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Kings-Timberwolves Preview

Kings-Timberwolves Preview
Although they feature contrasting styles, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings both missed the playoffs last season. For that result to repeat itself in 2008-09 would not be a surprise.

Minnesota hopes to showcase an improved inside game Wednesday when it debuts rookie Kevin Love against high-scoring Kevin Martin and Sacramento in the season opener for both teams.

The Timberwolves went 22-60 last season - their first since trading all-time franchise leading scorer and rebounder Kevin Garnett to Boston. While that deal worked out well for the Celtics - who won the NBA title - Minnesota endured major growing pains. However, Al Jefferson, acquired in the Garnett deal, had a breakout season.

Jefferson finished third in the league with 55 double-doubles (Garnett had an NBA-high 69) and averaged career highs of 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds in his fourth season. He should now have more help in the frontcourt with the arrival of Love.

Love, acquired from Memphis in a draft day trade after being selected fifth overall, helped lead UCLA to the Final Four in his only season in college. The burly forward is known as a bruising rebounder who likes to mix it up in the paint.

"That's really what gets me started, gets my blood flowing, gets me going in the offense and defense as well," said Love about rebounding. "So I just gotta get out there every day and that's one thing that I can control; how many times I hit the boards and go to the offensive and defensive rebounds."

Minnesota coach Randy Wittman expects the strength of his club to be a frontcourt that features Jefferson, Love and second-year forward Craig Smith.

"With Al, Kevin and Craig, we need to jam it inside when we're not hitting perimeter shots," he said. "If we do that, we'll be fine."

Sacramento went 38-44 in coach Reggie Theus' first season, then dealt second-leading scorer Ron Artest to Houston in August after tiring of the volatile swingman's antics. The Kings have other options to fill minutes on the perimeter, with double-figure scorers John Salmons and Francisco Garcia expecting to see increased playing time while helping star shooting guard Martin shoulder the scoring load.

"They have an opportunity to get a lot of minutes," Martin said. "And they can make the most of these opportunities because it'll probably reflect on their careers. So I know they are excited, and thats the X-factor for us this year."

Entering his fifth season, Martin is coming off the best campaign of his career and is now the centerpiece of Sacramento's rebuilding effort. He averaged 23.7 points last season to rank sixth in the NBA, and also shot better than 40 percent on 3-pointers for the first time.

Up front, the Kings are hoping second-year center Spencer Hawes and first-round draft choice Jason Thompson can adapt quickly to the NBA. Hawes averaged 4.7 points and 3.2 rebounds in limited minutes last season, but showed flashes of potential in the preseason with averages of 11.4 points and 7.9 boards.

"I'm interested in watching the young guys and to watch the team grow," Theus said. "We have a lot of veterans who got a lot of minutes (last season). So they are going to play a big part in the growth of these young guys because they need it and they need to know what the NBA is all about."

Martin averaged 33.0 points against the Timberwolves last season, but the Kings lost two of three meetings.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 28, 2008


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