Szczerbiak feels good
Timberwolves veteran is healthy heading into regular season
COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. -- Wally Szczerbiak sat back after another day at the Minnesota Timberwolves training camp at St. John's University, ice packs on knees, recovery drink in hand, and smiled.
"It's a lot better than last year at this time," he said.
Szczerbiak missed a chunk of last season with a sore left foot caused by plantar fasciitis and found it difficult to adjust to his new role as a reserve. He then missed six postseason games with broken bones in his back after a scary fall against Denver in the first round.
But this team, which he rejoined during last season's playoff run, is not the same team he knew during his previous four years with the Wolves. Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell joined Kevin Garnett to lead the team out of the first round of playoffs for the first time in team history -- then the team lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
By then, Szczerbiak was happy just to play in the postseason, fitting in wherever needed.
"I was part of the playoffs last year, so I know what this team is all about," he said. "But now, we're just bonding from the beginning."
It's still not exactly clear what Szczerbiak's role will be this year.
"He's getting off to a good start," coach Flip Saunders said. "We're asking him to fit into the team situation, be able to knock down jumpers."
In 2001-02, Szczerbiak was averaging 38 minutes and 18.7 points per game. In 2003, he tied a franchise record with 44 points in a single game. Last year, playing in 28 games, he averaged 10.2 points in 22.2 minutes per game.
"It was just frustrating overall," he said. "I wanted to be part of the success."
And while he said he quickly regained his skills in time for the postseason, he wasn't as quick and agile. After a summer of conditioning and strength work, he gained 10 pounds and says he's 100 percent.
"He gives us a lot more options," said teammate Fred Hoiberg. "We have more depth ... he's one of our best perimeter scorers -- he'll hit seven, eight, nine shots in a row, and really get it going. He's a key piece to the team, a guy you can go to if other guys are having off-nights."
Szczerbiak says he's willing to take whatever role is best for the team.
"We'll see. You just go out there and complete, play hard and allow the coaches to evaluate who's playing where and what who fits in where," he said earlier in the week. "I just think for me, my main concern is to stay healthy and as long as I'm healthy everything will take care of itself. That's what I plan on hopefully doing and I want to help this team and have some fun."
• The; Timberwolves have deviated from their planned two-a-day training camp workouts. Instead, they are holding three-hour, single-session workouts.