MINNEAPOLIS -- Following an immensely disappointing season, the Minnesota Timberwolves were in desperate need of a makeover.
With that in mind, the Timberwolves are headed to Las Vegas for a little bonding and basketball. Starting on Monday, the team is holding a mini-camp in Sin City to get all the new faces acquainted
with each other.
The trip was the brain child of Dwane Casey, who was hired in the offseason to be the team's new coach.
"Dwane wants to get the guys all in one environment before we
get real serious," general manager Jim Stack said. "He can kind
of indoctrinate the guys into his philosophy and build a little
camaraderie. That goes a long way when it comes time to start the
Casey comes to the Timberwolves from Seattle, where he was integral in instilling a fast-paced style of play that relied on versatile players who can change roles on the fly.
That's why the two-day camp in Vegas is so important.
"I'm excited just to get all the new guys together and get to
work," said forward Mark Madsen, who signed a new five-year
contract this summer, in his trademark upbeat tone. "Work on the
pick 'n' roll defense, baby."
"We've had a lot of changes this summer," Madsen said. "I
think [this trip] is only going to pay dividends down the road."
The Timberwolves needed to get younger and more athletic after a
season in which they looked old and stagnant while missing the
playoffs for the first time since 1996.
So McHale traded disgruntled guard Sam Cassell to the Clippers for Jaric, who is nine years younger and a much better defender.
He also signed Tskitishvili, a versatile 7-footer with a soft shooting touch, to a free agent contract after an impressive summer
league and drafted McCants, an ultra athletic guard out of North
Carolina, in the first round.
Add to that the possibility of guard/forward Damien Wilkins following Casey from Seattle, and that's a lot of new faces. Wilkins signed an offer sheet on Thursday, and the Sonics have seven days to decide whether to match the offer or let him go.
"We feel good about the fact we have added some versatile
athletes," Stack said. "We want to get more athletic. We're doing
some good things and we're not quite finished."
The trip won't be just about basketball.
Stack said they are planning a few events away from the court, including a team dinner and possibly a bowling trip, to try and bring the team closer together.
"Anytime you get the whole team together, good things happen,"
Stack hopes the trip will help get the team in the right frame of mind heading into training camp. Last year, Sprewell and Cassell
complained about their contracts during the preseason and McHale
said the team had a poor training camp in general, which was a
precursor to a dismal season.
So Stack is not surprised that nearly all of the players planned
to attend the mini-camp.
"Everybody has a pretty sour taste in our mouths about not
making the playoffs last year," Stack said. "Last year was an
aberration and we want to make amends."