Timberwolves claiming Blazer deception?

Benjamin Polk —  October 29, 2010 — 7 Comments

Jerry Zgoda at the Strib brings us some curious news:

According to a league source, the Timberwolves have asked the NBA to look into whether Portland knowingly traded them an injured player when the Blazers dealt Martell Webster to Minnesota for the 16th overall pick in last summer’s draft.

Webster on Monday underwent surgery to repair a disk in his back and is expected to miss about six weeks. He said the injury dates to last spring’s playoffs, when he was undercut and fell hard in a game against Phoenix.

The Wolves are likely looking for a draft pick as compensation.

Over at Truehoop, Henry did some work of his own (including unsuccessfully getting either the Wolves or the league to comment and concludes, essentially, that there is very little chance of the Wolves could actually proving that they were knowingly deceived. Here’s the best/worst part:

However, everybody I talked to says it’s unlikely the Timberwolves could prove information was withheld.

“We’re all laughing about it,” says one front office executive, who expressed no sympathy for Minnesota’s reported position. “You can’t watch the freaking playoffs? That was a pretty obvious incident, right on national TV.”

Wow, that is just exactly what the Wolves need: more reasons for people to make fun of their front office. Because, as you probably know, lots of folks have that covered already and we’ve only played one game. At Fanhouse, Tom Ziller points out that after Kevin Love was removed in the 4th quarter of Wednesday’s game, the Wolves allowed 18 points on 16 possessions, including 12 by the Kings’ frontcourt. Further confirmation that the Tolliver/Beasley/Darko frontline experiment went on at least five minutes too long. Then Ziller drops an intense interpretation of it all:

There’s a really weird vibe with the Wolves, and Rambis in particular. It’s his second season on the job, and his roster has been remade by GM David Kahn completely … for better or worse. Yet it’s almost as if Rambis is searching for excuses. By benching the player almost everyone agrees is the team’s most polished if not most talented asset, Rambis is detaching himself from this version of the Wolves. Most coaches in Rambis’ situation — at the head of a completely overmatched, young roster — would embrace the heck out of Love, an altogether likable, hard-working player. But on Wednesday, Rambis looked like he was distancing himself from Love and the Love era.

He then starts to sharpen the knives, calling the decision “gonzo” and referring to the “vast problems within the franchise.” As you may know, this isn’t my particular interpretation of the situation but I completely understand why an outside observer would take a quick peak and then conclude that the Wolves have gone all Fear and Loathing. As a close follower of the team, this kind of stuff is painful to read; it really voices our worst fears for the team. Simply for my own sake, and yours too, I’m hoping the Wolves prove Ziller wrong.

Benjamin Polk

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7 responses to Timberwolves claiming Blazer deception?

  1. Ziller’s comments make for good copy but they’re not much for insight. I’ve followed Rambis’s career for decades and he’s not a guy who works that long and that hard just to throw it away. Stubborn, yes. Stupid, no.

  2. I really like Ziller’s writing and insights, though he seems even more pessimistic about the wolves than I think the situation warrents. This was one game. Granted, it’s one game that has a similar feel to the way Love was underutilized last year, but it was still just one game in which Love was not playing great, and Tolliver was playing well. I guess I hope Rambis is more astute than Ziller thinks and I fear.

  3. I kind of see both sides of the Webster protest by Kahn – I understand, this is why you have players take physicals and trades are rescinded for players failing physicals all the time, but no one can think of an instance where a trade was successfully protested three months after the fact on a claim of deception by the other team. So that does seem silly. On the other hand, the trade was conducted by a Portland GM who was fired as of the same day. I’m not at all saying Pritchard was vindictive or crooked, but he might not have been on top of everything given he had just been publically dragged through the mud and fired and told to run a draft room then turn in his keys. Maybe Kahn jumped on him thinking the timing was good to score a deal, maybe he didn’t. In any case it strikes me as a more complicated problem than the Jerry Zgoda or his source are making it sound, which is “Kahn is a dumbass”. Certainly easy enough to claim based on the current meme (must . . . fight . . . urge . . . to . . . join . . .) but not necessarily fair.

    With respect to the Rambis-Love situation, look, a guy can be smart and hardworking and still not be that good of a coach. Stubborn is just as bad as stupid a lot of times, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns blew up because its leaders were stubborn, not stupid. More to the point, all kinds of NBA lifer workaholics have sat in the big chair and 90% fail as coaches because it is a fricking hard job and require lots of skills you don’t know you don’t have until you are handed a pink slip, so I don’t think it’s a measure of Rambis’ character or judgment if he makes bad coaching or personnel decisions. He might not be as high on Kevin Love as most people, he might be wrong (or worse case scenario for Wolves fans, he might be right), that doesn’t make him a good or bad person. For now, we don’t even know if it makes him a good or bad coach. This year will tell a lot.

    I have my concerns, seeing how Rambis utterly failed to manage a young and headstrong Laker team back in the days. Yes, that was a long time ago but the passage of time doesn’t mean he’s changed, it just means we reasonably think he has. Ben has often waxed rhapsodically about how Rambis is old school . . . the problem with being old school is that sometimes, you don’t work so well with the new school. Remember, Hubie Brown (who Ben compared Rambis to favorably) didn’t quit his last gig with the Grizz because he couldn’t coach, he quit because he got fed up with dealing with some of the knuckleheads on the team, principally Bonzi Wells, Stromile Swift and Jason Williams.

  4. This is kind of a separate question but can easily be tied into it. Did anyone see the Blazers chose not to extend Greg Oden? How about instead of a draft pick the wolves try and get Greg Oden lol. The Blazers clearly are not interested in his long-term services.

    Or what if we just trade like Brewer and Kofus or Peck for Oden, I think this is an opportunity to get high value on a guy with supreme talent

  5. Mac,
    I completely agree that we don’t know whether Rambis’ stubbornness will end up being a benefit or a detriment. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend that anybody aspire to Hubie’s ultra-controlling, antisocial style. My only point was that there’s something kind of charming about Rambis’ old-mannish grouchiness even if, as I believe it did in the 4th quarter on Wednesday, it led him astray. I have to plead guilty to the charge of rhapsodizing but I don’t think its ever been over Rambis’ old schoolery. Instead, its probably been over his commitment to intuitive play and free-flowing ball movement, not to mention the amusingly esoteric language he uses to describe it. But clearly, when it comes to managing personalities and rotations, Rambis is still learning on the job.

  6. Hi Ben,

    I wasn’t saying the “rhapsodizing” thing in a mean-spirited way – I understood your point. I just worry about Rambis because if you look at the Phil Jackson coaching tree, there isn’t one. It’s basically just Rambis and Jim Cleamons, who took over the JJ-Mash-Kidd Mavs in the 90’s under a situation kind of similar to the Wolves (a very young team with a losing culture), vowed to run the triangle and instill a tough, professional attitude, his players basically turned on his tough love and he was gone in less than two seasons. He never got another head coaching gig.

    I appreciate your optimism and surprisingly am starting to think that Kahn has this team heading in the right direction. I had my doubts about Rambis when he was hired as a “fit”, and am not sure Ziller isn’t on to something. Sometimes where there is smoke there isn’t fire, but it’s still a more plausible explanation than that it’s an atmospheric phenomenon or something more contrived.

  7. Understood. I completely agree that the jury on Rambis is still decidedly out.

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