It didn’t take Naz Reid long to realize he needed to do things differently if he wanted to be successful at the NBA level.
It was his very first day of Summer League action ahead of his rookie season.
“Everybody was blowing by me,” Reid said. “I mean, I had game obviously, but talent can only take you so far. You can’t really move if your lateral movement isn’t that good. Things like that. It was just something I had to do, and I was willing to do it.”
Reid has always been a skilled big man, the type teams around the NBA are always hunting for. But his conditioning, his lateral movement, concerns about his work ethic — those things scared teams away from selecting him in the 2019 NBA draft. Instead, Reid was signed by Minnesota as an undrafted free agent.
That seemed to serve as a wake-up call for Reid, who has committed himself to improving his body every day since. He could hardly jump that first Summer League. Now, he’s nimble on his feet. The 6-foot-9 center entered training camp at a lean 237 pounds, down more than 30 pounds. He credited work he did with the Timberwolves’ staff that included methods like band work, as well as time spent with his trainers this offseason in Miami.
“I’m moving better. Jumping off the floor faster. I just feel way better. I don’t want to change anything. Like, I just feel amazing. That’s all I can say about it,” Reid said. “The way that I am, the body fat that I have. I feel amazing. It’s no ifs, ands, buts or hows. I’m feelin’ really good.”
And he’s looking good on the court, as well. Take Minnesota’s preseason win Monday over the Clippers in Los Angeles. Reid tallied 13 points, five rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes. He’s making plays that are available and continuing to grow.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence. I told him (Sunday) he’s playing really well. Doing all the little things well for us. Not forcing anything. Game is coming easy to him right now,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “He’s finishing at a high level. Some tough angle plays. Rebounding, defensively, I’m very proud of him, and he’s had a great preseason so far.”
So good that Finch continues to look for ways to get Reid more minutes. The only way to do so seems to be playing Reid and Karl-Anthony Towns on the floor together. That wasn’t something Ryan Saunders did much of — it was discouraged by management — but Finch dabbled in the two-big-man approach at the end of last season and liked what he saw.
Of course, playing two centers requires mobility out of your bigs, as does Minnesota’s new pick-and-roll coverage scheme that has the big men up at the level of the screen, challenging ball handlers. Finch noted the lighter Reid is covering “a lot” of turf on the defensive end, but also looks nimble when he moves into the paint on the offensive end.
Defensively, Reid admitted he’s more comfortable dropping back on pick and rolls, because that’s what he’s always done. But he’s continuing to learn and advance in the new scheme. If the 22-year-old out of LSU has proven anything, it’s that he’ll do whatever it takes to succeed.
“Naz’s progress has been great. He’s still young, and being a young player you want to show what you can do all at once and prove you can be the best you you can,” Timberwolves point guard Jordan McLaughlin said. “Naz’s progress has been great year after year. He’s hard on himself, which is a good thing, but we’re also there to pick him up when things don’t go his way. He’s bought into progressing every single year, every single day, and he’s going to be good this year.”
Reid said he has learned that “everything matters” in this league — a phrase Timberwolves fans may recall from former Minnesota head coach Tom Thibodeau. That’s why Reid is in the facility at 7 a.m. every day, working to improve.
“That’s something I didn’t know going into college and coming to the NBA. Every single thing matters. You can’t short cut anything. You can’t take things off,” Reid said. “I have no problem doing that at all. I’m just here to do whatever it is to help this team win. That’s coming from my winning background. And I want to continue that. So that’s something I have to put the work in here to get a win.”
Last season — his second in the NBA — felt like Reid’s rookie campaign. In his true first season, Reid came up from the G-League team in Iowa and eventually started games after Towns went down with his wrist injury. Reid was essentially drinking out of a firehose down the stretch of the season. He was in survival mode.
Last year, Reid felt as though he was truly beginning to understand things.
“Things that I’ve never even knew mattered or knew exist in the basketball world. I feel as though every day I’m growing each and every way,” he said. “Going into this season, I’m really excited because, like I said before, I’m still learning, still getting better.”
Reid made a large jump as a player from Year 1 to Year 2, and plans to do the same this season.
“I’m excited. I can’t wait to get out there and just display all the things I’ve learned this summer and worked on this summer, and continuing to control each and every day,” Reid said. “It’s been a long time coming, 4 to 6 months, and I just can’t wait to get going. I’m really excited. I’m ready to go out there and do what I do best. … With the potential I have now, the sky is the limit.”