Fate can be fickle, but Glenn Robinson III believes it has guided him from Minnesota back home to Indiana with a steady hand.
Drafted by the Timberwolves 40th overall in 2014, Robinson was waived because of a particular set of circumstances late in his rookie year, before he could fulfill a future he envisioned growing alongside fellow rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.
Two years later this month, Robinson has found his place with the Pacers two hours from his hometown of Gary, Ind., and one hour from where his father, former No. 1 overall draft pick Glenn Robinson, starred at Purdue.
A part-time starter who won last month’s All Star slam-dunk contest, he’ll play his former Wolves mates Tuesday night in Indianapolis.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Robinson said. “Indiana is home. Things worked out for me.”
Things do happen. Sometimes they even work out.
In Robinson’s case, the Wolves swung a blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Love away and brought back No. 1 overall pick Wiggins two months after they drafted Robinson in the second round out of Michigan one pick before Denver took Nikola Jokic.
At the time, Wolves coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders called him a second-round pick with first-round talent.
But inevitably, Saunders and Wolves waived Robinson late in his rookie season and claimed center Justin Hamilton off waivers. They did so because they had Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad at Robinson’s natural small-forward position and because Saunders felt his team needed the presence and youthful promise of another big man.
“Seems like that has been a while,” Robinson said. “It has been, two years now.”
He finished that rookie season with Philadelphia, played with Atlanta’s Las Vegas summer-league team and then Pacers boss Larry Bird offered him a three-year deal that same month.
Now nearing the end of that contract’s second season, Robinson started 27 games when the Pacers were hit by injuries. He proved himself to be, according to Pacers coach Nate McMillan, “a young guy that came in and earned the right to play” on a team anchored by star Paul George.
He has now settled into a role off the bench in which he is averaging 6.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 20.9 minutes for a Pacers team seeking one of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spots.
“You can tell he’s upcoming,” Pacers teammate Al Jefferson said.
Surprise winner of last month’s NBA All-Star dunk contest, Robinson made a winning three-pointer with 0.6 seconds left to beat Atlanta three weeks ago.
“I’m definitely happy to be here,” said Robinson, who helped Michigan to the 2013 NCAA title game in his first of two collegiate seasons. “I’m glad things worked out the way they did. I just needed the opportunity. You know, we had a logjam at that wing spot when I was in Minnesota. I didn’t really get an opportunity, but I’m glad to be here in Indiana.”
He never played more than spot duty with the Wolves because they had Wiggins, LaVine and Muhammad.
“Playing with Wiggins and LaVine, if we would have kept that rookie class together that would have been pretty crazy,” Robinson said earlier this season. “But my time here has gotten my game so much higher.”
Unable to dunk until he was a high-school sophomore, Robinson followed LaVine’s 2015 and 2016 slam-dunk victories by leaping over George, a Pacers’ cheerleader and the team mascot to win last month.
In doing so, he might have earned a nickname that’s a nod to his father’s “Big Dog” nickname.
“My whole career, my whole life, I’ve been an ‘Underdog,’ ” he said after winning the contest. “I’m OK with that. I stay out of the way. But when it’s time to shine, I definitely want to come with it.”
• Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau’s path didn’t directly cross with former Bulls GM Jerry Krause during his five years in Chicago. But Thibodeau knows Krause’s place in NBA history after he built six NBA championship rosters around Michael Jordan.
Krause died Tuesday at age 77.
“I heard all the stories, which were fascinating, and that run they had was incredible, to win six championships in eight years,” Thibodeau said. “He had a great impact on that organization, and he was good to a lot of people there. It’s a sad day.”
• The first full-time female assistant coach in the NBA these past three seasons, San Antonio’s Becky Hammon is the leading candidate for the Florida women’s job.
“She’s just a very intelligent, creative basketball mind,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s one of the reasons I hired her. She has gotten used to the NBA, gaining experience on how things work and how it goes. She has been an integral part of what we do and has been a fantastic coach for us.”
• Popovich is a central character in why NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo last week urging owners to become involved in decisions to rest healthy players on a given night and promising “significant penalties” to team that don’t obey league rules about notifying the NBA and opposing teams when players won’t play.
Popovich, though, believers there can be a solution reached between the league, teams, coaches and players.
“We’ll get together a lot better than the Republicans and Democrats,” Popovich said. “And we even say things that aren’t nonsensical and ridiculous and delusional.”
WOLVES’ WEEK AHEAD
Tuesday: 6 p.m. at Indiana
Thursday: 7 p.m. vs. L.A. Lakers
Saturday: 7 p.m. vs. Sacramento
Tue. FSN+; Thu., Sat. FSN
Player to watch: Paul George, Pacers
All-Star reserve and one of the league’s better two-way players not only is eighth on the Pacers all-time scoring list, but he also leads NBA in free-throw percentage at 92.0 percent.
“Instead of getting up 500 shots, I’m doing 500 leg lifts.”
Wolves guard Zach LaVine on how his work ethic has changed only in specifics after his season-ending knee injury.
Twitter: @JerryZgoda, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Blog: startribune.com/wolves