Wednesday's five-player trade that sent Ricky Davis and Mark Blount to the Miami Heat for Antoine Walker and a conditional No. 1 draft pick swapped what Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman euphemistically termed players with "strong personalities" and created space for the team's youth movement to bloom or bust.
Gone is Davis, an enigmatic, gifted scorer who walked off the court one night last season after being removed from a game. So, too, is Blount, a mystifyingly rich 7-foot jump-shooting center.
Just arrived, eight days before the season opener against Denver, is Walker, a three-point shooting power forward whose extra girth incensed Heat coach Pat Riley.
Davis, Blount, Walker and newly acquired Michael Doleac and Wayne Simien appear superfluous in an exchange that will deliver a first-round draft pick next summer if the Heat makes this season's playoffs and provide opportunity for young Wolves Rashad McCants, Corey Brewer, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes and Chris Richard.
Doleac and Simien each has only this season remaining on his contract, which makes both a candidate to be cut from a big Wolves roster that grew more bloated Wednesday. The Wolves also received cash. As of Wednesday evening, Walker and Doleac were scheduled to report to the Wolves; Simien was not.
'The direction we're going'
"This is the direction we're going," Wittman said. "We've got guys who have talent that need to have it developed. The only way you can do that is on the floor. You'll never know if they're sitting. You can't tell in practice. You need to see it live against the better competition in the league."
Vice President Kevin McHale said he is plotting other moves -- "We have some other stuff we're probably going to do inside this deal," he said -- to reduce the team's current 18-man roster to 15 or fewer by Monday's league deadline. On Wednesday afternoon, McHale met with agent Jeff Schwartz to negotiate a contract extension for fourth-year forward Al Jefferson, the centerpiece of the Kevin Garnett trade who is expected to receive a six-year deal worth anywhere from $55 million to nearly $80 million if he signs by a Halloween deadline.
The Wolves gave up Davis' expiring $6.8 million contract and rid themselves of Blount's contract, which has three seasons and $22 million remaining. Walker has two seasons left on a contract that will pay him $18 million total.
Walker is a 12-year NBA pro. A member of the Heat's 2006 championship team, he angered Riley when he reported to training camp this month at 262 pounds, 17 more than his listed playing weight.
"It's beyond irritating," Riley told reporters then. "I'm beyond being irritated. I was irritated the first year when I signed him. I was really irritated last year. I'm beyond irritated. I don't have time to be irritated."
McHale said he wasn't concerned about Walker's conditioning, or lack thereof.
"Pat's ideas of conditioning and the rest of us are a little different," McHale said. "I'd say he's probably in pretty good shape. ... Hopefully, he comes in and is a professional. I know the last three or four weeks down in Miami haven't been all that pleasant."
Walker last season started 15 games -- the same number of times he came off the bench in his first nine pro seasons -- and averaged 23.3 minutes, 8.5 points and 4.3 rebounds, all career lows. He did not play in the Heat's final two preseason games this month.
Wittman said he talked with a number of people, including Boston coach Doc Rivers, about him to gauge what kind of attitude Walker might bring to a team so committed to youth. Walker played for Rivers for part of one season in Boston.
"From the people I've talked to, I don't really think I have anything to worry about," Witt- man said.
Plenty of minutes available
Wednesday's trade gives the Wolves' young players -- eight of them are 25 or younger -- more playing time and what Wittman calls a chance for each to emerge as a leader and produce a "cohesiveness" in the team's locker room.