MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -That Celtic green that still runs through Kevin McHale's veins is spilling all over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In the last 20 months, McHale has made two trades with former teammate and good buddy Danny Ainge to bring nine Celtics to his Wolves, and parted with the two most popular players in franchise history in the process.
In January 2006, McHale traded fan favorite Wally Szczerbiak, Michael Olowokandi and a No. 1 pick to Boston for Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Justin Reed and Marcus Banks.
Then came the big move last week, when McHale pulled the trigger on a blockbuster that sent All-Star Kevin Garnett to the Celtics for Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and two No. 1 picks.
Banks and Reed are no longer with the team, but McHale has chosen to rebuild this struggling franchise around seven former Celtics who don't have a history of success, leading some fans in the Twin Cities to wonder where his loyalty lies.
At a news conference on Tuesday to introduce the newest batch of Celtics to come to Minnesota, an event delayed nearly a week by the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, McHale brushed aside any conspiracy theories.
``If all these guys had played in New Orleans and were the same type of players, it would have been the same thing,'' said McHale, the Timberwolves' vice president of basketball operations. ``It's the players you're getting and not where they played. That has no bearing whatsoever.''
Rather than focusing on his past ties to Ainge and the Celtics that earned him a place in the Hall of Fame, McHale wanted to look to the future, excited about assembling a very young team that will have a completely new look next season, and beyond.
After missing the playoffs for the third straight season, McHale and owner Glen Taylor felt they had to do something drastic to avoid a total collapse.
``I had the feeling that we could probably play better than we did the last two years, but not well enough to compete for the title,'' Taylor said. ``And I wasn't satisfied with that, nor do I think KG was after he had time to think about that. The idea here is to lay the groundwork for the potential to build something special.''
The word ``potential'' was thrown around plenty on Tuesday, par for the course when four of the five players acquired for the franchise icon are 25 or younger.
``Potential doesn't mean much until you realize it,'' McHale said. ``These guys all can play, but can they win? Can they go out and help the team win, that's what our league's all about. They have a lot of challenges ahead of them.''
Jefferson won fewer than 42 percent of his games with the Celtics in the first three years, with both Gomes and Green arriving in Boston two years ago and posting a .348 winning percentage.
That track record, and the lack of success young teams generally have in the league, has lowered expectations for this new group of Timberwolves.
``They're not brought here on what they've done,'' Taylor said. ``They're brought here on what we believe they can do in the future.''
These new former Celtics will join youngsters Randy Foye, Craig Smith, Rashad McCants and Corey Brewer as the building blocks of Minnesota's next generation.
``Why can't we be the first team of young guys to win?'' Gomes asked. ``That's our goal, to change that mold. ... This gives us more of a chip on our shoulder to be traded, go to another team and try to prove them wrong.''
The transition could be smoother than in many blockbuster trades, which usually involve three or more teams. There is a built-in familiarity on this new team, with Jefferson, Green and Gomes having played with Davis and Blount previously in Boston.
``Being traded with four other guys from the team, then coming with Ricky and Mark that I know, it makes it a lot easier,'' Jefferson said. ``It's going to make it a lot easier for all of us.''
It better, or else it will be a long, slow rebuilding process in front of a fan base that will be sorely missing the beloved Garnett.
``There's no pressure,'' Jefferson said when asked about taking Garnett's place. ``It's a compliment for all of us to be traded for Kevin Garnett. He's one of the best players in this league.''

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