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Finishing kick (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday April 3, 2007 3:42PM; Updated: Tuesday April 3, 2007 4:00PM
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Craig Smith, Timberwolves

Like Thomas, this 6-7 Boston College alum actually has been playing and contributing for his team all season. But the second-round pick (No. 36 overall) is now starting to make a bigger impact as he gets more comfortable with the NBA game. Over his last eight games, Smith has averaged 11.9 points off the bench -- including a team-high 19 at Seattle on March 23.

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Despite being undersized, Smith has proved effective as a backup center by showing a deft touch around the basket. Although he appeared to hit the proverbial rookie wall in January and February, he has found a second wind. "Craig is a crafty guy at finding seams and then he gets on the offensive boards," T'wolves coach Randy Wittman said. "That's one of his strengths."

Walter Herrmann, Bobcats

This 6-9 forward with the distinctive blond ponytail already has as many Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month awards (one) as his more celebrated teammate Morrison. Herrmann took home the honors for March after he averaged 18.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists while shooting 62.5 percent from the field. His best effort might have come in a 108-100 OT win against the Cavs on March 20, when he had 29 points -- including a key three-pointer late in the overtime - and 10 boards.

Herrmann, who signed with Charlotte as a free agent, was buried on the bench early in the season. The 27-year-old finally got his break due to injuries in the Bobcats' frontcourt, and quickly made the most of it with his physical defense and solid overall play. Herrmann, who played with Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto and Nocioni as a member of Argentina's national team, says he just needed some time to adjust to a new language and culture.

Tarence Kinsey, Grizzlies

He's Memphis' "other" rookie besides Gay, and so far he looks like he might be a keeper. The 6-6 shooting guard barely got off the bench before the All-Star break. But an injury to Mike Miller (knee tendinitis) opened the door, and Kinsey has responded with five games of 20-plus points. He also drilled go-ahead shots in the final minute of two road victories last week: a three-pointer with less than a minute to go to beat the Lakers on the road, and a jumper the following game at Portland.

Kinsey went undrafted out of South Carolina, where he teamed with Knicks top pick Renaldo Balkman. Memphis signed him to a free agent contract for the minimum of $412,718. Kinsey suffered a broken eye socket during summer league, and spent most of the first three months either on the injured list or deep on the bench, before finally getting a chance this month.

It remains to be seen whether the slightly built Kinsey can continue to put up big numbers once defenses start to pay attention to him, but he has shown an ability to do some other things. He had seven rebounds -- including several key ones late -- to go with his 24 points against the Lakers. He also had four steals to go with his 20 points against the Blazers.

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