|Moving on: Wolves open camp without KG for first time in 13 seasons|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 29 September 2007 14:45|
Coaches hollered instruction. Players gasped for air during conditioning drills. Optimism abounded at the start of a new season.
But someone was certainly missing.
For the first time in 13 seasons, Kevin Garnett isn't here. The Timberwolves traded him to Boston at the end of July, but it wasn't until Saturday's training camp opener that the news truly set in.
``When it happened, I was in shock,'' Timberwolves guard Randy Foye said. ``I always thought that I would at least get two or three years to play with him. You hear the rumors, but I was just like, 'It won't happen.'
``Then it happened, and I was still like, 'Nah. That can't be right.'''
It is right, Randy. The Timberwolves traded the face of the franchise to the Celtics for Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and two draft picks in the most lopsided trade - numbers-wise - in league history.
With nine players on the roster aged 25 or younger, the Timberwolves started the next phase in franchise history in earnest on Saturday.
``It's different. There's no question,'' said coach Randy Wittman, who was on the Timberwolves staff for nine of Garnett's 12 years here. ``I think I'll find out even more as we get practicing and playing. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of things I took for granted that he was able to do on the floor because of his talents.
``But that's kind of sunk in. I've reached the point where this is real now and this is good. I'm looking forward to it. I really am.''
Garnett won an MVP award, helped the Timberwolves reach the Western Conference finals and almost immediately started turning the franchise's fortunes around when he was picked out of Farragut Academy High School in Chicago in 1995.
The Wolves went from one of the most inept teams in professional sports to a perennial playoff contender, though they made it out of the first round only once with Garnett leading the pack.
After missing the playoffs for the third straight season, vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale decided to start over. He pulled the trigger on the blockbuster deal to ship the cornerstone out east for a bunch of new building blocks.
Jefferson, a 6-foot-10 power forward, was the lynchpin of the deal. And he moved into Garnett's old locker.
``I heard he got my locker in Boston,'' Jefferson said with a smile. ``So I just said I'd return the favor and take his locker.''
The comparisons won't end there. Jefferson also came to the pros straight from high school, though he is a more traditional power forward who likes to bang away in the low post.
``I think it's an honor to be compared to Kevin Garnett,'' Jefferson said. ``He's one of the best players in the league. I respect him and always have. To be traded for him was an honor, too.
``I'm not worried about any comparisons or anything like that. I'm my own player. I know we've got some big shoes to fill because of the things he has done here. But it's a challenge for me. I always like a big challenge.''
So how many players will it take to duplicate Garnett's array of talents - deft passing, soft shooting touch, limitless intensity, relentless rebounding?
``Five, right?'' guard Rashad McCants cracked after doing the math on the trade.
``When you think about KG and the multiple things that he can do, we have guys that fill every one of those things he can do - the passing, the rebounding, the scoring, the leadership, the passion. We have one guy that can do all the things that he did. It's kind of like a win-win situation.''
There should be plenty of wins for Garnett in Boston, which also traded for All-Star Ray Allen to go along with Paul Pierce in a wide open Eastern Conference.
There are many more questions in Garnett's old town, where a young team is looking for a new leader.
It's going to take some getting used to.
``It's just strange to see KG not here,'' McHale said. ``I just think it was time for both parties to make a move.''