Remember Trevor Winter!
OK, as battle cries go, it’s not much. Winter, a 7-footer from Slayton, Minn., was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves back in the lockout-shortened 1999 season. A four-year backup center for the University of Minnesota, the undrafted Winter owed his NBA snapshot to the Gophers roots of Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders, the GM and coach, respectively, at that time.
Winter had been playing for Fargo-Moorhead in the defunct International Basketball Association and spent the first month of 1999 hampered by a sore back. But finally, on March 16, 1999, he was activated for a game at Target Center. The opponents: the Los Angeles Lakers. Winter’s job that night: Try to contain Shaquille O’Neal. “Might as well start with the best,” Saunders said that night. “He can give us six fouls, as a starting point.”
The results: Winters played 5:01 minutes across two separate stints, grabbed three rebounds and committed five fouls, not six, before sitting down for the night. Saunders used him in the first and third quarters in what then was still a controversial strategy — Hack-a-Shaq — although only three of Winters’ fouls were spent on the massive O’Neal. The others came at 9:18 of the third against Travis Knight and then at 7:59 for a Kobe Bryant three-point play.
Saunders subbed out Winters and his NBA career promptly became like one of those rural U.S. small towns, with the “Welcome To” and “You Are Leaving” on the front and back of the same sign. He never played in the league again. He eventually landed a job in medical sales and began a family, and has joked about his NBA cred: “I’m not sure my kids even believe me.”
Winters does hold a couple of distinctions, due to his “Hello, I must be going” career arc. His three rebounds in five minutes left him at 21.6 rpg on a 36-minute basis; that’s more than Hall of Famers Bill Russell (19.1), Wilt Chamberlain (18.0) or Maurice Stokes (16.7). And his five fouls-in-five minutes pace put him atop the list of players whose career foul totals are equal to or greater than their minutes played.
But Winter’s claim on committing the fastest five fouls in Timberwolves history fell Wednesday night, when guard J.J. Barea racked up five personals in 2:44 seconds of the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets.
Barea has an NBA championship ring. He’s in the second year of a contract worth $18 million over four season. He has played more than 400 regular-season and playoff games in his career. He’s been romantically linked to the 2006 Miss Universe, Zuleyka Rivera, for cryin’ out loud.
You’d think he could have left Winter with his little bit of fast-and-furious Minnesota NBA fame.