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Our players aren’t featured on the team’s website, they can’t interact with management and now that our wunderkind has finally arrived from overseas, half the league is apparently headed from whence he came. But aren’t we excited now that the schedule is released?

Well, no.

Which is a shame, because it’s actually quite manageable. Only eleven games versus playoff teams in the first two months; immediate, yet conquerable challenges for Ricky Rubio (v. PHX 10/9, @ NJN 10/13 & v. MIL 10/16) and even a nationally televised matchup to boot (v. HOU 10/25, ESPN2). But knowing that the NBA & NBPA aren’t likely to resume bargaining until August, we face the reality that this is the only schedule that matters.

Well, that and Besiktas’.

Stay tuned, kids….

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Say what you will of David Kahn-and we will-but the man is willing to confront his detractors. This afternoon, he took to the interwebz to chat with perhaps his biggest cynic, Bill Simmons.

Simmons himself has been criticized over the years for lambasting folks in print that he’s never willing to confront, so this exchange is fairly significant for both of them.

We’ll spare you the psychoanalysis this time and let you make the first judgment. Have a listen.

Inception

Myles Brown —  June 22, 2011 — Leave a comment

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The stage was quite literally set. A podium, dozens of chairs and several cameras all sat in the center of an arena he’ll be expected to fill. His family sat to the right of an impressive media gathering; his newfound fans perched behind them. The cameras flashed, the mics were on, he took his seat and the world watched.

Ricky Rubio hasn’t played a game yet, but he’s already been hailed as a savior and written off as a bust. It goes without saying that such chatter is premature. Only time will tell and the answer could be neither. But this morning our young man proved himself to be as graceful without a basketball as he is with one.

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We finally have our man. Well, boy. Whatevz.

Ricky Rubio’s flight from Spain arrived this afternoon, delighting a throng of fans, media and curious onlookers. The sixth Beatle smiled for the cameras, shook hands and signed autographs, before being whisked away with his family by David Kahn and Wolves PR. He will address the public tomorrow morning during a televised press conference live from Target Center and according to reports, he will also be in attendance at the Wolves draft party on Thursday, also held in Target Center.

But eventually, the man-wait, young man-will actually have to play basketball. There have been numerous reports of his early demise by analysts noting his unimpressive numbers in Spain, however considering that many of those folks have little understanding of the Euro game or Rubio’s role in it, we shouldn’t take them too seriously. I hope.

Instead, let’s have a look see at what our man Sebastian Pruiti has to say over at NBA Playbook. As expected, Pruiti provides his usual thorough breakdowns, this time highlighting Ricky’s pros: stellar pick and roll playmaking alongside strong defensive instincts- and cons: poor scoring with a side of shoddy post defense. Skeptic or not, it’s well worth the read.

Now this might be the sound of those screaming kids still ringing in my ears, but I’m feeling a twinge of excitement.

Update: He speaks!

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(Photo by Tracy Viera)

The current Wolves’ party line is that they’re hanging on to that second pick. (Tony Ronzone sez: “We really like where we’re at at two.”) And this makes sense; you certainly don’t want to give the impression that the team is desperate for a deal, that the pick could be easily had.

But that don’t stop the chatter. At ESPN, Chad Ford has a pretty interesting take on just why the Wolves are still likely to make a move:

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It’s a strange time in this strange wasteland that is Wolves fandom. Is our coach still a coach? Is our draft pick still a draft pick? Is anybody doing anything here? Good questions, all of them. Here’s a minor roundup of those trade rumors:

  • The most recent, most intriguing and probably weirdest rumor involves the Wolves moving the pick to Cleveland in exchange for the Cavs’ fourth pick and Detroit’s eighth pick. In other words, Cleveland would then be able to draft both Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams. While getting two high lottery picks in exchange for one in a weak draft doesn’t really seem so bad, it would definitely add to the Wolves’ legacy of helping other teams utterly run the table (see: Garnett, Kevin; Lawson, Tywon). One wonders: considering that what they really need is one great player and the last thing they need are more average players, why aren’t the Wolves the ones on the aggressive end of this deal? Why we always getting played?

Update: Chris Broussard reports that this thing is dead.

 

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Everyone enjoys a good story. Except David Kahn.

But before we go any further, let it be said that the man has a point. Abe Pollin’s widow and Dan Gilbert’s son weren’t ‘lucky’, they were pitiable. So much, in fact, that we couldn’t bear to watch life deal them another disappointment. Their tragedies were meant only to serve as a prologue to glory; for such is the magic of the draft lottery in David Stern’s NBA. Look, my heart is all aflutter just typing it.

But it does seem a bit too…neat, no?

Kahn however, is neither neat nor pitiable. Practically every statement he makes is assured to bewilder, provoke or offend. Whether it be an acknowledgement of a player’s past or an assessment of their future, the man can’t help but provide us with fodder. So it should come as no surprise that his thoughts on last night’s proceedings have raised a few eyebrows.

“This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines,” Kahn said. “Last year it was Abe Pollin’s widow and this year it was a 14-year-old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told Kevin: ‘We’re toast.’ This is not happening for us and I was right.”

The underlying implication is clear: The draft is rigged. Surely Kahn will be fined for either tampering with the league’s mandated narrative or merely suggesting that they have one. However, he should also be asked if this is the prologue to yet another variation of his oft repeated mantra: It’s not my fault.

In this instance, indeed it isn’t. Yet that shouldn’t shield him from any scorn if he bungles another lottery pick, which isn’t far from likely. Kahn has managed cap space well and seemingly gotten the better end of a few trades, but the draft remains his undoing. He’s picked sixth or higher three times in the last two drafts with only one All-Rookie Second Team appearance to show for it. He passed on six All-Rookie First Team members in that same span.

Yet despite such failings and the .200 winning percentage to match, Kahn is adamant that the blame shouldn’t lie with him. The talent is here, he insists, they’re just young and perhaps in need of a better coach. Rubio is coming, we’re assured, and once he arrives our high octane offense will have its conduit.

All the talk of patience, progress and prospects serves only to buy Kahn time. Time to woo his reluctant savior and maybe even happen upon another fortuitous trade. Who knows? He might pull it off. It was just a short time ago that Chris Wallace was the league’s resident boob and you’d be hard pressed to find a critic now.

If he doesn’t pull it off? Hell, everyone loves a good comedy, right?

 


Speaking Hoops

Benjamin Polk —  April 21, 2011 — Leave a comment

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Yes, yes y’all. You can catch me today over at the great (I’m not just saying that because they’re nice to me) Hoopspeak, waxing and waning for roughly 2,000 words about the Malice at the Palace, the much-rumored decline of the league, Harvey Araton’s “Crashing the Borders,” and the nostalgic curmudgeonliness therein. It starts something like this:

Has anybody else noticed how awesome the NBA playoffs are? [...] watching these games, it’s a little funny to consider the fact that just six years ago many observers of the NBA were talking doom. Remember this apocalyptic scene? Remember the young, desperately unstable Ron Artest of 2004? This is not the smiley guy with the champagne who thanked his therapist on TV. I’m talking about the Ron Artest who, for a long moment, embodied one of the deepest, darkest terrors of the white, comfortably seated American sports spectator: the fear that angry, hypertrophicallly muscled young black manhood could burst through the fourth wall and have its vengeance.

…and pretty much goes from there.  Check it out if you’ve got the notion and a touch of patience.

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I’ve written before about my distaste for the idea of winning as the only and essential arbiter of NBA success. To me, the game is a far richer, more complex phenomenon if we explore the full spectrum of basketball experience, if we look deeper than simple wins and losses. There’s compelling, powerful stuff produced all the time in the service of losses; every year myriad fascinating players and teams end the season without a ring.

I still believe all of this. But a season spent with the Wolves, observing the effects (on myself, the fans, the team) of constant, terminal losing can really make a guy rethink some things. Even though we may (although I’m fairly sure I don’t speak for Myles on this one) view winning, in and of itself, as less of an ultimate prize than does the culture at large, we still hold a deep desire for good basketball. We want very much to see the game played well; we want to watch players and teams perform the game with style and skill and grace–and we definitely wouldn’t mind having a team to cheer for in the playoffs either. And by any of these standards, the 2010/2011 Minnesota Timberwolves were an abject failure.

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All things end. Suffering is impermanent. Pain passes away. And so game 82 of the Wolves 2010/2011 season floats on into the ether. We’re getting older and time moves pretty quickly, but I must confess that this season felt awfully long to me. Its literally been months since I felt real optimism, since watching the games brought anything more than very brief flashes of hope amid the drudgery. The season is finally over. This is a good thing.

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