Miles of Smiles

Benjamin Polk —  June 26, 2010 — 11 Comments

Photo by harold.lloyd

Here are a few clarifying, explanatory, provocative notes from Friday’s media sessions with the Wolves new draftees, Wes Johnson, Lazar Haywood and Namanja Bjelcia, plus David Kahn and Kurt Rambis.

  • Its become clear that the Timberwolves have made re-signing Darko Milicic (and, to a lesser extent, Nikola Pecovic) a condition of trading Al Jefferson. “It’s the right time finally for us to explore this,” Kahn said. “I’ve met with Al and discussed this. If Darko comes back, there could be a need to create some playing time. We really need to get our front line settled.” This is slightly unsettling because it  suggests that Kahn and Rambis have calibrated their concept of “team need” around Darko’s presence. One wonders: did this factor into their decision to pass on Demarcus Cousins? I am now squirming in my chair.
  • Kahn predicted that sign-and-trades, rather than straight free-agent signings would dominate the landscape this summer. But, as Myles rightly points out, now that Rudy Gay seems to be off the table it’s not clear which free agents the Wolves might be pursuing. They could certainly attempt use Al to work a Chris Bosh sign-and-trade although I would think that Bosh’s first desire would be to just go wherever Lebron goes. After that, what’s left? Joe Johnson? Carlos Boozer? Amar’e Stoudemire? David Lee? Tyrus Thomas? Amir Johnson? Does any of this make sense?
  • Or might the Wolves simply save their cap room for next summer, when the Miamis, Chicagos and New Jerseys of the world have already chased their dreams and Carmelo, Joakim Noah, Kendrick Perkins, Al Horford and Nene can all become free agents? The mind boggles.
  • Kahn adamantly rejected the premise that the Wolves needed to make dramatic changes in order to attract Ricky Rubio. “He’d like us to improve, but we all would,” Kahn said. “I think that what’s important to him is that he feels that he’s ready to play. And he feels that in a year he’ll be more ready to play. Anything else is just fluff.” Ok, then.
  • This from Kurt Rambis (a sentiment later endorsed by Kahn): “Last year was just what we had to do, business-wise. Now we’re starting to build a team. I’ve always considered this our first year. Last year was just a business year.” I guess we all kind of knew that already. Not sure how much business got done but it sure wasn’t much fun.
  • Also from Rambis: “Smart players don’t have a problem picking up any offense.” That’s a bold statement. But I feel like it explains a lot of what the Wolves are doing here. They clearly have put a premium on athletic players, like Johnson and Martell Webster, who also happen to be pretty sharp fellas. They may not be the ultimate in terms of pure individual skill but, I’m guessing this thinking goes, they’ll be able to find roles within the offense. They’ll be willing  and able to move the ball and move without the ball, to be in position to make plays and then to actually make them.
  • But still, commenter Mac makes a great point. Last season, the Wolves suffered from a desperate lack of shooting, athleticism and creativity on the wing. Johnson and and Webster take care of the first two but not the third. The team still badly needs a perimeter player who can (intelligently) create his own shot.
  • I was totally charmed by Johnson’s and Haywood’s giddiness and earnest enthusiasm. They seem like good dudes. I really hope they’re good basketball players.
  • Bjelica does not speak English well at all. We can only imagine how arduous an entire day spent in the company of strangers, in a country you’ve never before visited, answering questions in a language you barely speak must have been–particularly if those foreign strangers are your future employers. The kid looked sad-eyed and shell-shocked.

Benjamin Polk

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11 responses to Miles of Smiles

  1. First off, thanks for the props Ben.

    Second off, Kevin Pritchard needs a job. David Kahn has a job. I see two wrongs that can easily be rectified with one right.

  2. I know this is crazy, but why not think big. Fire Kahn, bring in Pritchard, re-sign Darko then swing the following trade:

    Ricky Rubio, Al Jefferson and a conditional #1 to the Hornets
    Chris Paul and Emeka Okafor to the Wolves

    Add CP3 and I think this Wolves team is automatically better than the Hornets, so CP3 can’t really complain. More importantly, a GM like Pritchard can persuade Paul that he can put the right pieces around him to build a winner, and if not his contract is up in a couple of years anyway. Okafor is a load, but the T-Wolves can absorb one bad contract, and Darko/Okafor is at least a serviceable combination in the middle.

    The Hornets wouldn’t be that badly off, it’s a better offer than they’ve been getting (Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter? Blaugh). They’d get a monster PG prospect in Rubio which is probably the one way they could get away with trading Paul, in the meantime they have the more than competent Darren Collison. Al would give them an ace scorer in the middle they badly need, and they’d slice $58 million off the books in contracts. Also, the “we’re waiting for Rubio” excuse means they can just tank next year, after which Songalia and Peja come off the books, David West and Posey become expiring contracts, and they have a lottery pick or two to play with.

    Maybe it’s crazy, but a guy like Pritchard could make it happen. Kahn, he’s probably planning something bush-league like taking Yi Jianlian off the Nets’ hands for a basket of egg rolls, part of his neverending quest to prove the old axiom that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure (Ryan Hollins, come on down!!!).

  3. Mac, you’re thinking big. I like that. Also, the fact that arguably the best GM in the league currently does not have a job is completely shocking. I wonder if Glen Taylor has buyer’s remorse.

  4. “This from Kurt Rambis (a sentiment later endorsed by Kahn): “Last year was just what we had to do, business-wise. Now we’re starting to build a team. I’ve always considered this our first year. Last year was just a business year.”

    I wonder if they let the season-ticket holders know that before they re-upped for the 2009-2010 season…

  5. Here is what I think the Wolves should do.

    Al Jefferson+Corey Brewer to the Sixers for Andre Igoudoua and their 2012 first round pick. Then sign David Lee.

    por que?

    Your starting 5 looks like this now

    Lee
    Love
    Johnson
    Iggy
    Flynn (hopefully soon-to-be Rubio)

    This is all of a sudden a pretty athletic starting five and a pretty okay defensive starting five boastin 3/5 solid defenders (in theory) and also now people can shoot in it too. They are going to need at least something in 2012 when their pick goes to the Clippers

    Why Philly does this trade. Iggy and Turner are an odd fit…they can work together, but for as badly as Philly needs a legit 4 I don’t see them turning this down.

  6. I’m gonna have to agree with Mac on this one. Also, does anyone else find it disturbing that a 19-year-old spanish kid has this organization by the balls?

  7. Another Kahn job that none of us should buy – that Rubio is most likely coming for 2011-12. Why in God’s name would Rubio do that? If he waits until at least 2012-13 (i.e. three years after being drafted) the T-Wolves still hold his rights, but instead of the rookie scale (3 years $9 million) Rubio could name his price. Tiago Splitter did that and instead of getting 27th pick money (3 years, $2.5 mil) the Spurs are probably going to have to cough up something in the 5-year, $35 mil range (w/player ETO after 3rd year) and you know they will. Tiago and Rubio play in the same Spanish league and Splitter’s team just beat Rubio’s team for the ACB championship, with Splitter winning MVP. With the obvious blueprint starting him in the face – wait three years, win the Spanish title, then sign for big money in the NBA – staring him in the face, Kahn wants us to believe Rubio will join the Wolves in 2011 because he likes Kahn just that much? Come on now.

    Here’s the worst case scenario — the team will stink for 2 more years. Rubio will say “hey, give me 5 years at $80 million or I’m just not coming.” Kahn will give it to him, knowing it’s Rubio or bust for him at that point. Rubio will be Stephon Marbury and play decent but pout his way out of Minny in two years, Kahn will be gone in 2014 and the T-Wolves will be a disaster area for the rest of this decade.

    Seriously, somebody call Kevin Pritchard before the Knicks hire him – you know that’s happening in two months when they don’t get LeBron or Bosh and Donnie Walsh proves he lost his fastball by blowing the summer of 2010 on max contracts for Carlos Boozer and Rudy Gay. The irony? Kahn’s one GM qualification is that he learned under Donnie Walsh in Indy . . .

  8. By the way — I’m sorry if I come off as super-negative, I don’t mean it that way. I don’t dislike Kahn, although I find him exasperating. I think I would find him rather enjoyable if he were an ESPN commentator like Tim Legler as he’s actually a pretty funny and personable guy, but not as the GM of my team. After seeing guys like Morey, Pritchard, Presti and Buford proving that a really slick GM with supportive ownership can turn a small market team around, and without announcing grand Communist-politburo type multiyear plans about how sticking with him through three more years of poverty will lead to ten thousand years of glory for the workers of the world, er, Wolves, and being pretty firmly convinced that Kahn is cut more out of the Chris Wallace/Mike Dunleavy mold, I’m ready to move on. Rubio ain’t any less likely to show up if the GM is Pritchard or Steve Kerr.

  9. I like that Hornets trade. I don’t get it. By passing over Cousins for Wes Johnson I thought Big Al was gonna stay longer. Why didn’t the Wolves just do the old trade rumor in the season – Big Al for Danny Granger only this time the Wolves add some sweeteners or something, THEN draft Cousins to be their starting C. That would surely make Rubio consider playing in Minnesota. Cousins/Granger much more scarier than Big Al or Darko/Wes Johnson. They really need a guy to build around.

    Also Rambis should stop trying to put his triangle offense into play when his personnel are just not the players for that system. See Eddie Jordan last season trying to put his Princeton offense in Philly.

  10. Even though all of these proposed trade ideas will never happen, I’m glad people are thinking trade-to-improve rather than counting on signing someone big this summer. No one is going to want to voluntarily come here, that’s the sad truth of it. I think the Twin Cities are alright, but most NBA players don’t…and I guess if you compare it to some other big markets (Chicago, Miami, LA, NY, etc), I don’t blame them. Add on the franchise stigmas (perennially bad of mediocre, owner and management that balks at re-upping its key guys, and now a GM who makes either “it’s so crazy it just might work” or just crazy decisions (the jury is still out, but they’re almost done with deliberations) and I would say, don’t hold your breath.

    Let me join the chorus of people who are extremely skeptical that Rubio will ever play here. It’s a mirage. A flickering, melting mirage in the hills of the Spanish countryside. I hear it’s a good place for jobless NBA GMs to go to and retire.

    *sigh* I just wish we would have landed that #2 pick and got Turner. I would be so much more excited for this coming season than I am right now.

  11. Stop mentioning the possibility of a Chris Bosh sign and trade. That’s just an outright imopssibility. The guy has Lebron and Wade lining up to play with him and the Rockets offering him a frontcourt partnership with Yao – he’s not going to turn around and say ‘I really want to play for a rebuilding team in a small market under an unproven coach and a GM who may or may not be mentally ill’. This is not hating on Minnesota. I like the team. It’s just that Bosh isn’t going to happen.

    Don’t think Lee is the answer for the team either. Same type of player as Love, plays the same position, only he couldn’t defend an inanimate object. Iggy is a better fit.

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