#Twolves Draft Central 2010

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Wolves Introduce The Rooks


Jonah Ballow
Wolves Editor/Writer

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The circus rolled into town to welcome the new members of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday afternoon. Ok, not quite the traditional circus but the Cirque Du Soleil provided some background tunes during the introductory press conference for the three draft picks at the Target Center.

As the Cirque Du Soleil warmed up for another performance, Wesley Johnson, Lazar Hayward and Nemanja Bjelica took center stage in front of fans and media members.

Johnson didn't miss beat while explaining how his strengths will translate to the next level, "I really just think my versatility and being able to do a lot of stuff on the court, I can rebound, and shoot it, and get out in transition, using my length, so I think that's an asset to any team, and I like that music in the background."

At this point, most fans have heard the scouting report on Johnson from a pure basketball standpoint. He will immediately add athleticism in the open floor and a pure shooting stroke on the perimeter but there is competitive fire behind his million-dollar smile and easy-going personality.

"It's going to be a challenge, but I just think that was last year, and we're going to try to make a step in the right direction with the guys coming in with a positive mindset coming into the next season so we can't really dwell on last season, just worry about the season coming up," Johnson explained.

The wing player out of Syracuse expressed a desire to suit up for the Wolves while feeling this particular situation offers a great opportunity to succeed in the NBA.

"Just leaning towards the organization, Kurt Rambis, with him being with the Lakers and his knowledge of the game, and especially having a friend in Jonny [Flynn] and him telling me stuff about it and what a great city it was so I was very interested and I think it will be a great fit for me," Johnson said. "When they had interest in me, I had a very high interest in them."

Hayward sat on the left side of Johnson with a similar smile that clearly displayed genuine happiness. After a grueling workout process this past month, Hayward attempted to calm his nerves on Thursday night.

"I didn't go to the draft because of all the excitement and nervousness, I tried not to watch it, I just wanted to wait for a phone call, well, my dad waited for a phone call, my phone was off, so I was just staring at his phone for awhile," Hayward laughed.

The third member of the rookie class also made the trip to Minneapolis on Friday afternoon. The Wolves sent the No. 23 overall pick and the No. 56 overall pick in exchange for Hayward and Serbian forward Nemanja Bejelica.

Displaying supreme confidence, Bejelica offered a comparison to a former member of the Bulls three-peat dynasty.

"I just want to be myself, a lot of people compare me with Toni Kukoc, who was a great player from Europe, but I must learn a lot of things to be on the next level. I don't know if I will play this year, but I hope to play in the NBA soon because it is my dream, all of my life I have dreamed to be here and I hope that I will play," Bejelica said.

On Monday, the team will introduce Martell Webster and prepare for the free agency period, which officially begins on July 1.

Timberwolves Select Syracuse's Wesley Johnson

Minneapolis/St. Paul - The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Wesley Johnson with the fourth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Johnson, a 6-7 forward from Syracuse, averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for the Orange during the 2009-10 season en route to earning Big East Player of the Year honors.

"Wesley is both an incredibly talented player and an outstanding young man," said David Kahn, Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations. "He'll bring some much-needed length, athleticism and shooting ability to our roster and will be an important piece to the puzzle as we continue to build a nucleus of young talent."

In his lone season at Syracuse, Johnson also posted 2.2 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.8 blocks in 35 games (all starts) while shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from behind the arc. He ranked among the Big East's top-10 in scoring (10th), rebounding (5th), steals (5th), three-point percentage (7th) and blocks (6th) while earning First Team All-America honors from both the Associated Press and the USBWA.

Prior to transferring to Syracuse, Johnson spent his first two collegiate seasons at Iowa State, where he averaged 12.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 58 games. Johnson was named to the Big 12 All-Rookie Team following a freshman season in which his 244 rebounds were the second-most in Iowa State history. He earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors following his sophomore season.

Minnesota Acquires Martell Webster from Portland

Minneapolis/St. Paul - The Minnesota Timberwolves acquired 6-7 guard/forward Martell Webster from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for forward Ryan Gomes and the draft rights to Luke Babbitt, the 16th overall pick in tonight's draft.

"We're excited to add a player like Martell who has the ability to shoot the basketball and display a rare athleticism on the floor. He fits in well with our stated desire to stay young and add maturity," said David Kahn, Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations. "We want to thank Ryan Gomes for being the consummate professional both on and off the court during his time in Minnesota and wish him the best of luck in the future."

Just 23 years old but a five-year veteran in the league, Webster owns career averages of 8.5 points and 3.1 rebounds in 301 games (164 starts) for the Blazers. The 6th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft out of Seattle Preparatory High School in Seattle, Wash., Webster rebounded to appear in all 82 games last season and post averages of 9.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game after suffering a stress fracture in his left foot on opening night in 2008 that cause him to miss all but five minutes of the 2008-09 season. A career 37.2 percent shooter from behind the arc, Webster has connected on 120+ three-pointers in each of his last two full NBA seasons.

Gomes played three seasons in Minnesota, averaging 12.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 240 games. The 50th overall pick by the Boston Celtics in the 2005 NBA Draft, Minnesota acquired Gomes in the 2007 trade that sent Kevin Garnett to Boston.

Minnesota Acquires Draft Rights to Lazar Hayward

Minneapolis/St. Paul - The Minnesota Timberwolves acquired the draft rights to Marquette forward Lazar Hayward, the 30th overall pick, and Serbian forward Nemanja Bjelica, the 35th overall pick, from the Washington Wizards in exchange for the draft rights to Clemson forward Trevor Booker, the 23rd overall pick, and Hamady N'diaye, the 56th overall pick. Additionally, Minnesota selected center Paulao Prestes from Brazil with the 45th overall pick.

Hayward, a 6-6 forward, started 118 of his 138 games at Marquette, averaging 13.5 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from behind the arc. The second all-time leading scorer in Marquette history with 1,859 career points, Hayward played in a school-record 138 games and earned Second Team All-Big East and Honorable Mention AP All-American honors as a senior. He was recently named Most Outstanding Player at the 2010 NABC All-Star Game.

Bjelica, a 6-10 forward from Serbia, averaged 9.9 points per game in 20 appearances last season for KK Crvena Zvezda in the Adriatic League, and improved to 20.2 points per game in six appearances in the Serbia A League. He was also the leading rebounder on the silver medal-winning Serbian National Team in Eurobasket 2009 last fall.

Prestes, a 6-11 center, currently plays for CB Murcia in the Spanish ACB League. The native of Brazil averaged 9.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in the Spanish ACB league this season while shooting 57.4 percent from the field. On a per minute basis, Prestes is the top rebounder in his league.


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Jonah Ballow chats with Lazar Hayward after meeting the media.
Head coach Kurt Rambis discusses the 2010 draft picks and acquiring Webster.
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