T'Wolves Sign Up Smith, Billups


Guard Chauncey Billups figured if Joe Smith would take less money to re-sign with Minnesota, then the Timberwolves must have something going for them.

So, Billups signed, too, also taking less money than other teams could offer in the hopes he could also start over with the Wolves.

"Wow, Joe Smith, there's a lot of teams out there that could really use him and there's a lot of teams that could really pay him," Billups said Tuesday. "And there's a reason why he's staying loyal to these guys and saying, `OK, I'll take this year and maybe we can work it out next year."'

"There's got to be something good going on in this organization and in this town," Billups said.

Smith signed a one-year deal for $2.35 million and Billups a three-year contract for the salary cap exception of $2.25 million in the first year.

Billups said he turned down the opportunity for a more lucrative sign-and-trade deal with other teams because he wanted to play for a playoff contender.

Team vice president Kevin McHale said he hopes the Wolves can work out a long-term deal for Smith after this season and that Billups will enjoy a long stay in Minneapolis.

Billups played at Orlando last season and will help fill the void left by the death of Malik Sealy, who was killed in a traffic accident last spring.

Billups was the third overall pick in the 1997 draft out of Colorado. He has played for Boston, Toronto, Denver and Orlando but has been undermined by injuries, including a shoulder separation that cut short his season last year and required an operation.

Billups, who has averaged 11.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.3 rebounds in his career, said he had the same procedure on his right shoulder in high school and hasn't had any problems with it since.

"I'm 100 percent and I feel like I'm a rookie all over," Billups said.

McHale said Billups fills the team's biggest need: a young, deft dribbler who can penetrate the lane to create scoring opportunities for the big men and draw fouls.

Smith averaged 9.9 points and 6.2 rebounds for the Timberwolves last year. He was the No. 1 overall selection by Golden State in the 1995 NBA draft. He appeared in 78 games last season, shooting a career-best 46.4 percent after missing the entire preseason with a broken foot.

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