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Bill Syken
October 23, 2006
Can a new playmaker, who's a lot like the old one, steady this tumbling team?
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October 23, 2006

13 Minnesota Timberwolves

Can a new playmaker, who's a lot like the old one, steady this tumbling team?

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F-C EDDIE GRIFFIN 4.6 ppg 5.6 rpg 2.11 bpg 35.1 FG% 19.5 3FG%
G RANDY FOYE * (R) 20.5 ppg 5.8 rpg 3.0 apg 1.41 spg 41.1 FG%
G TROY HUDSON 9.5 ppg 1.2 rpg 2.9 apg 0.33 spg 38.1 FG%
F-C CRAIG SMITH * (R) 17.6 ppg 9.4 rpg 3.0 apg 1.22 spg 57.3 FG%
F JUSTIN REED 4.5 ppg 1.7 rpg 0.32 spg 40.3 FG% 72.5 FT%

TheTimberwolves had their greatest success three seasons ago, when MVP forward Kevin Garnett and All-Star guard Sam Cassell led them to the conference finals. Last year, without Cassell, the team had its first losing record in nine years. Which explains why, in the off-season, Minnesota shelled out $24 million over four years on a free-agent point guard who's in the Cassell mode: high-energy, high-scoring Mike James.

The 31-year-old James was a minor revelation last year in Toronto, where he averaged 20.3 points and hit 44.2% of his threes. Those stats made him ideal for the T-Wolves, who ranked 28th in scoring last season (91.7 points per game) and 29th in three-point percentage (32.9%). Coach Dwane Casey says he likes James's "moxie" as well as his championship experience from the half season he spent with the Pistons in 2003--04. "He can be a leader for our guys in so many ways," Casey says. James bounced among four teams in six years before having his breakout season, so he provides the right example for a roster sprinkled with players who've moved around. "This is a great group of guys," James says, "but at some point in their careers they've all been counted out."

Garnett, 30, is no stranger to shouldering the load for his team, but during the summer he indicated that his patience is wearing thin. It will take help from James and the rest of the supporting cast to keep the Big Ticket from wanting out. If he goes, the Timberwolves know that it won't be so easy to replace him. --Bill Syken

Projected Starting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics

Record: 33--49 (14th in West)
Points scored: 91.7 (28th in NBA)
Points allowed: 93.6 (8th)
Coach: Dwane Casey
(second season with Timberwolves)

Mark Blount

PPG 11.3
RPG 4.5
APG 1.2
BPG 0.94
SPG 0.49
FG% 50.8
FT% 75.7

Ricky Davis

PPG 19.4
RPG 4.5
APG 5.1
SPG 1.17
FG% 44.8
3FG% 30.2
FT% 79.7

Mike James *

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