Timberwolves coach Kevin McHale says there is nothing to the rumors that guard/forward Mike Miller might be traded to the New Jersey Nets.

"This is the NBA. If a good trade comes along, you do something," McHale said. "But I would like to keep the core of this group together and let them develop into what they can be."

Regarding Miller, who was acquired in a 2008 draft-day deal with Memphis, McHale said: "First of all, I can tell you that Mike has been unbelievable. Mike is such a great guy. His ability to rebound, pass the ball, defend out there -- he's been doing so many good things for us.

"The thing everybody looks at is he's not making shots right now. These are shots he normally makes. He's going to make those shots, I'm not worried about that. Mike Miller is not on the market. Someone told me that; that is not true."

Miller had three points and five assists in 18 minutes in the Wolves' 109-108 overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night.

Big victory

The Gophers basketball team had lost two in a row, to Northwestern and Purdue, and a third loss to an Indiana team that hadn't won a Big Ten game would have severely hurt the chances of making the NCAA tournament for Tubby Smith's squad.

But the one of the amazing things about this team is how it hangs on at the end of road games, as it has at Iowa, Wisconsin and in Sunday's 67-63 victory at Indiana.

A good example is the poise shown by freshman Ralph Sampson III, who continues to improve. He had 13 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots against the Hoosiers.

And the future is great with four outstanding players who are headed for Minnesota next season, including Royce White of Hopkins and Rodney Williams of Cooper.

Trevor Mbakwe continues to play well for Miami Dade Community College, which is ranked 17th in the National Junior College Athletic Association's poll. Mbakwe is the team's fourth-leading scorer at 14.1 points per game and leads the team in rebounding at 12.3 per game.

Incoming point guard Justin Cobbs is playing for Bishop Montgomery in Torrance, Calif., and the team is 18-3 overall and ranked 16th in the state by MaxPreps. In his most recent game, Cobbs scored a game-high 21 points but struggled from the field, making only three field goals in a 58-55 loss to Serra.

Will Backstrom stay?

Niklas Backstrom said he was pleased to be part of Sunday's NHL All-Star Game in Montreal, something he considers an accomplishment after he wasn't drafted and signed with the Wild in 2006 as a free agent.

"It's a big honor to be here," the goaltender said. "It's a great experience and something I'm going to remember my whole life."

Backstrom played the second period of the game, making 17 saves and giving up four goals for the West in the East's 12-11 shootout victory.

However, Backstrom will be a free agent again after this season, and a lot of Wild fans are puzzled why the team hasn't re-signed him.

"Well, I still live here, I have my contract with the Wild, and the only thing that matters for me is what's happening right here right now," he said. "We've got our next game on Tuesday [against Toronto] and that's going to be a big game for us. So, you know, you're just focusing on what's going on right now and that's the only thing that matters for you.

"... I really like it in Minnesota. I feel really good with my teammates and the team and especially the fans. You go play around the league and you see a different kind of crowd. I think we're pretty spoiled in Minnesota to have a sellout crowd every night and see the fans coming to cheer us. It's a great place for a hockey player.

"I really enjoy the team, the city, everything there. But it's not just up to me, there's a lot of other people making decisions. The only thing I can do is play as well as I can and see what happens."


Rob Antony, assistant Twins general manager, said the reason the club didn't draft Gophers outfielder Eric Decker and he lasted until the Brewers took him in the 39th round was the Twins were convinced he wasn't going to sign and was planning to stay in school for his senior year of eligibility in football and baseball. If Milwaukee doesn't sign him by Aug. 15 -- and the Brewers won't because Decker is going to play football with the Gophers -- then the Twins will have a shot at him. Baseball America recently listed Decker as No. 91 in its rankings of the top 100 college players.

It was a great feat for the Gophers football team to get a commitment from D.C. Everest (Schofield, Wis.) linebacker Konrad Zagzebski, because in the past Minnesota has not been able to recruit the top Wisconsin players. On the other hand, Wisconsin has been able to recruit some outstanding Minnesota high school players. ... When Washington State asked Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi to drop a scheduled home-and-home football series, it was Gophers football coach Tim Brewster who pushed Maturi to get Southern California as a replacement. I think Brewster is out of his mind to play a Trojans team that Ohio State and Michigan can't beat and schedule a certain defeat.

Former Bloomington Jefferson star Cole Aldrich had 16 points and a team-high 12 rebounds in Kansas' 82-67 victory over Iowa State on Saturday. Aldrich is averaging 15.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 28.8 minutes per game for the Jayhawks. There has been speculation that Aldrich might declare for the NBA draft after this year, but he told the Lawrence Journal-World he was not going to worry about his decision until after his sophomore season. NBAdraft.net predicts Aldrich will stay in school and enter the 2010 draft, where it's predicted he will be the seventh overall pick.

Former Minneapolis North guard P.J. Hill is playing an increased role for Ohio State in his sophomore season. Hill is averaging only 1.3 points but is playing over 10 minutes a game for the Buckeyes.

Three Minnesotans are playing for the Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team this season. Rosemount native Andrew Brommer is averaging 1.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game in his freshman season, and Jermain Davis, who played high school basketball at Cooper and went to Kirkwood (Iowa) Junior College before transferring to Iowa this year, is averaging 4.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. Former Minnetonka star Anthony Tucker averaged 10.4 points in 14 games but was declared academically ineligible last week.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com