Archive for Sunday, July 27, 2003

Timberwolves appear to be winners

In actuality, however, four-team NBA trade doesn’t help any of those involved

July 27, 2003


— This was indeed a rarity, and not because of the ability of four teams to put together a complex trade that somehow worked under the salary cap.

No, this was something even more difficult to piece together -- a four-team trade that helped none of the teams. Let's start with the supposed big winner of the four-for-all.

Yes, in landing Latrell Sprewell from the Knicks, the Timberwolves further rounded out their roster behind Kevin Garnett. For Minnesota, that has been an ongoing goal, what with Garnett in position to depart as a free agent next summer. Only the Timberwolves might have provided every reason for the All-Star forward to bolt.

In Sam Cassell, the 'Wolves have added a shoot-first point guard. In Sprewell, Minnesota has added a player whose game is rapidly deteriorating and who tends to show up late. In center Michael Olowokandi, the team has added a center who sometimes doesn't show up at all. And let's not even get into the questionable relationship between Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak.

Put it all together and the 'Wolves have more known quantities but not necessarily a better team. In the Western Conference, they're still looking up at the Lakers, Kings, Spurs and Mavericks.

Give Timberwolves vice president Kevin McHale credit, though, for his candor regarding Sprewell.

"You buy when the market's low," he said. "And that's what we did."

Then there are the Hawks, who get the expiring contract of point guard Terrell Brandon from the Timberwolves.

Now that's what a team about to get new ownership needs -- less talent. The one thing this offseason should have taught (See: Jazz, Nuggets, Heat) is that cap space is illusory, hardly a panacea. While it might help the good get better (See: Spurs), it rarely has provided the key for a turnaround (See: Bulls).

Hawks executive Billy Knight tried to put the best face on the deteriorating situation in Atlanta.

"People want to look at teams at the middle of the summer and say, 'This is our team,'" he said. "But if you look around the league, everybody is not ready. No team is set."

Then you have Glenn Robinson going from the Hawks to the 76ers. Ah, just what Philadelphia needs next to Allen Iverson, another gunner.

Gee, that worked out so well in the past with Jerry Stackhouse, Larry Hughes and Tim Thomas, didn't it?

The 76ers last season were able to balance the perimeter equation with the height of 6-foot-10 Keith Van Horn. Robinson, who at 6-7 plays even smaller than Van Horn, hardly figures to support an undersized power rotation that again could count Derrick Coleman at center.

Iverson previously wouldn't even look in the direction of Van Horn, Matt Harpring or Toni Kukoc at small forward, so the reception Robinson gets certainly will be telling.

And then there are the Knicks, who you think would have caught on to what the Nets and 76ers were so quick to learn: Keith Van Horn does not make a playoff contender better.

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