'Sam I Am' to bring playoff experience to Clippers
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves traded aging point guard Sam Cassell and a conditional first-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night for guards Marko Jaric and Lionel Chalmers.
The deal ends a two-year, up-and-down stint in Minnesota for Cassell, who helped lead the team to the Western Conference finals in 2003-04 after arriving in a trade with Milwaukee.
But Cassell began to wear out his welcome last season, complaining about his lack of a contract extension when training camp started and then struggling through an injury-plagued season at age 35 while averaging 13.5 points and 5.1 assists in 59 games. The Wolves missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996.
"Last year was a disappointing year," Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale said. "It was time to go in another direction."
Jaric, a 6-foot-7 guard from Serbia-Montenegro, was a restricted free agent who was signed by the Clippers before the trade. He averaged a career-high 9.9 points, 6.1 assists and 33.1 minutes for Los Angeles last season.
McHale said the Timberwolves targeted Jaric all offseason, calling him as soon as free agency opened on Aug. 1.
"We really like Marko," McHale said. "He's very versatile."
Versatility is something new coach Dwane Casey covets, and McHale said Casey lobbied hard for the team to go after Jaric.
Jaric is also considered a better defender at the point than Cassell, a big plus for the Timberwolves, who were picked apart by opposing point guards all last season.
"Marko is a big guard who can see over the defense, and he can defend both the point guard and shooting guard position," Casey said in a statement issued by the team. "We feel we've really upgraded our defense and our team with the addition of Marko."
Chalmers appeared in 36 games for the Clippers as a rookie last season, averaging 3.1 points, 1.4 assists and 12.0 minutes.
The first-round pick is lottery protected, so if Minnesota misses the playoffs again this season the Timberwolves will hang on to that selection.
McHale said the Timberwolves were also close to re-signing free agent forward Eddie Griffin. And with the addition of Jaric, Griffin and Nikoloz Tskitishvili, McHale was comfortable giving up the first-round pick.
"Our young base is pretty solid," McHale said. "We have plenty of young big guys, so I think we're in pretty good shape.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press