A fresh start
Cassell ready for new direction with Wolves
By Dave Campbell
MINNEAPOLIS -- Sam Cassell isn't concerned that the Minnesota Timberwolves already have a solid starting point guard.
He's been through that before, and it seemed to work out pretty well.
Cassell, who dropped by Target Center on Wednesday after passing his physical and thereby finalizing the trade that sent him and Ervin Johnson from Milwaukee to the Wolves for Joe Smith and Anthony Peeler, had to make room for Gary Payton last season when the Bucks acquired him in February.
So Cassell doesn't see any playing-time complications with him and Troy Hudson, who had an impressive playoff series against the Lakers.
"I respect what Troy did," Cassell said. "I'm here to help him. This will be fun."
Coach Flip Saunders assured him he'll put his best five on the court, even if two of them happen to be best suited for the same position.
"We want players on the floor," Saunders said last week. "That's what Sammy is."
Cassell recently completed his 10th NBA season, and -- in scoring, at least -- it was his best: He averaged 19.7 points per game.
"Do I think I can start on this team? Yes," Cassell said. "No disrespect to Troy. He's going to be very big for us. ... I'm not here to start no controversy. I'm just going to be me on the basketball court."
Cassell nearly came to Minnesota in 1999 when the Timberwolves traded Stephon Marbury, but contracts complicated the deal and forced the Bucks to join -- sending Terrell Brandon to the Timberwolves, Marbury to New Jersey and Cassell to Milwaukee.
Reminded of that, Cassell shook his head and smiled.
"I was supposed to come here!" he said. "Then damn Milwaukee came in jumped in."
Cassell, who turns 34 in November, didn't have anything disparaging to say about his time with the Bucks other than disappointment that fellow stars Glenn Robinson and Ray Allen were traded "under his nose."
But he did -- like Johnson the day before -- sound eager for the change of scenery.
"Yes, yes, yes," Cassell said when asked if the timing was right for finding a new team. "I couldn't do no more in Milwaukee."
His last few months with the Bucks, though he didn't know it, may have been a valuable warmup for the 2003-04 season.
"It was easy for me and Gary," Cassell said. "If he had the ball, I was the first option. If I had the ball, he was the first option."
It won't be quite that easy, because Kevin Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak will require their touches, too. But Cassell spoke excitedly of the chance to open up defenses more and get Garnett and Szczerbiak more open looks.
"I think Sam will fit great," Johnson said. "Sam puts the ball in the hole. Sam might shoot a little more than people think he should shoot it ... but he's not a person who's going to run from an opportunity."