Tag Archives: Minnesota Timberwolves

Northwest Division Preview

New kid on the block

Doyle Rader: The Northwest Division looks to be one of, if not the most, competitive divisions in the NBA this season. Last year three teams (the Thunder, Nuggets, and Jazz) made the playoffs. Utah made a late push to secure their playoff berth only to be eliminated by the Spurs in the first round. Denver took the Lakers to seven games in the Western Conference Semi-finals. And the Thunder eventually lost in the NBA Finals. This season the division is only deeper.

Both the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves were early season darlings to make the playoffs last season with the Blazers’ hot start and the emergence of Ricky Rubio in Minny. What curtailed these teams was the fire-sale in Portland and the injuries that plagued the Timberwolves. However, Minnesota has completely reloaded their roster in an attempt to make a playoff run this year. They just have to wait for Kevin Love to recover from his broken hand.

Travis Huse: What’s remarkable about this division is that each of its franchises is looking toward the future.

Let’s begin with what’s been going on in Denver: the Nuggets’ reload looks really enticing to me, much in the same way that the Pacers have the past couple of seasons. They’re going to play blindingly fast, group-effort basketball, a hard-nosed team approach. What really makes things interesting is Iguodala’s defensive role, alongside his ball handler abilities, which were hidden behind Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday in Philly.

Iggy will have to play the roles of Danny Granger, Metta World Peace, and Lebron James simultaneously, and how successful he is at integrating with George Karl’s style will determine the success of this team. Coupled with the maturation of Ty Lawson and JaVale McGee (seems strange to mention maturity and McGee together), this is a well-built team, with players who complement their teammates’ strengths. Next step: tightening up on defense.

DR: Yes, their pace belies a low defensive effort as they want to be streaking up and down the floor. However, this team has the potential to be quite serviceable defensively and it all begins with Iguodala.

He will be their premier perimeter defensive player and will be tasked with defending the opposing team’s best wing player and even point guards at times. Denver must focus its defensive efforts in transition. This is where the team will be most venerable. In the halfcourt they have the like of McGee and Timofey Mozgov, as well as Kosta Koufos (who I particularly enjoy watching), to anchor the middle with Iguodala patrolling the arc.

Where I think Iguodala will be most beneficial to the Nuggets is when they play the Thunder. It will be his job to guard Kevin Durant. Oklahoma City won this division last year on the back of Durant’s scoring so bringing an elite defender was very important for Denver.

TH: Yeah, OKC is still the hands-down favorite to win this division this year, regardless of whether or not James Harden receives an extension. But next year, who knows? There’s so much young talent on these teams and the stars for each team are about to truly hit their stride.

Damian Lillard running the Blazers could change the entire dynamic of LaMarcus Aldridge’s game, assuming they didn’t handicap themselves too much with Nicolas Batum’s contract. In the Northwest, they’re the furthest away from being a playoff lock, and I could envision this division becoming as competitive as the Southwest was a few years ago. They’re thin as hell as just about every position, but for a rebuilding team, they don’t look to be wallowing in their sorrow for much longer.

DR: You’re right, the Thunder are the class of the division. That shouldn’t change this year and perhaps Kendrick Perkins will actually be useful to them now that Dwight Howard is in the West. Yet, he is still a liability against the more hybrid centers.

As for Portland, Lillard has shown that he is ready to compete at the NBA level. In five games this preseason, Lillard has averaged 17 points on 50 percent shooting while also dishing out six assists per game. Beyond the numbers, he is assertive on the court, even aggressive at times. Against the Lakers he frequently attacked Steve Nash off the dribble, getting to the rim with ease once he became comfortable with the flow of the game. Of course, Nash has never been a good defender but it was impressive to see a rookie go directly at a two-time MVP with little regard for his mythos.

What will hurt the Blazers is their lack of depth. Jared Jefferies will contribute more than anyone knows off the bench, though it may not always show up in the box score. Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard, the team’s only true center, are major questions who have considerable upside.

Outside shooting will also be an issue going forward. This is a team built around the mid-range jumper. If Aldridge goes down again, this team will wallow in the basement once again.

TH: You’re neglecting Batum here. His contract is so weighty, the Portland front office will push him to fill more of a starring role, and the hiring of Terry Stotts as head coach will also give him more responsibility. If Stotts is able to formulate this team based off what he saw in Dallas, and modify the 2011 championship core of Jason KiddJason TerryDirk Nowitzki (Lillard, Batum, and Aldridge, respectively), the Blazers have more than enough skeleton for their squad.

Which means:

Much is spoken on how the NBA’s system favors tanking. But teams are finding creative ways to rebuild without having to ride the lottery hoping for a once-in-a-generation talent. The Blazers are well on their way to rebuilding (only 7 months after blowing their team up), without having to seriously tank.

They were only 8 games out of the playoffs last year, and while this year might be a bit sore, Blazers fans should be optimistic. They managed a sizable reformation in the quietest way possible, and they did it with a vacant GM seat for over a year. Looking at what Neil Olshey created with the Clippers, it will be interesting to see how he fleshes out their roster.

Another franchise attempting a “soft rebuild” is the Utah Jazz, a team that has really reached a crossroads. Swapping Devin Harris for Mo Williams isn’t exactly a game-changer (it’s never a good idea to start a third-string PG from the Clippers), and Raja Bell is as good as gone. They need guard help badly, and the big man logjam finally must give. If the team still cannot decide whether they trust Enes Kanter or Derrick Favors, they need to move them sooner, rather than later. By all accounts, Kanter has an ego, and will not like playing second fiddle to Al Jefferson; but Jefferson’s much too good to move.

DR: If we are going to make a Mavs comparison when it comes to the Blazers, I feel that Batum represents more of a Shawn Marion role. Only his scoring responsibilities will be somewhat equivalent to Marionon the Suns.

As for the Jazz, they have a wealth of big men and they seem to be happy about it. I don’t think it’s a question about if they are willing to move Jefferson, but rather they could lose Paul Millsap. That would truly be a blow to this organization but as you pointed out they have Kanter and Favors.

Last season, Kanter was essentially a non factor. His skills around the rim were unpolished, to be kind, and played mostly during garbage time. So far in the preseason he has been drawing double-teams and averaging a team high 12 points per game. The jazz seem content to run out a platoon rotation in the post which should help later in the season as it allows their stars (Jefferson and Millsap) to rest. Kanter and Favors should garner around 20 minutes a night.

Mo Williams is a completely serviceable point guard. I doubt he can return to the form he showcased in Milwaukee, but he still has the ability to run an offense effectively while also scoring the ball. Like Memphis, Utah runs a lot of post plays but Williams’ outside shooting and ability to dish the ball should open up the floor creating opportunities for shooters like Alec Burks, Randy Foye, Gordon Hayward, and Marvin Williams.

Hayward will be key for the Jazz. He is quietly becoming a good perimeter defender and has gained a considerable amount of muscle since coming into the league. Tyrone Corbin has molded Hayward into a hardnosed, physical defender. It would not surprise me if he was at least discussed as a possible DPOY if his improvement continues. He won’t win, but he making the discussion is always a plus.

TH: I’m not saying that their big man platoon isn’t a bad idea. It’s a great thing to have through an 82-game season. However, both Kanter and Favors are starting-caliber players in the NBA right now. Favors is nearing the end of his rookie contract, a solid producer with room to grow (and a team option for next season). Aside from the solid production at a low price tag, these players are highly desirable for contending teams for many reasons. Kanter is a skilled big body who plays a thin position.

Would the suddenly broke Sam Presti really contemplate letting James Harden go in order to free up cap space? Probably not, but that is not a bad rumor to float.

I can only think of three NBA teams who wouldn’t listen to offers on Kanter, because they are seriously the only NBA teams without concerns in the middle. The Lakers have Dwight now; the 76ers are going to see where Bynum goes as a leader. I had to throw in the Raptors, because, well, they’re in a similar situation as the Jazz; the arrival of Jonas Valanciunas has made Bargnani more than expendable.

You’re also right about Mo Williams: He is a completely serviceable point guard. But with their lineup, the Jazz are one torn ligament away from Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson bringing the ball up the floor. The Jazz are lacking roster balance, and their contingency plan is Alec Burks.

DR: My love of the bad boy Pacers has always endeared me to Tinsley and Watson filled in well when Devin Harris was hurt last year. It could be worse for the Jazz.

One team with high hopes for the season is already bemoaning their star being out with injury. As I mentioned above, Kevin Love will miss at least the first month of the season with a broken hand resulting from the oh-so-cool-bro knuckle pushups. Luckily, the Timberwolves have reloaded their roster.

They brought in Brandon Roy, fresh from retirement, bad knees and all and added Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved from Russia. Nikola Pekovic also hails from Russia and is one of the better centers in the league. Despite the number of white guys on this team, the Timberwolves are primed to make the playoffs. Hell, their guard rotation alone is enough to get them there and they are stacked beyond that. Once Love returns they could be dangerous in the West.

It will be interesting to see how Derrick Williams fits into the rotation. He seems to be the odd man out this year despite being drafted so highly two years ago.

TH: With Love out until December, this Timberwolves squad is left without its two young stars in Love and Ricky Rubio. How the team fares without them will be a good litmus test to see how the rest of the rotation fits. But this is also a team that, like you mentioned, added Roy, who’s never been afraid to put his team on his back. These injuries will strengthen the Wolves, and I anticipate one of their wings picking up the scoring slack. There are many questions as to just exactly who will rise, but their depth chart, from 1 to 3 is loaded with talent. J.J. Barea is only one year removed from being an unstoppable blur for the Mavs, and he’s still buried behind Rubio and Luke Ridnour. Shved’s a monster, and should have a fairly easy transition to the NBA with Kirilenko beside him.

And all that is forgetting Chase Budinger, who will be able to fit in much the same way that Wilson Chandler has in Denver, slashing and providing decent outside shooting (believe it or not, he posted a 40% 3-point percentage last season) for the second unit. The whitest of white dudes in the NBA these days, Budinger is often overlooked, but his time spent with Rick Adelman in Houston will give him an early chance to prove himself. He’s dangerous when left in the corner, and when Love and Rubio return, it will be key for them to utilize their passing abilities and wing talent.

Injuries or not, this team is going to be fast and fun, with a healthy amount of competition amongst players vying for minutes. The coaching change should help us to see a bit more specialization of players, as well as championship experience.

Oh, and they got rid of Michael Beasley. Thumbs up on that one.

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A Conversation about the Western Conference Playoffs

Maybe next year, Ricky

Doyle Rader and Travis Huse discuss the basketball world, namely the Western Conference playoff picture (We can’t think of a creative name for these segments. Help us out.):

DR: I wrote briefly on the race to get into the playoffs and how cluttered it is yesterday with the knowledge that it wouldn’t be relevant today. It isn’t. In fact, it was smashed to pieces (not really). Right now, though, the West is stacked up from the sixth through tenth seeds and there will be a lot of position jockeying over the next week and a half to see who will actually make it into the postseason. Even the third through fifth seeds aren’t set in stone and the Spurs could win the Western Conference outright. It’s cray, essentially. Tonight the Rockets and Nuggets face off once again as both teams fight to keep their playoff chances alive. Last night Denver came out in the second half and ran rough shot all over Houston, getting out in transition for easy buckets. Corey Brewer, Arron Afflalo, and Ty Lawson were seemingly everywhere. It was an impressive win. If they can do it again tonight, Houston’s chances at making the playoffs will certainly begin to dwindle. How do you feel the West could pan out?

TH: I actually envision the conference standing pat from here until the playoffs, unless a team tanks for better positioning, like the Grizzlies did last year.  The Jazz have been playing fantastically as of late, but they’re still a game and a half behind Houston, and frankly, there’s no way that the Suns manage to squeeze in.  If there is any movement at all, I feel it’ll be upward movement from either the Mavs or the Spurs.  Dallas has been playing much better since the departure of Lamar Odom, which goes to show exactly how poisonous he was to that locker room; in fact, it seems as if the team has been brought together by kicking him out.  So there’s a distinct possibility they can overtake Memphis, in my mind.

In a typical year, San Antonio would be heavily resting their stars, so a few losses this week and next wouldn’t be surprising.  But with the increased workload Tiago Splitter‘s been able to handle, as well as the addition of Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan‘s been kept to 28.4 minutes a game.  Talk about cray.  Gregg Popovich is now in a situation where he might actually increase the minutes for Duncan and Manu Ginobili, to prepare for their roles in the playoffs.  For entertainment’s sake, I really, really, REALLY hope the postseason matchups stay as they are, though.  Clips-Grizz would be one of the most exciting, physical series of all time.  Blake Griffin can dunk over anyone, but if anyone can contain them, the Memphis bigs could.  Posters galore.  Lakers-Mavs would be a wonderful rematch of last year’s stomping, but a Bynum-Haywood matchup could be problematic for Dallas.  Spurs-Nuggets could be a highlight of the importance of depth, with each team being able to run 3 full squads at an opponent.  The 7-game format would be a dream for those interested in NBA coaching tactics, and George Karl against Pop is as close to the best as we can get in the first round.  The 8th seed is going to get reamed, though.  No question.

DR: Yeah, the fate of whoever lands in 8th has had their fate sealed. I hope Utah can sneak in there, though. The Jazz won their last meeting with the Thunder so that gives me the slightest bit of hope that if they make it to the playoffs they won’t be swept. Tyrone Corbin has done a fantastic job with Utah and should be rewarded with a playoff berth.

As for Memphis, doom and gloom is in the air as they head into the postseason. Marc Gasol hyper extended his left knee on Sunday and the entire city of Memphis is holding its collective breath. He will have an MRI today to determine the severity of the injury. For the sake of Memphis, who I see as a “dark horse” (what a cliché term) in the playoffs, I hope he is going to be able to come back quickly.

TH: Derrick Favors! I still love that kid, but he needs a role with a different team, or they need to get a guard out of one of their bigs.  The Jazz will rocket right back into the playoffs in the next season or two, their front office is too smart.  Which team missing out on the playoffs this season do you think will make it next year?

DR: I honestly feel like it’s the Blazers. They have been a steady playoff team over recent years but they blew it up this year. They are rebuilding and if they can get one or two solid players around LaMarcus Aldridge I don’t see any reason why they should miss out on the playoff party next season.

Also, the Timberwolves are right there. When Ricky Rubio went down you could hear that team’s balloon burst. Everything changed. Their defense collapsed, their offense grew stale. Nothing was working right for them except for Kevin Love. He’s the man. If the NBA had an NIT, these two teams would be a lock for it.

TH: See, I’ve got two possibilities, and they hinge on one signing.  If Steve Nash stays in Phoenix, it will signify some roster moves to improve the team.  Therefore, they’ll be able to make the playoffs.  If they don’t, Nash is gone and they’ll be looking at a major rebuilding.  Which, to be fairly honest, might be the best thing long term for the Suns.  In this very-likely scenario, I like the idea of the Timberwolves next year.  That roster is filled to the brim with underrated talent, and Rick Adelman’s already done wonders.  It’s the funniest goddamned thing that David Kahn actually set up a pretty complete basketball team.  Imagine if we’d told ourselves in 2009 (or 2010, or 2011) that it could all fit together.

DR: Well, the Wolves still have their issues. Michael Beasley still has yet to find a defined role on the team and it looks as though he isn’t even going to get a qualifying offer from Minnesota, so he will be playing elsewhere next season, and Adelman just doesn’t seem to like Darko Milicic. What will be interesting to see is how much Nikola Pekovic can improve his game during the offseason and whether Martell Webster will get a haircut. Above all else, they need to stay healthy. Rubio, Love, Barea, Beasley, Luke Ridnour, Darko, and Pekovic all missed serious time this season. No matter how well the team is playing at any given point, injuries are a team’s death knell.

Maybe David Kahn is craftier than we all thought, or maybe he just got lucky. I’m going with the latter.

As for the Suns, BLOW IT UP.

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6 NBA Rookies to Watch in 2011-12

Leonard is one of a few promising rookies this year

Usually, this list consists of ten rookies to keep an eye on during the season. With the shortened season, however, this list is also smaller. Call it laziness on my part, call it whatever you want. It is what it is. Last year’s draft was something out of the Bizzaro universe. It was more notable for the peculiar name pronunciations than anything else. The popular rookies will get press elsewhere so there is no need to cover them in depth on this little blog. Plus, do you really need to read another article about the parallels between Jimmer Fredette and Tim Tebow? No, I didn’t think so.

The way in which the rookies were chosen to appear on this list is completely arbitrary and is a result of hope, sometimes terribly misguided, that these players will transform into household names in the future. Certainly, though, at least one is on here because of the sheer absurdity surrounding his journey to the NBA. (Can you guess which one?)

Norris ColePG, Miami Heat

Upon being drafted, Cole quickly discovered how he, as a player, is merely a commodity to teams. He was a member of three different teams on draft night, eventually landing with the Miami Heat. In college, Cole was the focal point of his team’s offense as he took 28.9 percent of his team’s field goal attempts. In Miami that will not be the case (understatement of the year, perhaps). What will set Cole apart will he his ability to pass the ball to the prominent scorers on the Heat as well as conform to the defensive system that Erik Spoelstra employs. His passing is already above average; however, he does have trouble passing out of a double team. Again, though, it will be unlikely that he sees many doubles while on the floor. It would not be surprising if Cole was inserted into the starting lineup at some point during the season so that Spoelstra can bring Mario Chalmers off the bench as an offensive kick for his second unit. Cole must continue to learn and play at a high level for that to happen.

Kawhi LeonardSF, San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs are a damned crafty bunch when it comes to drafting players. For them to have traded a promising young talent in George Hill to the Indiana Pacers for the draft rights to Leonard caused heads to turn. He would have been a great addition to an already scrappy Pacers squad, but they were overloaded at his position. Leonard made his mark in college as a premier (or monster) wing defender, forcing a turnover on 23.8 percent of the possessions in which he was the isolated defender as well as holding opponents to 37.5 percent shooting when he was defending them. His seven feet two inch arm span certainly helped him in these respects. Not only is he a stout defender but he is also a good defensive rebounder. Essentially, Leonard is the ideal Spurs player. Where he needs improvement, which Greg Popovich will administer in his own special way, is with his offense, both his shot and offensive sets. The Spurs are notorious for successfully developing players, much to the ire of rival fans, so Leonard should be in good hands. Also, with San Antonio shopping Richard Jefferson over the summer it looks as though Leonard could quickly move up the depth chart.

Ricky RubioPG, Minnesota Timberwolves

Oh, Ricky, Ricky, Ricky. What a zany (channeling Mitt Romney for that one) path Rubio has taken to the NBA. He was drafted what seems like a decade ago only to hold out until the final year of his rookie contract before agreeing to leave his beloved Spain to play in the cold wintery confines of Minnesota. This was either incredibly shrewd or insanely selfish. Rubio is not a typical rookie. He has played at a high level in Spain and internationally with the Spanish national team which is made up of mostly NBA players. One of the major criticisms of Rubio has been his scoring ability, however, he, like other Spanish point guards (read: Jose Calderon) is a pass first, offense facilitator. In Rick Adelman’s up-tempo style of play, especially with a team full of mediocre talent, Kevin Love aside, but that is incredibly athletic, Rubio should learn to thrive in the open court. He must first distinguish himself as deserving the playing time over the 1,000 other point guards that David Kahn has signed, though. That task should not prove to be a problem.

Iman ShumpertPG/SG, New York Knicks

Shumpert was the buzz of New York after two preseason games. The hype was palpable. Shumpert was drafted for his defensive prowess but his offensive skills soon were apparent once the preseason began. Due to the Knicks’ lack of backcourt depth, he was slated to be a staple in the rotation. However, he suffered an injury in the first game of the season and will be out for several weeks. When he returns to the lineup, Shumpert needs to improve his shot selection, like most rookies, and his ability to finish at the rim. Against the Celtics he only made one of six shots at the rim. Boston maintains a physical defense, especially around the paint, but no NBA team is going to give up easy points around the rim if they can help it. With his usage percentage projected to remain high upon his return, Shumpert must finish the opportunities he is given.

Tristan ThompsonPF, Cleveland Cavaliers

Thompson was drafted pretty high, fourth overall, for a player that possesses little ability to operate away from the rim. He does, however, possess the ability to work off the ball offensively away from the rim in space but this is to free him up on a dive or cut to the basket. He will need to improve his ball-in-hand offense, specifically in the post, in order to adapt his game to the NBA level. Another area of concern for Thompson is his poor defensive rebounding ability. This, for one, is striking due to Thompson’s size, even as a young man, and good post defense. Yet, he cleans the offensive glass rather well which should benefit a team destined to miss a lot of shots. Despite his immediate drawbacks, Thompson has plenty of raw potential and other than Kyrie Irving, represents the only potential the Cavaliers have.

Kemba WalkerPG, Charlotte Bobcats

Michael Jordan has a special place in history when it comes to the draft lottery. That place is specifically referred to as Kwame Brown. MJ, let us hope you done right this time. Walker comes into the league with a solid NCAA pedigree. He was a member, and respective leader, of the national champion UConn Huskies. Not too shabby, right? Walker works well as a primary scoring threat for a team in pick-and-roll and off the ball screens. What will be interesting to watch for this season is if his ball hogging tendencies, he shot the ball 63.8 percent of the time coming off of a ball screen while at UConn, will carry over to the NBA. It is apparent that Walker will split and share time with D.J. Augustin in Charlotte, where is off the ball offensive movement will be on display. However with the ball in his hand, how will he react? One game is not a benchmark for anything, but Walker totaled just three assists, each leading to a shot from 16-23 feet, in 21 minutes in his first NBA game. He is a score first point guard.

Tip of the hat to NBA Playbook for many of the statistics used above.

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Rick Adelman is the New Coach of the Timberwolves

Kaaaaaaaaaaaahn!

Rick Adelman, who has been in talks with the Minnesota Timberwolves to become their next head coach, has been hired by the team. At least that is what a tweet from Kevin Love would have us believe:

Houston, we have a coach.

The team has yet to release any statement on the hiring, or lack there of, but Love seems to be as good a source as any and Twitter has a knack for scooping almost everything. So, this is probably a done deal unless David Kahn pulled a fast one on us and actually hired Don Nelson instead. He is crafty, that Kahn.

Adelman should be a good fit for the struggling Timberwolves. His uptempo style and dedication to defense are what the team needs if it has any desire to improve from the very bottom of the NBA standing. Love will of course be the centerpiece of the team and Ricky “we will wait and see” Rubio could learn a great deal from Adelman and his wealth of experience, he has been a coach in the league for 20 years.

Adelman, it has been speculated, will receive somewhere in the ballpark of $5 million a year with a likely contract length of five years.

As for now, though, temper your enthusiasm Timberwolves’ fans. Adelman has his work cut out for him and there is a long way to go. This is a step in the right direction but it is just one step. You still have to put up with David Kahn as the GM so consider anything possible. However, if the team has hired Adelman, Love has said that it will “absolutely” factor into his decision on whether to sign a contract extension with the team.

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Michael Beasley’s week in review: Dyckman Park and Goodman League

It was certainly an interesting week for Michael Beasley as he played at Dyckman Park in New York City. Like many other NBAers, Beasley has used the lockout as an opportunity to take his game back to the black-topped courts where the crowd is right up on the action. Unfortunately, the close proximity of the crowd rattled his cage a little and Beasley had an altercation with an observer. Clearly, Garland Quince, the heckler, has never seen the Malice at the Palace. If he had then he would know that NBA players are big and strong and do not care for lip from less talented bystanders. Here is what happened:

Yes, Beasley straight mushed Quince in the face. Beasley has caught some flack from the incident but in all reality what he did was pretty tame and Quince probably deserved it. The most interesting part of the video is how calm Kevin Durant is. However, he was not so calm later on the same night. One one possession, Durant and Beasley were matched up against each other and it became apparent that Beasley had been listening to too much Mobb Deep of late because he became a shook one and Durant blew by him for a slam that made the crowd explode.

Team 914, which Beasley played for, did get the better of Durant and Team NIKE on the night, however, 80-77. Beasley dropped 20 points and collected seven rebounds in the win.  So, his stint playing at Dyckman can be seen as a mixed bag but for Beasley it certainly was not his best week especially since video surfaced of him having his ankles broken or simply slipping (you make the call) at a Goodman League Pro-Am game while guarding Jahmar Young. Too bad no one seemed to focus on the sloppy play at the rim after Beasley went down. That is the most embarrassing aspect of the video.

If the last week has lowered Beasley’s spirits in any way he should look on the bright side. He is still a millionaire, he is still pretty good at basketball despite the recent press, and he is focusing all news concerning the Minnesota Timberwolves on himself right now which is much better for the team than when David Kahn is the main focus.

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The Dysfunctional Wolf Pack

Waiting is the hardest part

The Minnesota Timberwolves are nothing if not perplexing. Coming off of a not-so-awe-inspiring 17 win season the team has done little to improve itself. Granted, it is hard to make any moves with the ongoing lockout but their decision-making process continues to stagnate. General manager David Kahn continues to keep head coach Kurt Rambis in a state of limbo concerning his future with the team.

It is obvious to all outside observers that Rambis’ tenure as the team’s head coach is done. How could it not be? The team won 17 games last season and he openly quarreled with the team’s best player, Kevin Love, at the beginning of the season. Rambis does have two years and $4 million remaining on his contract with the team so maybe this is a case of Kahn not wanting to pay up if he were to fire Rambis.

Therefore, Kahn, being the cunning and shrewd general manager that he is, has come up with a solution. According to Yahoo! Sports, Kahn believed that Rambis’ contract allowed for relocation within the organization and therefore he suggested that Rambis be moved into a front office position. This comes two weeks after Kahn formally removed Rambis as head coach but did not fire him. Clearly, there is little love lost between the two men and Timberwolves management has not even communicated with Rambis for several days.

If the Timberwolves hope to ever become relevant in the post Kevin Garnett era Kahn must begin to make rational decisions based on improving his organization. Rambis led Minnesota to a 32-132 record in his two years as head coach. He must go. Rambis knows his fate but Kahn simply will not act. This is nothing new, however. Kahn seems to work on a protracted schedule. It took him three years to get Ricky Rubio into the United States and now is lollygagging with his decision about Rambis.

Whereas Kahn is biding his time making decisions another member of the Timberwolves keeps making questionable decisions. Michael Beasley was cited for speeding and for possession of marijuana on June 26 the Star Tribune reports. Beasley was clocked at 84 miles per hour in a 65 mile-per-hour zone and had 16.2 grams of marijuana in his car according to an Associated Press article posted by NBC KARE 11.

Pot and Beasley are not odd bed fellows by any stretch of the imagination. He has gotten into trouble with it before. Honestly, this will likely be a continuing trend throughout his career. What is astounding, however, is how professional athletes keep finding themselves in these situations. Beasley has a lot of money, a nice house, and probably several nice cars. Hire a driver, do no speed at 3 a.m., and stay home and play Call of Duty if you want to get high. Stay out of the spotlight. Sometimes it is just hard to get through to a 22-year-old.

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David Kahn’s Quest

I want it all and I want it now

With the NBA Draft less than 48 hours away rumors have abounded. Teams are trying to move up, teams are trying to move down, teams are trying to acquire players who are clearly off-limits, and teams are trying to move players and get into the draft. What can we make of all of this though? Many league insiders are on record saying that this is one of the worst draft classes they have seen. Why all the excitement? Well, to be honest there has really only been one man making a lot of noise as the draft approaches.

David Kahn and the Minnesota Timberwolves have been at the forefront of just about every conceivable trade rumor there is leading up to the Draft. They really do not want their number two overall pick. Derrick Williams, who is projected to be the second pick, has a similar build to Michael Beasley and the team is not interested in another combo wing player. It is because of this that there is now speculation that the Timberwolves are considering taking Enes Kanter with their pick. Kanter is a power forward and the Timberwolves already have a pretty good power forward in Kevin Love. So that is likely a bluff but they really want to rid themselves of the number two pick.

Thinking about drafting someone other than Williams is really not that surprising given the trade rumors that have been centered around the Wolves recently. The first reports were that they were shopping Kevin Love and their draft pick for Pau Gasol. Then it was Michael Beasley and their pick for Andrew Bynum. Clearly, Kahn must have a Lakers fetish. Obviously, there has been no serious comment from the Lakers as they probably considered making these trades for all of 0.0612 seconds.

Kahn has even inquired about the possibility of adding Steve Nash to his team for a package including the number two pick. Again, the Phoenix Suns have no interest in trading Nash nor does he have any interest in going to a team that is the farthest thing from a contender in the league.

The Wolves have also fruitlessly pursued JaVale McGee and Andrew Bogut in yet more attempts to rid themselves of their pick. It seems as though David Kahn is on a quest. He wants something but has stumbled across a castle that is blocking his path. Taunts in a French accent are being hurled at him while he dodges falling cows. Yes, Kahn’s trade “attempts” (if they can be called that) are that farcical.

At least he can perceive himself as being actively engaged at trying to improve his team. The guy did just land Ricky Rubio and celebrated his arrival in Minnesota with rock and roll blaring from a boombox at the airport. That is some class right there. He is the long-awaited savior of the franchise, after all.

If the Timberwolves do move their draft pick in a trade it will not be for one of the home run and completely lopsided deals that Kahn has been seeking. It will likely be more of a bloop single to shallow center. If they cannot move their pick before the Draft, being suck with Williams is not such a bad dilemma to find themselves in especially if they are looking to make improvements to their roster post Draft. A package containing Williams could be very appealing to clubs. However, it has yet to be seen how seriously anyone will take Kahn after throwing his hat in the ring again and again in completely outlandish trade scenarios.

(Many apologies for not working in a Star Trek II reference somewhere.)

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Filed under NBA at Large, Trades