Wolves get younger with buyout of Howard's contract

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves did some wheeling
and dealing on Monday, reaching a buyout with veteran Juwan Howard
and making a trade with San Antonio to get to the 15-man roster
limit before the deadline.

The Timberwolves sent a protected 2008 second-round pick to the
Spurs for cash considerations and guard Beno Udrih, whom the Wolves
immediately waived.

The deal helped both teams.

San Antonio was able to avoid taking a luxury tax hit, while the
Wolves were able to get some cash to help them buy out the final
two years of Howard's deal.

He could be headed to Cleveland. With restricted free agent Anderson Varejao still unsigned in a
messy contract holdout, the defending Eastern Conference champions
have been exploring the possibility of signing Howard to improve
their depth before Wednesday's season opener against the
Dallas Mavericks.

"I hope we get him," LeBron James said after practice Monday. "He
can help us. We need a guy to play down low."

Howard was initially ecstatic when the Rockets traded him to
Minnesota for guard Mike James in June. He had wanted to play with
Kevin Garnett for some time and spoke about regretting choosing
Orlando over Minnesota the last time he was a free agent.

But when the Wolves shipped Garnett to Boston at the end of
July, Howard made it clear he was not interested in being part of a
youth movement in Minnesota. He requested a trade, but the Wolves
found no takers for a 13-year veteran who was owed $6.88 million
this year and $7.38 million next year.

The Cavaliers might be able to get him for much less.

"Any time you can bring in a veteran like Juwan with his
playing ability and character, you have to explore that," Cavs
coach Mike Brown said.

The Cavs made two other moves to finalize their opening-day
roster, signing swingman Demetris Nichols and waiving forward
Noel Felix.

The club did not disclose contract terms on Nichols, who
averaged 4.8 points in five exhibition games with the New York
Knicks, who waived him last week.

The Timberwolves reached their buyout agreement on Monday, and
now Howard is free to try and land with a team that is closer to
contending for a championship, something that has eluded him in his

To get to the 15-man limit, the Timberwolves released forward
Wayne Simien, who was acquired from Miami last week along with
Antoine Walker and Michael Doleac in a trade for Ricky Davis and
Mark Blount.

Monday's transactions ended a whirlwind preseason for vice
president of basketball operations Kevin McHale, who made the
difficult decision to part ways with Garnett after 12 seasons in
Minnesota and start from scratch.

McHale acquired five players and two draft picks for Garnett,
got rid of James' and Blount's bad contracts and Davis' bad
attitude and bought out Howard and guard Troy Hudson to completely
reshape the roster.

Just five players -- Marko Jaric, Mark Madsen, Randy Foye, Craig Smith and Rashad McCants -- remain from last year's team that missed
the playoffs for the third straight year.