Jefferson was one of 11 players to average a double double last year.
John Gichigi/Getty Images
The Timberwolves lost their final eight games at Target Center in 2006-07 to finish 20-21 at home. It was the club's first losing record in Minneapolis since 1995-96, when it went 17-24.
Record: 32-50 (13th in West) Points scored: 96.1 (20th in NBA) Points allowed: 99.7 (19th) Coach: Randy Wittman (second season with Timberwolves)
Becoming the next franchise icon is way too much to ask of this 22-year-old
When Al Jefferson looked up at the scoreboard during an Oct. 10
preseason game in London and saw that the Celtics were trailing the
Timberwolves, one thought quickly ran through his mind: We need to come
back. One problem: Jefferson had been traded from Boston to Minnesota 10
weeks earlier as part of the package for Kevin Garnett. "It was weird," recalls
Jefferson. "I came back to reality real quick."
The reality for the T-Wolves is this: For the first time in 12 seasons they
will be without Garnett, the franchise's alltime leader in points, rebounds,
assists, blocks and steals. While team officials don't expect a 22-year-old to
fill Garnett's shoes, they do believe that Jefferson can replace much of KG's
production. "We needed to have somebody who could score down low and could
rebound," says coach Randy Wittman. "Al brought those two things."
Interestingly, the turning point in Jefferson's breakout season came last
December, when his name began to come up in trade rumors. "That got me going and
playing better," he says. Jefferson more than doubled his previous career highs
in scoring and rebounding, and his 11.0 boards per game ranked seventh in the
league. By delivering on some of his vast potential, Jefferson became a
desirable enough commodity to be traded for a 10-time All-Star. "To know that
Minnesota wanted me so bad that they would give up KG means a lot," says Jefferson. "At the same time, I'm
not here to be the next Kevin Garnett. I'm here to be Al Jefferson."
Jefferson alone cannot turn around the T-Wolves' fortunes. They hope that
Gerald Green, another former Celtic; Randy Foye, last year's top pick; and Corey
Brewer, this year's No. 1 from Florida, will form a foundation for the
future. "We're starting with a group of young players who are talented but not
yet proven," says Wittman. "We have to be patient." -- Arash Markazi