Saunders wanted to make it clear that it was not his intention when discussing Muhammad’s situation last week.

From Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

On Friday, Saunders in his weekly KFAN radio appearance said Muhammad will receive a fast geography lesson about where Des Moines, Iowa, is if he doesn’t abide by the rules. The Wolves’ D League team is in Des Moines.

“That wasn’t a threat,” said Saunders, who coached in the minor league Continental Basketball Association once upon a time. “That was just saying I’m a CBA guy, I believe in the minor league system and I believe players are down there because they lack the skill to play at our level, don’t have the confidence or don’t have the mental frame. If you don’t have any of those three, then that’s where you go to develop to be successful in our league.”

Saunders also said that the team would not impose any punishment on Muhammad, and that it was a league issue.

Muhammad may in fact spend time in the D-League if the Timberwolves believe he needs to develop, either physically or mentally. Credit Saunders for clarifying that if it does end up happening, it wouldn’t be to discipline his rookie player for a mistake that was made.