Tag Archives: David Kahn

Forget the Billy Goat, the Joe Smith Curse is in Full Effect

 

There are a great many curses in all the major sports. The Cubs have the curse of the Billy Goat. The Red Sox had the Curse of the Great Bambino. Birmingham City Football suffered the 100 year curse. Hell, even individual players and competitors have suffered from curses ala the Madden and Taladega Curses.

Move over Billy Goat, Joe Smith is the newest curse on the block!!

Move over Billy Goat, Joe Smith is the newest curse on the block!!

Well, Minnesota Timberwolves’ fans might be in the middle of a brand new curse: the Joe Smith Curse.

For the unfamiliar — or for those who chose to forget — prior to the start of the 2000 season, Wolves GM Kevin McHale signs free agent big man Joe Smith to a contract that involves payments both above and below the table. This was an unbelievably stupid move. Like asking Todd Kincannon to speak at an NAACP rally stupid. How McHale was allowed to remain GM is, to this day, one of sports’ great mysteries. I would love to see the dirt he must have on Wolves owner Glen Taylor. It is either photos of ole Glen doing his best Marv Albert or he has the name and address of Taylor’s Marino-like love child.

Taylor’s TMZ moment aside, the botched Joe Smith signing had an immediate impact (the league takes the Wolves’ 1st round draft pick for the next 5 years) and, even worse, it has been the beginning of a run of bad luck that would make even the most ardent Cubs fan blush.

Since the Joe Smith signing, Wolves fans have suffered the following mini-tragedies:

  1. McHale is allowed to return as GM. This cannot be said enough. He quite literally paid a player under the table, a direct violation of league policy — heck — a direct violation of the how dumb can you be policy, and he returned to his role with the team only a year later. We are not off to a good start.
  2. The Wolves capitalize on having no first round picks for the next two years and draft the great Loren Woods and Marcus Taylor. I would add more, but those picks are pretty self-explanatory. 
  3. Everything changes in 2003, Hall of Fame player and Hall of Infame GM Kevin McHale drafts Ndudi “DooDoo” Ebi. He is the Wolves first 1st round pick since the Smith debacle. He is currently averaging a double-double for S.S. Felice Scandone in something called Serie A.
  4. In 2004, the Wolves finally put together enough talent to support the Big Ticket and, all of sudden, the NBA championship is a very real possibility. After surviving the Kings in a seven game slugfest, the Lakers/NBA/referees dash any hopes the Wolves have of claiming their first NBA championship. In particular, the phantom foul call on Wally Szcerbiak playing “Wally” defense against Kobe.
  5. The following year, despite retaining the same supporting cast, the Wolves fall apart and miss the playoffs for the first time in the KG era. They have not been back since. That team was then dismantled, in part because of Sprew’s desire to feed his family and in part because the chemistry was so off from the year before.
  6. Roy was outstanding for the Blazers (after the Wolves traded him) -- he has played only minutes this season.

    Roy was outstanding for the Blazers (after the Wolves traded him) — he has played only minutes this season.

    To help replenish the talent level around KG, the Wolves draft Brandon Roy. They then inexplicably trade Roy for the great Randy Foy. Roy goes on to a terrific career with the Portland Trail Blazers, playing the role of closer in the 4th Quarter, the exact role the Wolves needed to fill. Foy does his best Troy Hudson-impression, jacking up inopportune 3s with frightening regularity.

  7. Aside from the Roy trade, management also locks up the services of Corey Brewer and Rashad McCants via the draft. Let me just say that again, Corey Brewer and Rashad McCants.
  8. The lack of playoff performances finally force management’s hand. The Kid gets traded to Boston for $.66 on the $1.00. He promptly wins an NBA Championship. The Wolves struggle to break 20 wins because Big Al fails to defend with the same effectiveness that he scores in the low post. Boston’s defense becomes one of the best in the league — anchored by KG.
  9. The Wolves draft one of the best power forwards in the league, Kevin Love, and all of sudden, things are finally looking up. Love averages 20+ points and 12+ rebounds for the first few years in the league.
  10. There is a huge opportunity to turn the corner but David Kahn does his best Kevin McHale, drafting Jonny Flynn (mind you Steph Curry is staring him in the grill and it is not like the Wolves have always needed a shooter), Ricky Rubio (who promptly signs a deal with FC Barcelona), and then approximately 16 other PGs (including Ty Lawson – who is traded to Denver). More misses in this draft than a Craig Ferguson monologue. Just brutal.
  11. Rubio looked like the Spanish Savior --- then the curse took effect. Now he is still trying to find his form following serious knee surgery.

    Rubio looked like the Spanish Savior — then the curse took effect. Now he is still trying to find his form following serious knee surgery.

    La Pistola finally decides he has had enough of Euro hoops and he makes his way across the pond. The Wolves squad is electrified. An annual bottom-feeder is immediately transformed into a contender.

  12. The Black Mamba destroys the Wolves franchise worse than he did the…in…Denv…well, you get the point. Rubio tears an ACL defending Kobe. Wolves fans start to wonder if they should start bathing with the toaster.

All of that brings us to this season.

The Wolves projected starters have played a total of zero games together this season. Butkus. Squat. Nada. So, rather than list all of the injuries — including Love’s freak knuckle push-up calamity — and depress you any further. I will just let that little stat sink in. As soon as you have come to grips with that, it is easy to understand that there is something bigger than all of us going on here. This curse is very real. Here is hoping we exorcise it sooner than later.     

Remember, if you need tickets to watch the Joe Smith Curse in action, skate on over to Ticket King. They have got all your ticket needs covered for local sporting events — especially the Timberwolves.

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A Defense of David Kahn? Do I Have To?

Timberwolves star forward Kevin Love dished to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian  Wojnarowski about his feelings towards Timberwolves ownership and management.

Let me preface what I am about to say that there is no bigger fan of Kevin Love than me. Ever since watching him dominate in the NCAA tournament in 2008, I have been a fan. When the Wolves traded O.J. Helmann’s for him, I was thrilled. He is the second most fundamentally sound player in the game (sorry, Tim Duncan wears that crown until he retires) and he has continued to improve his game to the point where he is a Top 10 player at this point in his career. And he is just getting started. I am apologist, to be sure.

An old school Wes would certainly not approve of Love's recent interview.

An old school Wes would certainly not approve of Love’s recent interview.

That said, I do not like the way he handled the interview with Yahoo. If he has a problem with management or ownership, bring those issues up with them. For a guy as media-savvy as Love is, his Tweets are usually quite insightful, circulating the comments that he did is very out of character for him. Furthermore, when you look at how his contract situation played out, there is a very strong argument to support David “I am not stopping to ask for directions.” Kahn’s plan.

Ole Kahnsie signed Love to a four year deal worth $64 million dollars, with the final year of that contract being a mutual option. That means Love could leave the Wolves after the 3rd season and be an unrestricted free agent. His annual salary under the terms of his current deal is $16 million. Love wanted a 5 year, max deal, worth $80 million. That also would have netted him an annual salary of $16 million. So on its face, the only difference in signing Love to his current deal is that the Wolves “only” had to commit to him for 4 years, versus 5. That said, considering his age, this last point is a complete non-starter. So there is no discernible difference between the two contracts except that the 5 year deal had an extra guaranteed year. But, there is more to the story.

Pow! this. Before his injury, Rubio and Love were on their way as the most dynamic duo in the league.

POW! this. Before the injury, Rubio and Love were on their way as the most dynamic duo in the league.

As a result of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), teams are only allowed to offer one max deal to a current player coming off his rookie contract. Enter Ricky Rubio. Prior to tearing up his knee against the 47th worst person on the planet, Kobe Bryant, Rubio had helped lead the Wolves back into the playoff picture and the team was playing inspired basketball. Rubio looked like the kind of basketball savant that only comes around once a decade. Together, he and Love showed they could be the league’s new dynamic duo. Unfortunately, because of how closely (in time) Love and Rubio entered the league, if Kahnsie had given Love the max deal he wanted, that same deal would not be available for Rubio in 2014 when his rookie contract expires. Remember, the CBA allows only one such deal. Love’s rookie contract expired last season. Under a 5 year max deal, he would still be under contract when Rubio’s rookie deal expires in 2014.

So put yourself in Kahn’s shoes.

You have a player, Love, who has professed he would love to stay in Minnesota for his whole career provided he is surrounded by the talent to make a championship run. Enter the basketball playing savant. Who, coincidentally, had real concerns about coming to play in Minnesota (unless he got max money). With Rubio, you have an opportunity to ensure your star player has that side kick for the next 8 years, all you have to do is convince him to take a  max deal for the next 3 years. At which point, because of Love’s vested Larry Bird rights, you will be able to offer him the max deal, 5 years for $80 million, that he wanted coming off his rookie contract. Provided that happens after the 3rd year of Love’s current deal, which I expect it will, you will have Love and Rubio locked up until 2019. That is the kind of foundation and stability that Love was pleading for and that Wolves fans would be thrilled about. If Love gets the max deal coming off his rookie contract, that scenario is no longer in play. So why is he spilling his guts to Adrian Wojnarowski?

My guess, and it is really no more than that, is that this winter of discontent has set in for two reasons.

First, because David Kahn has the personality of an actuary and, news flash, does not seem to have the best relationship with Wolves’ players (see Beasley, Michael). No one has ever accused Kahn of being a players’ GM. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to change any time soon.

The Wolves ought to think about sending a guy or two back to school for a little HR training.

The Wolves ought to think about sending a guy or two back to school for a little HR training.

The second, and perhaps more fixable reason, is more of an HR issue. Love spent the summer with his buddies (Westbrook & Co.) on the Olympic team hearing all about the max deals. Russell is definitely off my Christmas card list. Love knows he is an elite player. And after talking with his fellow elite players, I can see how he starts thinking, why shouldn’t I get paid like one?

But this is the big misconception. Love is essentially being paid EXACTLY like those guys. Someone should explain it to him. The money is the same. Yes, he is not signed for as many years, but that is to ensure that the Wolves can keep its core in place for the next 7 years. Prior to signing his contract, Love made multiple statements that he just wanted to win and that it was critical that he be surrounded with the talent to make multiple championship runs. So, which one is it? Win championships or get another guaranteed year? Furthermore, by signing him to the deal he took, he gave himself the opportunity to be paired with his version of Stockton for the next 7 years. There was no other way to accomplish this. Period. And for someone who appreciates basketball’s rich history, you would think Love would be more on board. He has the chance to be one of the all-time greats with Rubio at his side.

So, hammer Kahnsie all you want for being an aloof and even arrogant, former journalist who is on the ultimate power trip now that he is the “boss” to the guys he used to cover. That is fine. He clearly needs some help in the HR department. But blaming him for signing Love to the deal that will enable the Wolves to preserve Stockton/Malone 2.0? Well, that is not something that I am ready to defend.

All Is Quiet On The Midwestern Front

For the years following the Vikings collapse in the 2009 NFC Championship game, there has been little to get excited about in terms of the Minnesota sports scene.  The Lynx won the WNBA Championship last year and got a few pulses racing, but that has been about it.

Minnesota fans battled through bi-lateral leg weakness and concussion like symptoms, both on the diamond (Morneau) and the ice (PMB).  Then, in a seemingly meaningless game against the Washington Redskins, All-Pro/All-World running back Adrian Peterson suffered a serious knee injury.  The Vikes somehow ended up winning that game and ultimately costing themselves  the 2nd overall pick.  That 2nd overall pick was recently turned into a bounty of quality draft picks.

Ricky never looked back after leaving Europe and he made a lot of people look silly along the way.

Despite all that, the arrival of Ricky Rubio changed everything.  Suddenly there was something to pay attention to night in and night out.  The Wolves were regular contributors to ESPN’s Top 10 because of Rubio’s artistry with a basketball.

Not only was Rubio fun to watch, but, with time, the Wolves made a push for the Western Conference playoffs.  They strung together wins, both at home and on the road, against quality opponents.  Then, while attempting to make the fundamental basketball play we have come to expect from him, Ricky blew out his knee trying to take a charge against the Black Mamba.  Like we needed another reason to hate Kobe.  As Rubio limped around the court, you could just feel the season’s momentum evaporating.

A savvy local team could have filled this void.  A few teams had a chance to bring some excitement to their respective fan bases.  The Vikings were in the middle of free agency.  The Twins were wrapping up free agency and about to begin spring training.  And lastly, the Wolves were nearing the NBA trade deadline with pieces to move.

The Vikings have actually done less than nothing when it comes to free agency.  Let me explain.  They cut veteran influences like Steve Hutchinson and failed to replace that talent with anything resembling a sought-after talent.  In fact, not only were the Vikings not signing anyone to get the pulse racing (apologies to John Carlson’s mom — an average NFL TE coming off an injury does not count), but, they actually refrained from being involved in the discussion.  Seemingly all the big name free agents that would have excited fans and improved the squad, never seemed to be courted by the Winter Park brain trust.  This is even more peculiar considering the fact that said brain trust is holding the people of Minnesota hostage for a new stadium to the tune of $550 million.

Any time Ryan Doumit is one of your squad's major off-season acquisitions, you are rebuilding, not reloading.

Going into spring training, the Twins were reporting with recent signees Jamey Carrol, Ryan Doumit, and Jason Marquis.  Is there even any need to explain how much of snoozer it must be down in Fort Meyers right now?  Through the first week of spring training games, the whole roster, including minor leaguers, beer vendors, and ardent white-haired super fans, had one, no, seriously, one, extra base hit.  The only thing marquee about the Twins free agent signings is the fact that one of guys’ last names is a punny play on words.  After 99 losses last season and with all this stadium generated revenue, punny is not going to it.  Aren’t we past trying to dress up average major leaguers as these diamond-in-the-rough finds?

Making your way east a few blocks to the Target Center, you will find Wolves GM David Kahn working furiously on finishing his first Level 2 sudoku puzzle.  Other teams are calling the Wolves about their multiple trade pieces: Michael Beasley and Luke Ridnour.  But, don’t worry, Kahn is not going to take the bait.  Full fairness in savagery, the Wolves were at least mentioned in trying to flip Ridnour or Beasley into Jamal Crawford (who, by the way, would have been a great fit on this squad).  Though, considering both the principals in that deal, Portland and L.A., made moves for players who were not as good as the Wolves pieces, you have to think the sudoku got in the way.

Ultimately, it has been eerily quiet since Rubio’s anterior cruciate ligament decided to take a vacation.  One can only hope that both he and AP are able to fully recover and return to inspire their respective squads.  Considering the current state of affairs, we should hope for good weather this summer, at least then we can take advantage Minnesota’s remaining recreational gems: the golf courses.

Bucks’ Jennings – The Looming Free Agency Problem

Is he, too, taking his talents elsewhere?

Brandon Jennings, the undisputed star for the Milwaukee Bucks, may not be residing on the shore of Lake Michigan for too long. Reports recently surfaced that Jennings is doing his homework on big-market teams (shocking that he knows how to do his homework in the first part, considering he skipped college to play abroad and attended high “school” at Oak Hill Academy.)

Jennings is eligible to sign a lucrative contract extension with the Bucks this summer. Remember, part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement allows the Bucks to offer the most money to Jennings. But, it’s expected he will sign a one-year tender with the Bucks, and hit the unrestricted free agent market in the Summer of 2014. It’s an ominous sign for the Bucks, who can ill-afford to lose the one player on the team that keeps them exciting and fighting for the playoffs on a yearly basis (it also doesn’t hurt the Bucks play in the Eastern Conference where the half-trying Atlanta Hawks seem to find the playoffs yearly.)

Jennings is claiming it has nothing to do with the City of Milwaukee itself – of course it’s not; what doesn’t Milwaukee have to offer a kid Straight Outta Compton?! It’s purely business. Taking Jennings at his word, the decision to spurn the Bucks comes down to the direction of the squad. With Bogut spending more time on the training table than Ice Cube selling out to Coors Light (sense a theme here?) and Stephen Jackson never seeing a terrible shot he didn’t like, Jennings may have a point about the Bucks’ direction. Since drafting Jennings in 2009, the Bucks have drafted Larry Sanders, Tobias Harris, and Jon Leuer. It’s usually best not to emulate the KAAAAAAAAAAHN when drafting. Again stealing a book from the KAAAAAAAAAHN, the Bucks filled in the rest of the roster with a bunch of players that have bounced around the league – Shaun Livingston, S. Jackson, Drew Gooden, and Mike Dunleavy. Frankly, I can’t blame Jennings for wanting to do his homework.

It’s important to keep in mind that if Jennings does sign elsewhere, he will take less money to do so. The new CBA was designed to give small- to mid-market teams an advantage in signing their own players to maintain parity. But there is not much a franchise like Milwaukee can do when a player is willing to accept less money to play elsewhere. Just ask Cleveland – but I’m pretty sure anyone would take less money to live on South Beach instead of next to this.

Right now, Milwaukee is 12-14 after it’s thrilling win against Cleveland and are hanging on to the 8th seed for the playoffs. Brandon Jennings is their catalyst. But, for how long? A point-guard with his natural scoring ability will be a sought after commodity if he were to hit the open market. And it doesn’t take long to consider how good he’d look at the point for the Spike Lee Knicks (yes, this is assuming the Linsanity phenomena is as short-lived as the Tebowing phenomena.) Don’t be surprised, Milwaukee, if you hear this refrain in the Summer of 2014:

“As I Leave, Believe I’m Stompin
But When I Come Back, Boy, I’m Comin Straight Outta Compton”

Wolves the next Thunder?

The next Thunder? Not quite.

ESPN Insider recently ran an article proclaiming the Wolves the next OKC Thunder based on far-reaching similarities: both teams drafted cornerstone players in the top of the draft (Durant and Love), both teams paired them with young point guards (Westbrook and Rubio), both hit on a non-lottery Intl. big man (Ibaka and Pekovic), and both have stockpiled draft picks to turn into different assets. At first glance, this article seems to have legs; but upon closer examination, this comparison is worse than ESPN’s forced efforts to compare Gronkowski’s twisted ankle to Curt Schilling’s ankle (Seriously ESPN, enough focusing in on this glorified frat boy with a bum wheel. Everyone knows he’s going to play. And, it’s not even close to the same thing as Schilling’s epic game 5.)

Undoubtedly, both teams have franchise players in Kevin Durant and Kevin Love. But, the difference between the two is stark. KD is probably the second best player in the league, and the two-time defending scoring champ. He scores at will, and can create his shot. K. Love is the Big Fundamental. He puts up impressive numbers, but he is not the elite score like KD and struggles at times creating his shot. His numbers have improved this season, but it’d be hard to deny the fact that Rubio’s presence has helped him get better looks. Now, I understand K. Love brings more to the table with his rebounding. But, the bottom line is they are completely different players. Its like saying the Packers and Vikes have similar franchise players in A-Rodg and AP.

Similarly, the article focuses on two complete opposites at point guard. Westbrook is a scoring point guard who uses his elite speed to get to the rack. Rubio might already be the best passer in the league (tell me the last time you recall seeing someone deliberately pass it between a defender’s legs to a spot-up three!) Both bring excitement to the squad, but in completely different fashions.

The worst comparison is claiming both teams hit on International big men after the lottery. First, Serge Ibaka was the 24th selection in the 2008 draft, while Pekovic was the 31st selection (also known as the first pick of the second round). Ibaka is a defender first, averaging 2.4 blocks per game – good for third most in the league. Pekovic has 5 blocks the entire season. Ibaka is also a freak of an athlete. Remember, he was in the Slam Dunk contest last season. Pretty sure Pekovic doesn’t know how to jump off one foot. Now, this isn’t intended to slam Pekovic. He has played well of late, and really done a nice job on the offensive glass. Frankly, it’s to early to even say the Wolves “hit” on drafting Pekovic, especially if you consider DeAndre Jordan was taken four picks later (and incidentally immediately after the Wolves drafted and then traded Mario Chalmers). Regardless, the two players are simply not comparable.

Kahn won the bidding war for Darko Milicic.

Finally, and most importantly, the article neglects to discuss the fact that OKC has surrounded their star players with a great core. OKC signed Thaba Sefolosha away from Chicago, and fills the role of defensive stopper. James Harden, another top draft pick, is turning in a Sixth-Man of the Year type season. And they traded away young, solid players (such as Jeff Green) to nab Kendrick Perkins from the Celtics. Meanwhile, well, I’m pretty sure there is a new adjective for how the Wolves have been built: KAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHN!!!!! To put it nicely, Kahn hasn’t quite built the team in similar fashion. Outside of drafting (and patiently waiting out the two years) Rubio, Kahn has unfortunately whiffed on most of his draft picks – Jonny Flynn (instead of Steph Curry), Ty Lawson (who  was immediately traded), Wes Johnson (instead of DeMarcus Cousins – yes I know he’s a mental midget, but Sactown is so dysfunctional, who knows if he would have responded to K. Love’s leadership and Adelman’s coaching), Nick Calathes (instead of drafting Wes Matthews who went undrafted – sorry, I have a weird, unnatural man-crush on this solid, nothing special Madison native), and they drafted a guy from Senegal (Hamady N’Diaye) that proved to be a few years older than they had thought – kind of embarrassing. Further, Kahn signed two point guards in back-to-back summers to essentially the same deal – Ramon Sessions and Luke Ridnour. He paid $20M to Darko Milicic – yep, that’s the same Darko you’re thinking. Otherwise, the roster is full of players that make for solid 7th to 10th men off the bench. Who knows how Beasley, a.k.a. the Black Hole, fits in with Rubio and the new system. (Full disclosure, I like his role coming off the bench in these past few games. He is one of the few players on the squad that can create his own shot, and is a nice fit for the second team players.) Needless to say, the motley crew of “other players” Kahn has assembled to go with his stars is not quite on the same page as OKC.

There is no doubt that the Wolves are improving… finally. But, they are not the next Thunder. Thankfully the Wolves have another top pick in this draf… oh wait, MCHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALE!!!!!

Well, He Is Signed, But What Is Next

"Think of how many ice fishing shacks I can buy with my new deal!!"

In the summer of 1998, many Wolves fans applauded management’s decision to extend the contract for franchise player Kevin Garnett, signing him to a six year, $126 million dollar deal.  It was one of the richest contracts of all time.  However, this deal HAD to get done.  KG was a burgeoning star who was reaching the prime of, what would become, a Hall of Fame career.

The years to follow were a frustrating time in the lives of many Wolves fans.  We watched as a comical parade of failed draft picks, Doodoo Eebee (sp), and free agent signings, Michael “The Candy Man” Olowokandi, masqueraded as a supporting cast for KG.  Oh sure, there were some decent players sprinkled in (think Tom Gugliotta and Tom Gugliotta 2.0: Wally Szcerbiak), but, we never seemed to put that solid supporting cast together.

Fast forward to today.  More than twenty years have gone by and the Wolves were faced with a similar conundrum: potential, superstar forward, Kevin Love, on the brink of his prime, was about to be a restricted free agent.  Again, the Wolves HAD to sign him.  They appeased the mob and Love has reportedly signed a four year, $62 million deal.  Though, the cynic in me (thanks Joe Smith) is already thinking, great, we signed him, but what is next?

Because only perfectly balanced individuals who are great teammates get face tattoos.

I know what you are thinking, “Yeah, but Love’s situation is different.  He has El Pistola.”  True enough.  Love has Ricky Rubio.  Rubio is the transcendent, point guard KG never had.  And yes, I am purposely ignoring the existence of Starbury and his face tattoo.  Rubio is the Stockton to Love’s Malone.  But, Rubio’s circumstances bring the important clause of Love’s deal into sharp relief.

Love’s deal has a player opt-out clause after three years.  That coincides EXACTLY with the expiration of Rubio’s rookie contract.  Trust me, when I realized this, I got that feeling you get, at night, when you are driving (okay, speeding), and you think you see those oh-so-recognizable headlights of a cop in the rearview. At first you rationalize, “I was only going 10 MPH over” and then the panic sets in “Are those flashers or a bike rack??”

Now that the ink has dried on Love’s contract, as a life-long Wolves fan, I am beyond rationalizing and fear.  That opt out clause is nothing but trouble.  I am at full on paranoia.  Here is hoping that the Wolves continue to improve this promising young roster and that it is only one of those annoying, retired patrol cars behind us.