Kevin Garnett is expressing confidence in his Minnesota teammates despite the trade rumors swirling around him.
Garnett and the Timberwolves try to complete a three-game homestand on a winning note when they take on the Charlotte Bobcats.
Minnesota’s star player stated his displeasure with how management handled the team last season in an interview that aired before Thursday’s 109-98 victory over Washington. The Timberwolves, expected to contend a year after reaching the Western Conference finals, were beset with chemistry problems centering around Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell’s contract demands and missed the postseason for the first time in nine seasons.
Among Garnett’s complaints was that management should have handled the contract disputes before the season and that vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale fired Flip Sanders on Feb. 12 because he wanted to coach the team.
Minnesota’s revamped roster includes newcomers Marko Jaric and rookie Rashad McCants along with the addition of coach Dwane Casey. The Timberwolves are off to a .500 start, but Garnett is looking at the bright side.
“You know what? Casey has us pointed in the right direction,” Garnett said. “We’re playing defense, we’re on the same page. We’re dealing with the variables that we have. We’re playing with a new system, new guys, and when we connect, it’s beautiful.”
The eight-time All-Star just missed his 16th career triple-double with 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in Thursday’s win as Minnesota bounced back from a 94-89 home loss to Houston on Tuesday. Richie Frahm added 16 points in 22 minutes off the bench.
Frahm is averaging 8.5 points in Minnesota’s wins and just 2.8 in four losses.
“(Frahm) is a great shooter and a great professional,” Minnesota guard Troy Hudson said. “He works hard, and that’s what you want. When he comes in the game, we expect him to knock shots down and play hard.”
Garnett averaged 26.5 points and 17.5 rebounds as Minnesota split its two matchups with Charlotte last season.
The Bobcats fell for the sixth time in seven games, 93-85 at Indiana on Friday. Point guard Brevin Knight returned after missing a game due to knee tendinitis and handed out 14 assists for Charlotte, which was held scoreless for five minutes of the fourth quarter, falling behind by 12 points after the stretch.
“We did nothing wrong,” Charlotte guard Kareem Rush said. “We just missed shots. They converted, especially down the stretch.”
Rush continued his hot shooting by making 8-of-12 for 20 points two nights after drilling 12-of-15 for a career-best 35 points in a 122-90 win over Indiana.
Rookie Sean May has been impressive in Ely’s absence, averaging 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in the last four games. May had 14 points and seven boards in Friday’s loss.
The results have been more mixed for fellow first-round pick and North Carolina college teammate Raymond Felton, who is shooting just under 31 percent (24-of-78) from the floor. Felton does have an excellent assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.4, notching a pair of 10-assist efforts this season.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 18): Bobcats - 4th place, 3 1/2 GB, Southeast Division. Timberwolves - 1st place (tied), Northwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Bobcats - Wallace, 16.2 ppg; Okafor, 9 rpg; Knight, 7.8 apg. Timberwolves - Garnett, 21.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg and 5.9 apg.
2004-05 SEASON SERIES: 1-1.
LAST MEETING: March 8; Timberwolves, 102-97. At Minneapolis, Garnett had 30 points and 15 rebounds and Sprewell added 21 points as the Timberwolves rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Bobcats - 1-4 on the road; Timberwolves - 4-1 at home.