HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

October 29, 2007

A new era begins for the Wolves

By Jesse Menden

When sports historians look back at the 2007-08 edition of the Minnesota Timberwolves, they will reference it as 1 A.G. (the first year after Garnett). Only time will tell if 1 A.G. was the beginning of something special, or just the latest debacle committed by an inept front office.

The trade has offered a fresh start. If nothing else it has offered hope of a future of competent basketball, because there is nowhere to go but up. That means 1 A.G. will be a year of big growing pains, but that doesn’t mean this team won’t be fun to watch.

Thirteen of the 18 players currently listed on the Wolves roster are new to the team. Nine of them are beginning their third year or less as a pro. And yet, I’m somewhat looking forward to 1 A.G., and seeing what some of the new players can do Friday night, when the regular season and post-Garnett era begins at Target Center.

The player at the top of that list is rookie Corey Brewer. The seventh-overall pick in the 2007 draft has plenty of offensive ability, but also played good defense while leading Florida to a championship.

But the 6-foot-9 forward is a rookie, so he won’t be the superstar that this team is lacking. He does appear to have his head on straight and could be a star in the near future. The person that will handle that role is also new to the Wolves, Al Jefferson, who was the key player acquired in the Garnett trade.

Due to a rather small lineup, it appears he will take over the duties at center. The 6-foot-10 Jefferson enters his third year and will be expected to be the go-to-guy this year and in the future. He averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds last season, and those numbers will rise because he will be the main scorer with the Wolves.

Gerald Green is another player that is intriguing. The 21 year old and former Celtic averaged 10 points a game last season in his second year, and has all the talent to become a good player in this league. Hopefully, the Wolves can work to get the full potential out of him.

There are some players that were on the roster last season that will be interesting to watch, but none of them have shown an overwhelming amount of talent, which is why the team is destined for a lottery pick again this season.

Rashad McCants is one of those players. He spent a majority of last season on the bench with injuries, and the Wolves never saw if he made a progression in his second year. But McCants might be an injury-prone athlete; he sat out Wednesday’s preseason game with a bruised knee. Hopefully, we will be able to see if he was worth that first-round draft pick in 2005.

Another player to watch this season is Randy Foye. He averaged 10 points a game in his rookie year, and his progression will have a lot to do with how good the Wolves can be in the future. The guard will need to see major minutes so he can continue to learn how to run an offense.

Outside of the five players mentioned, there is nothing else to get excited about on this team. Marko Jaric and Mark Madsen have little talent, Juwan Howard has not played a game for the Wolves and already wants a trade, and the only reason the team has Theo Ratliff is to clear up $11 million off the payroll at the end of this season.

That is why 1 A.G. is just the beginning of a new era. When the Wolves dump that payroll and the numerous cumbersome contracts, and get those first-round draft picks rolling in, they will be able to compete.

The front office seems to have that clear plan down because they got rid of two more athletes with bad contracts (and attitudes) last week. The Wolves dealt Ricky Davis and Mark Blount to the Miami Heat, which should improve the overall team concept and financial situation. The best part: the Wolves didn’t trade away a first-round draft pick; rather, they will actually receive one.

Now that the organization has a resemblance of a plan for the future, the fans have to just sit back this season and wait for it to take shape, much like Twins fans did when they watched them slowly build a winning team.

When that does happen, we will hopefully be able to look back at 1 A.G. as just the beginning of something special.