Four months after Wolves draft Johnson over Cousins, they meet
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MINNEAPOLIS --Heading into the 2010 NBA Draft Lottery the Minnesota Timberwolves had the second-worst record in the league and were hoping to gain a top-two pick for the first time in franchise history.
What transpired was all too familiar with Timberwolves fans: the team slipped to fourth and missed out on the John Wall and Evan Turner sweepstakes.
President of basketball operations David Kahn faced an interesting dilemma with the fourth pick. Either take a risk and draft the freakishly talented but potential head case in 19-year old center DeMarcucs Cousins. Or stay safe and draft the smooth shooting Big East Player of the Year in 22-year old shooting guard Wesley Johnson.
As we all know, Kahn took Johnson at number four and the Sacramento Kings couldn't get their pick in fast enough at number five to take Cousins.
From that point on, the two would be forever linked by Timberwolves fans that are still haunted by taking Randy Foye over Brandon Roy, trading Ray Allen for Stephon Marbury, the mere mention of Ndudi Ebi and every other draft day debacle that came during the Kevin McHale era.
As luck would have it, the two met in the 2010 season opener where the Kings outlasted the Timberwolves 117-116.
Obviously the first game of a rookie season does not make or break a career. It will likely take at least two seasons to determine which team came out better but in their first meeting their boxscores were similar, with the edge going to Cousins.
Cousins finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes.
Johnson finished with 13 points, four rebounds and an assist in eight fewer minutes.
Both played up and down games that you would expect out of at top-five draft pick making their NBA debut -- there were as many highs points as there were rookie mistakes.
Johnson missed his first three shots, including a bricked dunk before his first career points came on a thunderous second-quarter dunk in which he was fouled. He converted the three point play to give the Timberwolves a 35-34 lead.
As for Cousins, in a two-point game with seven minutes left, he got flustered by the presence of Pekovic and traveled. Then on the ensuing Wolves possession, he was out of position on defense and picked up his fifth foul, then was subsequently taken out.
"You could see when he was out there (Johnson) had some rookie jitters, fumbling the basketball everywhere, that is to be expected for a guy making their debut," Rambis said.
The two will forever be connected based on their draft position, but don't expect it to turn into a blood-feud between the players.
"He and I have developed a friendship over this whole process," Johnson said about Cousins after the game. "So seeing him out there playing and helping his team was good to see. We talk a lot especially on twitter and text each other and everything. (We keep it friendly) until we get on the court."
Rambis said Johnson, who is coming off a lingering hamstring injury, played about the amount of minutes they were looking to get him with the expectation that he will play more as the season goes on.
True to form, Johnson was very nonchalant about his NBA debut. "I thought I played alright," he said.
His coach, on the other hand, had some high praise for the rookie who the Timberrwolves have high hopes for.
"There is a special player in there and someday that special player will blossom out. He will be unique at some point in time," Rambis said.