Kevin Garnett and Vince Carter — two of the NBAs biggest stars — will be mixing it up at Metra in early October.
Garnetts Minnesota Timberwolves will be meeting Carters Toronto Raptors in a preseason basketball game scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5 in Billings. Tickets will go on sale at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18 at Metra, Alberta Bair Theater and Rimrock Mall.
Were extremely excited as an organization to bring what we consider to be an incredible marquee match-up to your marketplace, said Chris Wright, the Wolves executive vice president, during a Thursday press conference.
The 6-foot-11 Garnett — the highest paid player in NBA history at nearly $20 million per season — averaged 22 points per game from his forward position last season. Carter, a 6-6 swingman, scored at a 27.6 ppg clip last year.
Both of the 25-year-olds made it to the All-Star Game last season.
If youre a basketball fan, you know that its something special to watch those two go at it, offered Minnesota assistant coach Don Zierden, who also was on hand for Thursdays announcement.
The game — in the nearly 9,800 seat Metra — will be billed as the U.S. Bank Classic, and will be sponsored by U.S. Bank in Billings. Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank has been associated with the Timberwolves since their inaugural season in 1989.
Tickets for the game will range in price from $15 to $100. In addition to Metra, Alberta Bair and Rimrock Mall, tickets also can be purchased by phone (406-256-2422 or 800-366-8538), fax (406-256-2430) or online at www.metrapark.com beginning on Aug. 18.
Zierden expects both Garnett and Carter to see plenty of playing time and to play hard when they meet at Metra. I think a lot of that has to do with their friendship and rivalry, he said.
In addition, the Wolves will be moving Garnett to small forward this season, Zierden said, enhancing the likelihood he would be matched up against Carter in October.
Wright said the Wolves are coming off the two best years in the history of our franchise. Minnesota qualified for the playoffs for the fifth-straight season and enjoyed an NBA-best 11-game winning streak during the regular season.
Toronto took the Philadelphia 76ers to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Its really going to be a fun evening, for sure, said Zierden.
Wright said that with all of the recent rule changes in the NBA, both the Wolves and the Raptors will be looking to fine tune their games when they collide in Billings.
Last April, the NBA — looking to add more offense — voted to eliminate the illegal defense rule and reduced from 10 seconds to eight seconds the amount of time a team will have to advance the ball past midcourt. The NBA also redefined incidental contact and — in an attempt to force defensive players to constantly move around in the lane and not just stand near the basket — implemented a three-second rule.
This will be one of the first games on the 2001-2002 NBA preseason schedule. The Wolves will begin two-a-day drills at the Target Center in Minneapolis on Sept. 29 and will go on to play games in Italy and Germany after making the stop in Billings. Minnesota plans to play eight preseason games, although the schedule isnt complete yet.
The Wolves and Raptors will meet again on Oct. 13 in Cologne, Germany, in a game that will be televised throughout Europe.
In addition to Garnett and Carter, the game in Billings will include the NBAs all-time winningest coach in Torontos Lenny Wilkens. Wilkens, in 28 seasons, has amassed 1,226 victories.
Minnesotas roster also features Wally Szczerbiak and Terrell Brandon. Torontos Antonio Davis averaged double figures in scoring last season.
Wright said the Wolves organization will treat the Billings game like a home contest in the Target Center. He said the Minnesota team will bring their own game-operation crew and mascots to Montana.
We want to make it sort of like a home game in the Target Center, said Wright. We hope theres not many Toronto Raptor fans here. We hope everybody will be wearing the blue and white of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The last NBA preseason game to be played in Billings was an Oct. 22, 1997 meeting between the Seattle SuperSonics and Golden State Warriors. That game attracted a crowd of 9,492 to Metra.