Timberwolves welcome new players

New T-Wolves
Five Timberwolves players acquired in a trade for Kevin Garnett show off their new jerseys Tuesday at a welcoming ceremony.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

In exchange for Kevin Garnett, the Timberwolves received Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff -- plus two first round draft picks.

Team owner Glen Taylor says he'll miss Garnett. But Garnett had one of the richest contracts in the NBA. And Taylor and the Wolves had a hard time paying for a supporting cast of players to help Garnett and the team win a championship. Taylor says a parting of ways was the best for both the team and for KG.

"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. And I wasn't satisfied with that. Nor do I believe KG was after he had time to think about that."

Timberwolves Vice President Kevin McHale says it was a hard decision to trade Garnett, but he says it was apparent that the team and Garnett were going in different directions.

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Kevin McHale
Timberwolves Vice President Kevin McHale says it was a hard decision to trade Garnett, but it was apparent that the team and Garnett were going in different directions.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

"He really wanted to play -- at this stage in his career -- with older guys that had a chance to win a championship. So if we were going young I'm not sure our paths were on the same path."

The Timberwolves are definitely getting younger as a result of Garnett's departure. Four of the five traded players have three years or fewer in the NBA. Theo Ratliff is the only veteran in the trade. Known for his shot-blocking ability, the six-foot-ten center has been in the league for 12 years. Ratliff missed most of last season with a back injury. But he says he's feeling better and looking forward to his place on a new team.

"It's definitely an opportunity for me to come out and be able to play with a great bunch of young guys that I've seen play and seen grow and just continue to grow and make their mark on the league. It's all about coming out and it's a new day."

Besides Ratliff, the Timberwolves picked up another big body in Al Jefferson. A six-foot-eight 230 pound forward, Jefferson can also score. He averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds last season in Boston.

The trade came as a bit of a shock to Jefferson. He's never been traded before. But considering who he was traded for, Jefferson says he'll take it in stride.

"It's a compliment for all of us to be traded for Kevin Garnett -- one of the best players in the league. If anything it's really a compliment."

Garnett joins a list of prominent former Minnesota sports stars to end up in Boston. A few years ago, the Twins dealt slugger David Ortiz to the Boston Red Sox. Ortiz found his power swing and helped lead the Red Sox to a World Series victory. Former Vikings star Randy Moss wound up with the New England Patriots this year via the Oakland Raiders. And former Minnesota Wild goalie Manny Fernandez is the latest addition to the Boston Bruins.

"It's ironic isn't it?"

That's Boston Globe sports columnist Eric Wilbur. Wilbur says Garnett is the talk of bean-town right now. He even threw out a first pitch at Fenway Park recently. But Wilbur says not everyone is happy with the trade. He says fans will miss Ryan Gomes. As an alum of Providence and a native of Connecticut, fans consider him a local hero. And he says the Celtics will also miss Al Jefferson.

"Al Jefferson's a guy who's a little bit of a cult hero out here. Believe it or not, when this deal went down last week there was a lot of people who did not like the deal because they were giving up Al Jefferson."

Garnett was less of a cult hero than he was a mainstream favorite in Minnesota. He came to the Wolves straight out of high school. Wolves fans watched him grow and his nicknames evolve from "Da Kid" to the "Big Ticket." Over his 12-year career with the team, Garnett played in 10 all-star games and was named the league's Most Valuable Player in 2004.