Wilkins traded to Timberwolves|Stay may not be permanent

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sports Editor

Damien Wilkins is getting a fresh start.
After spending the last five years with the Seattle SuperSonics and Oklahoma City Thunder (the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and changed their nickname last year), Wilkins is now a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Thunder sent Wilkins and Chucky Atkins to the Timberwolves. Minnesota gave up Etan Thomas and two of its four second-round picks in the 2010 draft in the trade.
Wilkins had signed a guaranteed $3.3 million contract with the Thunder in the offseason. Still, he knew at any point that he could be traded.
After playing in just half of his team’s games last year, Wilkins was hoping for a trade.
“I’m just hoping to play; that’s all,” Wilkins said earlier this summer. “I just want to play basketball. I just want the opportunity to help a team be successful because I know I can do that.
“At the end of the day, I just want to be on the floor.”
Wilkins joins a team that nearly signed him four years ago. He signed an offer sheet with the Timberwolves in 2005, but Seattle (now Oklahoma City) matched the offer for the restricted free agent and kept him.
Oklahoma City went 23-59 last year, last in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference. Minnesota was one game better (24-58) in the same conference.
It’s uncertain how long Wilkins will be with the Timberwolves.
Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn said Monday’s trade offered his team some flexibility. Kahn is likely not done wheeling and dealing just yet.
"We may have some other moves to make and it's still too early to tell," Kahn said in a statement. "I thought this move provided some additional flexibility and thought we should go after it now."
Wilkins has an expiring contract this year.
"I think we will have other things to occur this summer and maybe even this week," Kahn said.
"For now, the kinds of moves we've made have been for flexibility and for roster balance."
The 6-6, 225-pound guard/forward averaged 5.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 0.5 steals per game last year. They were all career-lows, coming one year after he posted career-highs with 9.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
Wilkins holds career-averages of 7.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.9 steals per game.
He has played in 310 games and scored 2,359 points, pulled down 802 rebounds, dished off 476 assists and snagged 270 steals.
Wilkins is averaging 41.9 percent (876 of 2,091) from the field, including 33.8 percent (157 of 464) from 3-point range, and 80.9 percent (450 of 556) at the free throw line.
The Washington native, who holds an annual “Fun Day” event and basketball camp each summer in his hometown, is confident he can be a big part of a team.
“I believe in myself,” Wilkins said. “It’s always been rough on me, but I’ve always persevered.
“I’m a kid from Washington, North Carolina, going on my sixth year in the NBA. Not many people have had this opportunity or gone to some of the places I’ve been. I’m used to being the underdog. I’m a fighter. I never let anyone tell me I can’t do anything.”