When the Minnesota Timberwolves officially introduced first-round draft pick Shabazz Muhammad on Friday, the UCLA product spoke about entering the NBA with "a chip on his shoulder" after a pre-draft process that didn't go exactly has he'd planned, from the March revelation that he's a year older than everyone thought to his father's late May indictment on federal fraud charges, from his exclusion of the pool of prospects invited to the green room at the 2013 NBA draft to his drop to the Utah Jazz with the final pick in the lottery, who flipped him to the Wolves with ex-Louisville big man Gorgui Deng in exchange for former Michigan point guard Trey Burke.
Questions about both Muhammad's off-court issues and an on-court game that seems heavy on scoring instinct but light on a lot of other things will persist, but to his credit, Muhammad appears eager to go about the business of answering them ("I love changing people's opinions") and making a fresh start at the professional level, beginning a new chapter with a new team and a new jersey number ... although he didn't necessarily want that, according to Nate Sandell of 1500ESPN.com in the Twin Cities:
Muhammad originally requested jersey No. 15 with the Wolves, but when he found out Mickael Gelabale already owned the number, he opted for a more obscure option.
"Nobody wears zero in the league, so I might as well wear zero," he explained.
Sure, OK. It's like that old Belle and Sebastian lyric: "Nobody writes 'em like they used to, so it may as well be me." I can get on board with that, Shabazz.
There's just one problem, though: When it comes to wearing No. 0, they do write 'em like they used to. Fifteen NBA players wore the single cipher last season. To wit:
1. All-NBA Second Team guard Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
2. Reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.
3. Restricted free agent guard Jeff Teague, who averaged just under 14.6 points and 7.2 assists per game for the Atlanta Hawks last season.
4. Andray Blatche, who mounted a massive comeback as a reserve big for the Brooklyn Nets last season.
5. Four-time All-Star and 2011 NBA champion Shawn Marion of the Dallas Mavericks.
6 and 7. Michael Beasley of the Phoenix Suns and Al-Farouq Aminu of the New Orleans Pelicans (née Hornets).
8 and 9. Avery Bradley of the Boston Celtics and C.J. Miles of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
10 and 11. Big men Enes Kanter of the Utah Jazz and Bismack Biyombo of the Charlotte Bobcats.
12 and 13. Forwards Drew Gooden of the Milwaukee Bucks and Thomas Robinson of the Sacramento Kings, before he was flipped to the Houston Rockets, before he was flipped to the Portland Trail Blazers (where he won't get 0 because Lillard's got it).
14 and 15. Guards Aaron Brooks and Andrew Goudelock, who made late-season cameos for the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers.
You'd forgive young Mr. Muhammad for not remembering the 191 total regular- and postseason minutes that Brooks and Goudelock played for the Rockets and Lakers last season, and maybe some of the other relatively unheralded sorts dotting this list. If you're a guard entering the Western Conference, though, you probably want to be aware of which numbers Westbrook and Lillard wear — if for no other reason than to be able to identify which dude just went past you.
A suggestion, Shabazz: The next time someone asks you why you picked zero, send them a link to that awesome old Gilbert Arenas commercial, and then say, "Except I am nothing like all the rest of the Gilbert stuff — seriously, I really do not have all of the 'character issues,' I promise."
Hat-tip to Sean Highkin at For the Win.
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