Rashad McCants is clearly eager, but he denied being excited. This might be the best evidence yet that McCants is ready to become the leader he has always said he wanted to be.
McCants was sitting down after Thursday's Timberwolves practice, some ice on his left knee, the one he bruised a few days ago, not the one that was surgically repaired more than a year ago. He was being asked about opportunity. After all, with Ricky Davis gone, there are minutes to be played and shots to be taken. McCants figures to be atop any list of candidates to scoop them up. Is he excited?
No, he said, clearly concerned about saying the right thing.
"I wouldn't call it exciting," McCants said. "Not because some guys had to leave. Ricky and Mark [Blount] were a big part of this team. I'm sad to see them go. But at the same time, opportunity for certain guys to show what they can do has proven that it's available."
After Wednesday's trade that sent Davis and Blount to the Miami Heat, Wolves coach Randy Wittman had a meeting with his team at which he spelled it all out. His message: Now is the time.
"What we have here is what we believe we need to move forward," Wittman said. "And there is an opportunity."
Since dealing Kevin Garnett to Boston in July, the Wolves have been stockpiling young, athletic players. The plan now is to open the door wide and see who walks through. Big man Al Jefferson will be a key player. Right now the team is looking for a few good men to join him. This is especially true at the shooting guard position, where Davis spent most of his time.
"Who'll start ... is yet to be determined," Wolves Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale said. "Someone will have to go out there and do it. An opportunity leads to some people stepping up and taking it and other people falling down and not being able to accept it. Who that is, I don't know."
It might not be just one player stepping up. Corey Brewer, Randy Foye and Greg Buckner might also get a shot. But McCants says he is ready to grab for his opportunity.
"When KG left, I thought it was more opportunity for me to show what I could do as a leader," McCants said. "Now Ricky and Mark are gone, so that leaves a lot of leadership open. And a lot of shots, minutes, everything. I'm not into stats and stuff. I just want to be out there on the floor making my teammates better."
This is McCants' third year with the Wolves, which makes him a relatively grizzled veteran. He played sparingly as a rookie, then had much of his second season wiped out while recovering from microfracture knee surgery. When he did play, it was more in short bursts than in long stretches. Now, after having a productive preseason interrupted by a minor injury, he feels ready to compete.
"I know what I can do," he said. "Basically, the last two years have been the same thing ... having limited minutes and trying to do a certain amount of things in a certain amount of time. But, given the opportunity to play four quarters, 35 minutes in a game? The potential is endless."
That's what the Wolves hope, too.