Wolves' want list is big
McHale making calls, but will teams answer?
By Dave Campbell
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves, like the 25 other NBA teams without much wiggle room under the salary cap, officially entered the free-agent market Tuesday with many wants.
Kevin McHale, vice president of basketball operations, spent much of his day on the phone with his counterparts around the league. The Wolves appear poised, be it with free agents or trades, to more of a presence on the transaction page this summer than they have in the past.
But, of course, there are no guarantees.
"You're talking about one guy, and they may have six or seven teams where they want to go," said McHale, who had made offers to nine free agents as of Tuesday afternoon.
The signing period doesn't begin until July 16.
Defending champion San Antonio, Denver and Utah are the teams with the cap room, so valuable these days because of the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax that will be imposed on clubs whose payrolls exceed an expected $52 million.
The rest, like Minnesota, can offer the $4.9 million midlevel exception and then must get creative.
A handful of high-profile veterans are on the market, including Alonzo Mourning, Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen. The Mourning-to-Minnesota possibility, for one, has emerged from the league's ever-churning rumor mill, but McHale would only vaguely acknowledge interest.
Though the Timberwolves acquired guard Sam Cassell and center Ervin Johnson last week from Milwaukee and said they'd try to make more moves, McHale wouldn't say there's more activity on the trade-and-free-agent fronts this summer than in the past.
"When I took over, we traded everybody on the team, except one guy," McHale said. "Because they all sucked."
"I was probably more active last year. Just nothing came to fruition."
The team's biggest need, other than re-signing Rasho Nesterovic and getting an extension done for Kevin Garnett, appears to be a defensive-minded small forward -- like Pippen, perhaps.
"I would like to have a defensive wing type of guy," McHale said. "We've got to get better defensively. That's the key."
Johnson, acquired with Cassell last week for Joe Smith and Anthony Peeler, arrived at Target Center Tuesday after passing his physical.
The 10-year veteran center officially joined his fourth team, and he sounded eager for the scenery change.
"I'm looking forward to a different philosophy, a different coach," said Johnson, who's played for George Karl a total of eight seasons in Seattle and Milwaukee. "That's a long time to be with one coach.
Johnson spoke excitedly of the prospect of playing with Garnett and the challenge of getting the Wolves past the first round of the playoffs, even though it's possible he'll be traded again this summer as they continue to try to reshape the roster.
"I don't know what they're going to do," Johnson said. "God is in control of my career, not the Minnesota Timberwolves. ... In this type of job, you've got to be flexible."
McHale didn't directly acknowledge that Johnson would be shopped, but he left open the possibility.
"I anticipate he'll be in Minnesota," he said, "but it's a tough business to be in."
NOTES: The Timberwolves also revealed Tuesday the 13 players they've invited to their minicamp this weekend. The group will then travel to Orlando to participate in one of the NBA's summer leagues. The summer roster includes draft picks Ndudi Ebi and Rick Rickert and undrafted free agents Carl English of Hawaii, Kirk Penney of Wisconsin and Kasib Powell of Texas Tech. Other players who've already been playing professionally for at least a year include recently released guard Igor Rakocevic, former University of Minnesota forward Quincy Lewis, former Syracuse forward John Wallace, ex-Seton Hall guard and Twin Cities native Darius Lane, ex-Penn State guard Joe Crispin, former Arizona guard Michael Wright, former Oklahoma State guard Doug Gottlieb and former Old Dominion forward Cal Bowdler.