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Wolves revamp roster with former Celtics youngsters

MINNEAPOLIS -- That Celtic green that still runs through
Kevin McHale's veins is spilling all over the Minnesota
Timberwolves.

In the last 20 months, McHale has made two trades with former
teammate and good buddy Danny Ainge to bring nine Celtics to his
Wolves, and parted with the two most popular players in franchise
history in the process.

In January 2006, McHale traded fan favorite Wally Szczerbiak,
Michael Olowokandi and a No. 1 pick to Boston for Ricky Davis, Mark
Blount, Justin Reed and Marcus Banks.

Then came the big move last week, when McHale pulled the trigger
on a blockbuster that sent All-Star Kevin Garnett to the Celtics
for Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo
Ratliff and two No. 1 picks.

Banks and Reed are no longer with the team, but McHale has
chosen to rebuild this struggling franchise around seven former
Celtics who don't have a history of success, leading some fans in
the Twin Cities to wonder where his loyalty lies.

At a news conference on Tuesday to introduce the newest batch of
Celtics to come to Minnesota, an event delayed nearly a week by the
Interstate 35W bridge collapse, McHale brushed aside any conspiracy
theories.

"If all these guys had played in New Orleans and were the same
type of players, it would have been the same thing," said McHale,
the Timberwolves' vice president of basketball operations. "It's
the players you're getting and not where they played. That has no
bearing whatsoever."

Rather than focusing on his past ties to Ainge and the Celtics
that earned him a place in the Hall of Fame, McHale wanted to look
to the future, excited about assembling a very young team that will
have a completely new look next season, and beyond.

After missing the playoffs for the third straight season, McHale
and owner Glen Taylor felt they had to do something drastic to
avoid a total collapse.

"I had the feeling that we could probably play better than we
did the last two years, but not well enough to compete for the
title," Taylor said. "And I wasn't satisfied with that, nor do I
think KG was after he had time to think about that. The idea here
is to lay the groundwork for the potential to build something
special."

The word "potential" was thrown around plenty on Tuesday, par
for the course when four of the five players acquired for the
franchise icon are 25 or younger.

"Potential doesn't mean much until you realize it," McHale
said. "These guys all can play, but can they win? Can they go out
and help the team win, that's what our league's all about. They
have a lot of challenges ahead of them."

Jefferson won fewer than 42 percent of his games with the
Celtics in the first three years, with both Gomes and Green
arriving in Boston two years ago and posting a .348 winning
percentage.

That track record, and the lack of success young teams generally
have in the league, has lowered expectations for this new group of
Timberwolves.

"They're not brought here on what they've done," Taylor said.
"They're brought here on what we believe they can do in the
future."

These new former Celtics will join youngsters Randy Foye, Craig
Smith, Rashad McCants and Corey Brewer as the building blocks of
Minnesota's next generation.

"Why can't we be the first team of young guys to win?" Gomes
asked. "That's our goal, to change that mold. ... This gives us
more of a chip on our shoulder to be traded, go to another team and
try to prove them wrong."

The transition could be smoother than in many blockbuster
trades, which usually involve three or more teams. There is a
built-in familiarity on this new team, with Jefferson, Green and
Gomes having played with Davis and Blount previously in Boston.

"Being traded with four other guys from the team, then coming
with Ricky and Mark that I know, it makes it a lot easier,"
Jefferson said. "It's going to make it a lot easier for all of
us."

It better, or else it will be a long, slow rebuilding process in
front of a fan base that will be sorely missing the beloved
Garnett.

"There's no pressure," Jefferson said when asked about taking
Garnett's place. "It's a compliment for all of us to be traded for
Kevin Garnett. He's one of the best players in this league."