Lazar Hayward returned to the Timberwolves on Monday a changed man, in more ways than one or two.
He has lost 15 pounds and grown his hair out since the Wolves traded him away a year ago, then brought him back Monday when they signed him as a free agent to fill Josh Howard's role and roster spot.
Oh, and he now seeks to see the spirits of dead people, too.
Out of the NBA and out of basketball since Houston waived him in October, the Wolves' former first-round draft pick has worked recently with two Los Angeles mediums who he says have guided him on a spiritual quest that dates to his childhood.
"I've always just had a lot of questions spiritually because I always kind of seen stuff when I was a kid and I used to tell friends and they'd look at me and say, 'Lazar, you might need some help,' " he said laughing during a surreal post- practice conversation with reporters. "So they used to make fun of me. I just had a lot of questions because I've always just wondered."
Hayward has a friend whom he claims has talked through such a medium to a brother who has been dead for six years. That relationship helped convince him to seek his own answers.
"I've actually been able to see a spirit," Hayward said. "I can't talk to them yet, but I have seen them."
He has spent the past two months pursuing a path of what he calls "meditation and spiritual healing and living in an enlightened state" while also waiting for a road back to the NBA.
"I think it helps me cope with some of the things that go on in basketball and just in life," he said. "It really, really helps me a lot."
The Wolves drafted Hayward 30th overall -- the last pick in the first round -- in 2010 and traded him to Oklahoma City a little more than a year ago so they could make room to sign J.J. Barea. The Thunder dealt Hayward to Houston in that blockbuster James Harden trade just before this season, and the Rockets soon waived him.
He has been in Los Angeles since, running six miles a day, playing 5-on-5 ball at USC and waiting for an NBA team to call.
Cleveland and the Wolves each summoned him for workouts and the Wolves signed him Monday, one day after he agreed to play for the Los Angeles team in the D League.
The Wolves signed Howard in November to replace the injured Chase Budinger. Now they've signed Hayward to replace Howard, who tore his ACL last month, and to help out in a pinch with a depleted backcourt that had just three guards healthy for Saturday's victory over Phoenix.
"He seemed to be the best guy," said Wolves coach Rick Adelman, who coached Hayward for about a week a season ago before the team traded him. "I knew who he was and the other [Wolves management] people knew who he was. He plays hard.
"He gives us a guy at that position who gives us size that we don't have. He gives us someone who can come in and if we have to use him, we can use him."