MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -The Minnesota Timberwolves were serious about that commitment to youth.
They continued their rebuilding project Wednesday by sending two more veteran starters away, creating further opportunities for their young players to play as the post-Kevin Garnett keeps unfolding.
``This is the direction we're going. We've got guys, I think, that have talent we need to have intact and develop, and the only way you can do that's on the floor,'' coach Randy Wittman said.
Ricky Davis and Mark Blount, who started 81 games apiece last season, were traded to the Miami Heat for three players and a first-round draft pick. Antoine Walker, Michael Doleac and Wayne Simien were acquired by the Timberwolves, but vice president Kevin McHale said he was still working on shaping the roster and indicated not all of the new players would report to the team.
The deal left Minnesota with a whopping 18 players on the roster, needing to reduce that number to 15 before the Monday evening deadline. Half of those players are age 25 or younger, and only three players have been with the Wolves for more than one season.
``They want to go young, and they think this is a way we can win. I think they just had to make that move for the best of the team,'' said guard Randy Foye, who is coming off his rookie season and suddenly one of Minnesota's longest-tenured players.
The Wolves have traded for 10 players, drafted two and signed one since last season ended. What's left is an intriguing but wholly unproven and inexperienced group: Foye, Al Jefferson, Corey Brewer, Rashad McCants, Craig Smith, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Chris Richard and Sebastian Telfair.
Injuries this month to Foye, McCants and Telfair have messed with Wittman's attempt to find the right playing rotations, but even with perfect health that was going to be a difficult task.
As for an identity for this team?
``I couldn't tell you. We don't really have a personality yet. That's what we're working on,'' said Brewer, who sounded a bit overwhelmed by the latest trade and the challenge of integrating whichever players wind up sticking on the regular-season roster.
He added: ``Now we're bringing in three new guys, and we've got to get adjusted to those guys. But it's the NBA. You've just got to keep working.''
As for a starting five? Right now, it's sure up for grabs, at least beyond Foye and Jefferson. Wittman said earlier in training camp, too, that he would probably never settle on a set lineup this season.
In addition to jettisoning two more veterans, whom Wittman described as ``strong personalities'' and whose attitudes have been questioned at times, the Wolves saved a year on an expensive contract by moving Blount out and taking Walker in. They also added another first-round pick, a piece as good as any for a team trying to build a contender from scratch.
Over the next few days, though, they're focus will be on whittling the roster down. Remember, they still have 18 players.
``We got 18?'' Wittman said, laughing. ``We need to call the commissioner, and we could have our own developmental league right here.''
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