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5 Minnesota Timberwolves The brash new guard says he can take this team to the next level

Oct. 27, 2003
Oct. 27, 2003

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Oct. 27, 2003

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5 Minnesota Timberwolves The brash new guard says he can take this team to the next level

Ten-year veteran Sam Cassell may be lacking in some departments,
chief among them hair and a conscience when shooting, but
confidence is not one of them. To hear the Timberwolves' new
point guard tell it, the key to this team will be, yep, Sam
Cassell. "Every team I'm on has an attitude," he says. "I'm very
competitive. I'm bringing that to this squad."

This is an article from the Oct. 27, 2003 issue Original Layout

His competitiveness helped the Bucks reach the playoffs in three
of the five seasons he was in Milwaukee, though they never went
to the Finals. Now he joins a club that has suffered seven
consecutive first-round exits from the postseason and is counting
on him and fellow newcomers Latrell Sprewell and Michael
Olowokandi to get it over the hump.

All-Star forward Kevin Garnett is wearing a big smile these days
primarily because, he says, the new backcourt combination of
Cassell and Troy Hudson "makes us, at times, unstoppable because
the break is going so fast."

Cassell, who averaged 19.0 points per game over the last four
seasons, scoffs at the notion that he has to modify his game now
that he's playing in a system with so many other potent scorers.
"I don't have to change a damn thing," he says. "I just play my
game." What about a potential point guard controversy with
Hudson? "In the half-court, I'm the point guard," says Cassell
with finality. "We play well together, but I'm running the
point."

Cassell likens the Timberwolves to the championship teams he
played on in Houston in the mid-1990s. Minnesota has two capable
big men in Garnett and Olowokandi, scoring firepower, a strong
bench, a veteran coach and a floor general unafraid to take big
shots. "All the pieces are there," says Cassell. "This is a team
that can go all the way." --C.B.

COLOR PHOTO: RON HOSKINS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES Sam Cassell

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Timberwolves

"This is the best talent they've ever had, but the season could
still turn ugly if all the strong personalities clash on the
court. That's where Kevin Garnett comes in: He is not only an
elite player but also a vocal leader who backs up his talk by
playing hard every day. On the good teams the stars buy into the
team concept and demand that everyone else buy into it. I'm
betting that this team will play well because Garnett will accept
nothing less.... Sam Cassell is about to turn 34 and Latrell
Sprewell is 33, but that shouldn't be a problem. Flip Saunders is
a good coach and does a great job of mixing zones with
man-to-man, which gives his players a little breather....
Sprewell has a reputation as a controversial guy, but the bigger
concern is Cassell. He's a constant jabberer, and his new
teammates are either going to love it or want him to shut up. He
also overdribbles as a point guard, which makes him predictable
and easier to defend. It's also going to be interesting to see if
Cassell runs the plays as Flip calls them because Cassell used to
argue with George Karl about play-calling. If it were me, I'd
start Troy Hudson, with his great quickness pushing the tempo,
and then bring Cassell off the bench to provide leadership and
scoring for the second unit.... Flip has to get into Michael
Olowokandi's head and make him focus on rebounding, running the
floor and staying in the paint--no shots from farther than eight
feet.... The Timberwolves need to finish among the top three in
the West so they can avoid a first-round matchup against the
Lakers, Kings, Spurs or Mavs--but I don't see how they can do
that."

FAST FACT

Kevin Garnett's 68 double doubles were the most since 1992-93,
when Hakeem Olajuwon had 71 for the Rockets.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
with 2002-03 statistics

Record: 51-31 (4th in West)
Points scored: 98.1 (7th in NBA)
Points allowed: 96.0 (18th)
Coach: Flip Saunders (ninth season with Timberwolves)

[1]MICHAEL OLOWOKANDI

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG BPG SPG FG% FT%
C 140 12.3 9.1 1.3 2.19 0.50 42.7 65.7

WALLY SZCZERBIAK

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
SF 49 17.6 4.6 2.6 0.85 48.1 42.1 86.7

[1]SAM CASSELL

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
PG 21 19.7 4.4 5.8 1.13 47.0 36.2 86.1

[1]LATRELL SPREWELL

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
SG 55 16.4 3.9 4.5 1.38 40.3 37.2 79.4

KEVIN GARNETT

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG BPG SPG FG% FT%
PF 2 23.0 13.4 6.0 1.57 1.38 50.2 75.1

BENCH PVR* 2002-03 KEY STATS

G TROY
HUDSON 95 14.2 ppg 5.7 apg 0.76 spg 42.8 FG% 36.5 3FG%
F GARY
TRENT 214 6.0 ppg 3.6 rpg 1.0 apg 53.5 FG% 59.4 FT%
G [1] FRED
HOIBERG 286 2.3 ppg 2.2 rpg 1.1 apg 0.63 spg 38.9 FG%
F-C[1]MARK
MADSEN 298 3.2 ppg 2.9 rpg 0.35 bpg 42.3 FG% 59.0 FT%
C [1] ERVIN
JOHNSON 317 2.2 ppg 4.3 rpg 0.91 bpg 45.2 FG% 68.2 FT%

NEW ACQUISITION[1]
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 94)