Wayne Ellington hustles for Timberwolves progress
Like many of his Timberwolves' teammates, Wayne Ellington's path to Minnesota weaved over a road paved with success and achievement before arriving upon the cobblestone path that has defined Target Center hoop for the past seven years.
Like eight of his fellow Wolves, Ellington was named a McDonald's High School All-American. Among his post prep accolades, he was a key member North Carolina's 2009 NCAA championship squad, and was named the Most Outstanding Player of that year's tournament.
"It's really tough, especially when you coming from winning on a regular basis where every time you'd come on the floor you'd win," Ellington said from practice on Thursday, two days after helping author a Wolves road win over Houston with a career-best 18 points. "But I think as we become more mature, and older, and veterans in this league it's definitely going to help us out."
Of his own NBA maturation, Ellington adds: "I'd like to be a little farther along, of course; a little bit more consistent. But I'm just really working hard to try to be as prepared as I can be when my name is called."
He's regularly found himself a part of cobbled lineups as he works to play himself into a floor fixture. As evidenced by their back-to-back road wins over New Orleans and Houston this week, the Wolves continue to offer signs of both hope and progress while working through continued roster changes and a steady slew of injuries. Yet, their 13 season wins still chart as the third-fewest in the league.
"You've just got to be professional," Ellington says of his irregular minutes. "That's part of being in this league. There's going to be ups-and-downs. I've had a lot so far this year, so I've just been staying focused, getting my work in individually and being prepared."
The second-year guard attributes a noted work ethic in practice to being ready when extended minutes come his way. The patience and prep become clear when looking closer at Ellington's numbers.
Ellington started just a lone game last year (the eighth game of the season) and appeared in 76 games overall. Of the thirty contests in which he played 20 or more minutes, he offered double-digit point totals in 15 of those babies. For the course of the campaign, Ellington shot a solid 42 percent from the floor and 87 percent from the free throw line.
This year, Ellington has searched for minutes that seem to come-and-go with all the consistency of a Carmelo Anthony trade rumor. After starting the first four games of the season, Ellington hasn't returned to an introduced lineup since, and he saw his floor-time whither throughout much of mid-November through mid-January.
However, in his last nine games played, Ellington (who missed two recent games due to the death of an uncle) has played 20-plus minutes on six occasions. Of the 15 seasonal games that he's seen as much floor-time, he's responded with double-digit point effort six times. For the year, he's shooting 43 percent, including nearly 40 percent from beyond-the-arc.
Given those proof-of-purchase numbers, look for Ellington to see continued opportunity as the Wolves aim to finish strong over the stretch-run.
"I'm a lot more comfortable, and everything is coming easier to me," Ellington concludes. "I think the last two games we've just been focused on getting the win. I think it's huge for us to get those two road wins, and come together with guys out."
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