High Expectations

With the face of their franchise gone, the Minnesota Timberwolves have dedicated themselves to rebuilding.

Opening a season without Kevin Garnett for the first time in 13 years, the Timberwolves unveil a young, revamped squad on Friday when they host the Denver Nuggets.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Denver -8.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 209 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 88% of bets for this game have been placed on Denver -8.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Minnesota parted ways with Garnett on July 31, trading the 10-time All-Star to Boston for five players, a pair of conditional draft picks and cash considerations. Garnett spent the first 12 seasons of his career with the Timberwolves, averaging 20.5 points and 11.4 rebounds.

But after missing the playoffs the last three seasons, Minnesota decided it was time to go in a different direction.

"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.'"

The Garnett trade was easily the biggest deal the Timberwolves made in the offseason, but it certainly wasn't the only one. Only five players - Marko Jaric, Mark Madsen, Foye, Craig Smith and Rashad McCants - remain from last seasons' 32-50 squad.

"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.

Al Jefferson was the biggest acquisition in the Garnett deal, which also netted the Timberwolves youngsters Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfair along with 34-year-old center Theo Ratliff. Jefferson had a breakout 2006-07 season, his third in the NBA, averaging 16.0 points and 11.0 rebounds for the Celtics.

The Timberwolves announced a multiyear contract extension with Jefferson on Wednesday, but financial terms were not disclosed.

"I heard he got my locker in Boston," Jefferson said of Garnett. "So I just said I'd return the favor and take his locker."

Minnesota also traded its second- and third-leading scorers from last season, Ricky Davis and Mark Blount, to Miami on Oct. 24 in a deal that sent Antoine Walker, Michael Doleac and Wayne Simien to the Timberwolves. Minnesota released Simien on Monday.

Walker is looking forward to a fresh start in Minnesota after averaging career lows of 8.5 points and 23.3 minutes last season, and being publicly criticized by Miami coach Pat Riley for his conditioning.

"Coming here gives me an opportunity to be a leader again, to kind of put my stamp on some of these young guys - to help them out so they can become better players, help them in their off-the-court decisions as well as on the court," Walker said.

Foye, an NBA all-rookie team selection last season, is expected to be out several weeks because of a lingering knee injury. Telfair, Jaric and Greg Buckner are expected to assume the ballhandling while Foye, who averaged 10.1 points last season, is sidelined.

McCants and Telfair also have been hampered by injuries, making it somewhat difficult for Wittman to find the right combinations of players.

"We don't really have a personality yet. That's what we're working on," said Minnesota rookie Corey Brewer, taken with the seventh overall pick in this year's draft.

The Timberwolves lost their final seven games last season and finished 13th out of 15 Western Conference teams. They split four meetings with the Nuggets in 2006-07, with each team winning on the other's home court once.

Denver opened its season with a 120-103 win over Seattle on Wednesday. Carmelo Anthony, the league's second-leading scorer last season with 28.9 points per game, had 32 and held No. 2 draft pick Kevin Durant to 18 points on 7-of-22 shooting in his NBA debut.

Allen Iverson added 25 points and 14 assists for the Nuggets, who have high expectations this season. Anthony has predicted the team will win 60 games, and Kenyon Martin got on the public address system before the game and told the crowd, "We're going to bring the Nuggets their first championship."

Martin, who has missed 106 games over the last two seasons due to microfracture surgeries on both knees, started and had seven points and three blocks in 18 minutes.

"I know a lot of people didn't expect him to look that good," Anthony said. "He showed us a lot out there."

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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