Held Back

Latrell Sprewell: The heart of a champion, the mouth of a fool
Minnesota Timberwolves

With the Wolves' playoff chances now officially kaput, Wednesday night's game against San Antonio will mercifully conclude their sorry 2004-05 season. In lieu of a postseason preview, then, we'll offer grades and thumbnail assessments of each player on the roster, in alphabetical order.

Anthony Carter: AC sparkplug was the most adept Timberwolf at igniting or defending the up-tempo transition game. Can't shoot. Hard worker who stayed ready despite patchwork playing time. B-

Sam Cassell: Hurt and haughty most of the season. Retained: sweet, mid-range jumper; post-up capability; court vision; willingness to take the crunch-time shot; reputation as an eventually disruptive presence on a team. Lost: any semblance of quickness or commitment to defense, and chance at a contract extension. C-

Ndudi Ebi: After two seasons undercover, needs more minutes simply to qualify as a trivia question. F

Kevin Garnett: Essentially matched last year's MVP numbers despite nagging injuries and muddled supporting cast. But leadership skills less in evidence amid contract complaints in the locker room, a coach scapegoated at midseason, and teammates only marginally enhanced by his presence on the court. The LeBron Era looms. A-

Eddie Griffin: Revealed glaring weaknesses and a huge upside. Wretched shot selection and putrid pick-and-roll defense, but superb shot-blocker and intuitive guardian of the rim. His skill set deftly complements KG, and, at just 22, he needs to be the Wolves' top re-signing priority this off-season. C+

Trenton Hassell: Still team's best on-ball perimeter defender, despite slow adjustment to tighter hand-checking rules. Can slash to the hoop in half-court sets and drain the rainbow J, but dawning offensive aggression hampered by inability to dish while on the move. C

Fred Hoiberg: Continued pursuing his Ph.D. in court intelligence and team synergy this year. Committed just 20 turnovers in 1,272 minutes through Monday. Back woes have hindered his play for last month of season. B+

Troy Hudson: Had trouble shooting (accuracy and selection), setting up the offense, defending his position, and luring people to his hip-hop gig. He blamed chronic ankle woes. With five years and $30 million to go, pray that he's right. D-

Ervin Johnson: Slow feet and stricter hand-checking rules reduced him from competent defensive role player to assistant coach. D

Mark Madsen: A pair of busted paws derailed a fairly promising year for the Mad Dog, the team's best option in the middle during the 41 games he played. C+

Michael Olowokandi: Will somebody please reconcile the engaging, erudite dude donning a Che Guevara T-shirt in the locker room with the indifferent numbskull wearing #34 out of the court? Because after seven years, the statute of limitations has expired on Kandi's potential. D

Latrell Sprewell: The heart of a champion, the mouth of a fool, and the legs of a 34-year-old man after 35,000 tough minutes in the NBA. D+

Wally Szczerbiak: His defense and ball-handling have improved to mediocrity, he found open teammates far more effectively this season, and nobody questions his ability to put the ball in the hole. But can this chronic whiner retain good habits when he's the number-two option on offense, just behind KG? That's the $60 million question.... B

John Thomas: As a human being, he's a class act. As an undersized wide-body, he fills out rosters for teams enduring disappointing seasons, and does what he's told. C-

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