MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- As the Minnesota Timberwolves finished up a scrimmage Monday, rookie center Loren Woods took a pass and rushed toward the basket, stumbling awkwardly around Rasho Nesterovic and throwing a shot wildly off the glass.
When play stopped, point guard Chauncey Billups walked over to Woods.
"Loren!" Billups said, waving his arms downward as he approached the rookie. "Slow down, man. Slow down."
In Woods, the Timberwolves are hoping for something the franchise has never had -- a reliable inside presence. And although the 7-1 Woods is trying to get there as fast as he can, the team knows he needs some seasoning.
"Loren's going to take some time because he's coming into a conference where the center is the dominant force," Minnesota veteran center Dean Garrett said. "In a couple of years, Loren's going to be all right. But the first year is going to be more of a learning experience for him."
"Kevin McHale told me the first day I walked in here, 'You've got a lot of potential, you can do a lot of great things. But two things are going to happen to you this year - you're going to get your butt kicked, and you're going to learn a lot,"' Woods said. "He said all rookies start at the same spot."
For Woods, his roster spot entering training camp was as the backup to Nesterovic and Dean Garrett at center. But he's played well enough in the preseason that he might have a shot at starting.
"Loren's done a good job," coach Flip Saunders said. "He's played well, he's picking things up. We put in a lot of stuff, so it takes (rookies) a little bit longer, but overall he's done a really nice job."
McHale, the Wolves' vice president of basketball operations, joined Timberwolves coaches who spent extra time Monday working with Woods and Nesterovic on their offensive moves.
"Basically they're trying to get me to have one or two moves that I can go to every game," Woods said.
The rap on Woods in college was that he was soft and injury-prone, and he slid to the Wolves with the 46th pick. Although he showed flashes of offensive potential -- especially in last year's NCAA Final Four in Minneapolis -- Woods underwent back surgery twice while at Arizona. But Woods says he is healthy and ready to undergo the grind of 82 regular season games. "I feel really good right now," he said. "I really just want to come in this year and learn. The veterans have been teaching me a lot so far. It feels like I've been here for months, not weeks."
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