Tag Archives: Timberwolves

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.

Winnersville, USA — Well That Did Not Last Long

All of the major Minnesota sports teams (Vikings [only just], Twins [Morneau showing his MVP form], Lynx [Minny’s best squad] were victorious this past weekend. The border rival Packers got dominated at home by Alex Smith. No seriously, that Alex Smith. Heck, even the not so major squads managed a victory — yeah, I am looking at you Gophers football. Even though you did not lose to Oregon State (another shout out to Sconnie sports), you have to beat a real college squad for me to get too excited.

Augustus and the Lynx saw their winning streak snapped, but they are still the most dominant squad in town in their respective league.

The weekend’s success continued into Monday night as the Twins pounded their neighbors in the cellar, Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians. Unfortunately, the run of Ws could not continue. The Twinks were embarrassed last night — promising rookie Scott Diamond was lit up like promising rookies sometimes are. And, the WNBA powerhouse Lynx took a night and did their best 2010 Timberwolves impression, solid offense, but no defense, in a loss to Chicago.

But, a 9 to 1 drubbing and the end of a winning streak might just be the dose of reality Minnesota fans needed.

Sure, the Vikes won a thriller on Sunday. They are the new darlings around town. Apologies to Messers Parise and Suter, you have to be playing for us to count you. But it took a seriously miraculous series at the end of game — Ponder moving the offense down the field quickly for a game tying 55 yard FG by Blair “Thunder Leg” Walsh — to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Fresh off  a win like that, the fan in me wants to guzzle the Ponder Kool-Aid….okay….that did not come out right….never mind….let’s move on….anyway, I want to believe we are witnessing his “jump” to the next level. This is the heady, stud QB we heard all about. He finally has the weapons he never had at FSU. And, he has a sturdy enough line that he is not being pressured like a Harvard hoopster in a government class. Unfortunately, the cynic in me, the one that has been Brett Favre’d, Gary Anderson’d, Morriss’d, and Denny Green’d, is yelling not to get my hopes.

A buddy of mine put it perfectly, when talking about the Vikes’ win, he said that after the DIII legend embarrassed Chris Cook for what looked like the game winning TD, he was in disbelief. Not surprise,  just disbelief. That is a perfect assessment of where we are at as fans. Vikings fans have been conditioned to expect the let-down, so when it happens, it is not a shock. It is a coping mechanism. Psychology 101. So instead of surprise, there is only the disbelief at how the squad managed to give away the game.

Maybe this year’s team is going to be different. The fan in me wants to believe it is.

Michael Beasley – The 6th Man

SuperCool Beas... umm... yeah

Michael Beasley, the player formally known as the Wolves starting SF, may have finally found a niche that suits his game, and most importantly fills a Wolves need perfectly – The 6th Man. No one can question B-Ez’s talent. The guy is uber athletic and is really the only Wolf that can create his own shot. But, he’s also a Randy Moss clone in that he plays when he wants (just ask Cris Carter). Add in that he doesn’t contribute much defensively, and is often a black-hole on the offensive end. And, well,  that’s the enigma of B-Ez ,or SuperCool Beas as he had scribed across his back  (real quick – take a look at the lower right background… he must be Snoop’s nephew).

B-Ez started at SF for the Wolves’ first seven games before going down with an injury. The injury was a blessing in disguise. Averaging 31 minutes per game as a starter, SuperCool Beas (I’m pretty sure a junior high girls basketball player could come up with a better nickname than this… like, that’s SUPER cool) put up 12.9 ppg on 39% shooting. Additionally, the numbers don’t begin to tell the story of how poorly B-Ez’s game initially gelled with El Pistola. Any flow that El Pistola brought to the floor was quickly erased when B-Ez got his mitts on the ball and looked to take his man off the bounce. Simply put, B-Ez and El Pistola were a worse pair than Nicki Minaj and the Grammy’s.  The offense stagnated, and the team fell to 2-5.

After sitting 11 games with an injury, B-Ez has returned to the lineup in his new 6th Man role. The results have been much more positive for both B-Ez and the squad. The starting five have a certain rhythm without B-Ez on the floor. K. Love and El Pistola are becoming a force pick-and-roll duo. True, the Wolves still don’t have a strong starting SF (Wes Johnson – the first knuckleball shooter in the NBA). But, B-Ez brings exactly what the second string needs – a go-to scorer who can create his shot. The second group does not have the maestro at point to create open shots for others. B-Ez can go to work off the bounce and still create production for the second group. Since taking over in this new role, B-Ez has better numbers – 14.3 ppg on 45% shooting. And when he’s on, like the night he dropped 34 at Houston, he stays on the floor during crunch time.

Time will tell whether SuperCool Beas accepts and thrives in this role. If he accepts it, he could carve out a nice career as 6th Man scorer. Look at the best 6th Men in the league – James Harden and Jason Terry. They accept their role, provide instant offense, and play hard when they get in. B-Ez is obviously a mental midget (evidenced by tweeting a pic of an awful tattoo with some sticky icky in the background); but even he has to realize that this is a good role for his game. And if he does, ladies of the Twin Cities need to watch out. As Yeezy said: “I’m pulling girls off the bench like a sixth man.”

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.