When the Minnesota Timberwolves head to Boston for their only appearance in Beantown this season, Celtics forward Kevin Garnett won't be the only player with plenty of motivation.
Five Timberwolves in uniform have spent significant time playing for the Celtics, and they will certainly know their way around the building when they get there for the game on Friday night.
"It's going to be fun, going back to Boston on a two-game win streak," said forward Al Jefferson, the centerpiece of July's 7-for-1 trade that sent Garnett to the Celtics. "We have got our confidence up now and I think we can go in there and give them a great game, maybe come out with a victory."
Yes, for the first time this season, these young Timberwolves have won back-to-back games. They won at Golden State on Monday and then beat Phoenix at home for the second time this season on Wednesday night.
That means that Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair and Gerald Green -- all of whom came over in the Garnett trade along with the injured Theo Ratliff and two first-round draft picks -- walk into the TD Banknorth Garden with a little bit of confidence to go with all those memories of playing in Boston.
"It's just good to go back to Boston," said Jefferson, who had a career-high 39 points and 15 rebounds against the Suns and has emerged as a legitimate star-in-the-making this season. "It feels like family to me. Me and Doc Rivers still keep in touch. Tony Allen is one of my best friends. It's always good to go back."
The rebuilding post Garnett has been painful at times for the Timberwolves (7-34), who have the league's worst record but are finally starting to show some signs of progress. But they're trying to stay focused on the first bit of sustained positivity that has surrounded this club all year.
"For me, I'm from that area, I have some family at the game and they're coming to watch the game," said Gomes, who starred at Providence in college. "But I can talk to them after. So I'm focused on the game and trying to get a win. Two games in a row, so hopefully we can go steal another one playing against the best team in the East."
Of the five players that came to Minnesota for Garnett, three have earned significant playing time.
Jefferson has carried the team, averaging 20.8 points and 12.1 rebounds in his first season as the man in the middle.
"I had to grow up fast," Jefferson said. "I'm a different type of player. If I play well, do well, rebound and do all the little things, that sets an example for my teammates.
"They look at me as some of the guys in Boston look at Paul (Pierce) and Kevin Garnett right now. That's the difference between now and last year."
Gomes is the team's third-leading scorer and has been one of the most consistent players all season. He is averaging 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game and scored 35 in Minnesota's victory at Golden State.
"I'm trying to be aggressive and do what I'm asked of on this team and that's to make shots and make plays," Gomes said. "But it's turned around for me for the last 10 games and hopefully I can continue to do that."
With Randy Foye on the bench with a knee injury all season, Telfair has gotten the lion's share of the work at point guard. He has shown flashes of ability -- he had 13 points, eight assists and no turnovers against Phoenix -- that he never really exhibited before in his one year in Boston or the start of his career in Portland.
Green's playing time has been spotty and Ratliff has spent most of the season on the inactive list because of a knee injury.
Of all the players returning, including veteran Antoine Walker who played a total of eight seasons in Boston during two different stints, Telfair is the only one who doesn't seem too excited about returning.
He averaged career lows of 6.1 points and 2.8 assists in just over 20 minutes per game.
"It was part of my NBA career," Telfair said dismissively. "Played a year there. Got some experience there."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)