Thursday, January 26, 2006
New helpers for KG, Pierce
By Marc Stein
Ricky Davis or Steve Francis?
The Minnesota Timberwolves, determined to make a splashy move after they were rebuffed in their attempts to pry Ron Artest away from Indiana, opted for the safer dice roll, if there is such a thing.
They chose Davis.
Knowing it needed a shakeup after a 12-6 start was followed by a 9-15 nosedive -- and finally prepared to break up the Kevin Garnett-Wally Szczerbiak combo after 6½ solid but contentious seasons together -- Minnesota decided that it had to move quickly to pair a more athletic scorer with Garnett.
The Wolves could have packaged Szczerbiak with defensive specialist Trenton Hassell to put Orlando's Francis alongside KG, but Davis comes at a much more reasonable price ... along with a center (Mark Blount) whom Minnesota was already chasing.
It's not like the dream scenario of trading for Paul Pierce, or the fantasy notion of stealing Chauncey Billups back from Detroit, but I'd call it a worthwhile fallback.
Surely you recall our recent assertion that no player at Garnett's elite level needs a scoring sidekick more than KG does. He's averaging just 16 shots a game, after all. He's essentially the Wolves' point guard and can deal with a doubles partner who puts his head down sometimes. What scouts say fits best next to KG is a create-his-own-shot scorer who can capitalize on Garnett's passing vision, willingness to share and ability to dominate the game everywhere else. The one thing KG lacks, remember, is a Kobe mode. He's not going to rip off a succession of 40-point games to carry a roster of journeymen.
So with the versatile Davis available again after Kevin McHale tried for years to get him, and with some of the Wolves' recent body language suggesting that the Garnett-Szczerbiak union was teetering anew, Minnesota expanded its recent Michael Olowokandi-for-Blount talks into something bolder.
From the Celtics' side, it's some tangible proof that they're still intent on building around Paul Pierce -- as they keep insisting -- as opposed to shopping Pierce. It's also confirmation that the Celtics, who team sources say had Pierce's blessing to chase Artest, were determined to do something splashy if they couldn't win the Ron-Ron derby.
Szczerbiak carries the most onerous contract in the deal, owed nearly $38 million over three seasons after this one, but he's shooting the ball as well as he ever has. Since Dec. 1, Szczerbiak is averaging a healthy 23.0 points per game after averaging just 14.8 points in November.
Put a marksman of Wally's class in a mix with Pierce and Boston's three promising youngsters (Delonte West and power players Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins) and McHale's buddy Danny Ainge just might have the start of something.
Emphasis on start, but a little something nonetheless.
Minnesota? The Wolves are starting over in their attempts to infuse the lonely Garnett with some hope, and this is just a first step.
But a good one, I'd say. Olowokandi-for-Blount, on its own, didn't offer any hope. A package of Blount and Davis is better, especially if Davis accepts his spot in the pecking order behind Garnett. Davis chafed in a secondary role behind a rookie-year LeBron James in Cleveland but did better meshing with Pierce. KG's presence is one reason I (and others) thought Artest actually made sense in Minny and you can say the same about Davis and KG.
Yet you can probably expect an adjustment period, because Garnett is famously averse to change. For all his clashes with "World," as he called Wally, chances are he'll need some time to get over the shock of playing without him.
You can likewise expect the Wolves to keep looking for upgrades, hard as they'll be to find after they parted with their Szczerbiak and Olowokandi trade chips, because getting to the playoffs will still be a struggle. Minnesota's guard play and bench remain suspect.
So it's up to Davis, for starters, to play so well that the Wolves don't come to wish that they gambled on the riskier Francis instead.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.
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• Dimes Past: January 18 | 19 | 20 | 21-22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26
Now hear this: Wally Szczerbiak, who was averaging a career-best 20.1 points per game in his seventh year in Minnesota, will no longer get comfortable for the Timberwolves' postgame show. He's now Paul Pierce's right-hand man.
Warriors Could Have Had Ron
Atma Brother #1 (Golden State Warriors BLOG): Please tell Warriors Nation we're not headed to the lottery.... AGAIN!
I was high on them in the pre-season, but after watching them a lot and given the Artest trade, I think they're going to finish at the bottom of the Pacific again. I think Chris Mullin made a major mistake by not aquiring Artest. I think the Warriors would've preferred to get two young players like Ike Diogu
and Mickael Pietrus
I know Mullin feels that they both have a lot of upside, but at some time you have to decide that your franchise is going to more than a farm team ... you have to actually win. Artest was a great fit for that team and I think Mullin overvalued his young guys. In two or three years, they may look back and Diogu and Pietrus will be great players. But, another two years of missing the playoffs and Mullin may not have a job.
• See full Chad Ford chat
's missed free throw with 22 seconds left was Phoenix's only one from the line all night. The Suns made 20-of-21 FTs in the win over Miami ... Heat G Jason Kapono
played the final 15:02 of the first half; he'd played a total of 2:31 in Miami's previous five games. ... Both teams had 14 turnovers, but Phoenix turned Miami's miscues into 24 points -- while the Heat managed only 11 off the Suns' giveaways.
Magic assistant coach Randy Ayers returned to the Wachovia Center for the first time since he was fired as Philadelphia's head coach 52 games into the 2003-04 season.
-- The Associated Press
Motion: Tempermental Artest
Ron Artest seemed to accept some blame for the way things ended in Indy ...
Artest: "I'm Different"
'Fro Go: Ricky Davis Joins Kevin Garnett
Celtics forward Ricky Davis changed his usual cornrows for the full afro look on Dec. 30. Now, he'll have a new look in a Timberwolves uniform.
Pat Garrity, Magic forward: The eighth-year player from Notre Dame opened overtime with consecutive 3-pointers, sparking hot Orlando to a 119-115 win over the Sixers. PG rated a season-high 24 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the field.
Kyle Korver, Sixers forward: Helped make overtime with the Magic possible by making 1-of-8 shots, good for three points in 22 minutes of action. He has had some clunkers lately, starting with a scoreless night in Jan. 16 loss to Wiz.
Quote of the Day
"I bet that will change the balance of power . . . I think UConn can beat them."
-- TNT analyst Charles Barkley, casting a sarcastic tone toward the Celtics, who made a seven-player deal with Minnesota.
See how all 53 who played stacked up
-- Andrew Ayres
How will Ron Artest fit in with the Kings? Here's what Pacers president Donnie Walsh told ESPN Insider Chad Ford:
"I think Ronnie will be great for them. They're a much better team with Ronnie on it. I think he'll love Sacramento; it's kind of Indy West. . . . It's just when the team is losing, Ronnie starts feeling pressure, and he loses it. They're going to have to be prepared for it."
• See Chad Ford's full story
Jermaine O'Neal is expected to miss eight weeks or more with a tear in his left groin. But over the last two seasons, the Pacers have managed to post a better record without O'Neal in the starting lineup (27-22) than they have in games that he has started (38-36).
• Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias
The news of Raptors GM Rob Babcock's firing came as a surprise, but not a shock, to Rod Thorn, the man partly responsible for his colleague's demise.
"To have been a part of it, even in an ancillary way, I'm not happy with that," Thorn said via cell phone Thursday from Portland about an hour after the Toronto Raptors
pulled the plug on their general manager. "He's a good guy, he has a lot of experience in the league and I'm sorry that it happened."
Plenty of poor decisions contributed to Babcock's demise, but none stood out anywhere near as much as the Vince Carter
Babcock got only a pittance for one of the league's few superstars, accepting Eric Williams
, Aaron Williams
, Alonzo Mourning
and a pair of No. 1 draft picks from the Nets. A little-known fact that makes the decision look even worse: Babcock decided not to pull out of the trade a day later, as was the Raptors' right, when it became clear that Mourning would refuse to report to Toronto. The team ended up giving Mourning a $10 million buyout, a decision that benefited no one but Mourning and made the trade even worse, by several degrees, than it already was.
Read Chris Sheridan's full blog