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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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Kurt Rambis takes a seat

Myles Brown —  April 14, 2011 — 1 Comment

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First they came for the coaches. Kurt Rambis’ team finished this season on a 15 game losing streak, which save for a season opening win against the Nets, was exactly how they began the last. Everything in between merely consisted of smaller bouts with uncertainty and lethargy. He’s clashed with his star player and presides over the league’s worst defense. Two years, 32 wins. It’s enough to get anyone fired.

According to the tea leaves, David Kahn has all but done so. Here, take a look.

Then we need to have a talk about whether it’s deserved.

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I honestly don’t know what to say anymore. Our pups are obviously frustrated with such a prolonged losing streak. It shows in their morose huddles, pained expressions and increasingly frequent outbursts towards each other. But they don’t make any of the necessary adjustments to rid themselves of this dark cloud. They aren’t rebuilding, they’re resigned; entirely too accepting of their fate.

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As you probably know, Tuesday’s summit meeting in New Jersey was not shown on television anywhere. That is amazing. So we happily relied on our old friend David Roth to get out to Newark and do some good old fashioned reporting. Journalism is not always easy. It’s not always fun. Sometimes you have to be one of the only people in the world to watch the New Jersey Nets play the Minnesota Timberwolves. David?

We take bad basketball teams into our hearts when we’re young. Or we take good ones, depending on how much of a tragic sense of life or stubbornness or whatever you’ve got working for/against you at the age of 11, which is when — at least from my experience — the NBA really becomes very important. Growing up where I grew up and how I grew up — in the streets and hard as hell, respectively — I did not have to become a New Jersey Nets fan. Just across the river, in Manhattan, was a good if not terribly lovable Knicks team, which you may remember: Patrick Ewing all drippy and virtuosic, Mark Jackson’s understated pudgy-playground-guy excellence and later Derek Harper’s Humpty Hump facial features. Looking back, the Knicks have some tragic-sense-of-life cred in their own right — the franchise has run up a 2522-2554 over its 65 seasons and won all of two titles, and things like Charles Smith’s epic one-man anti-layup drill in the 1993 playoffs and the ongoing retardo-plutocratic nightmare of the James Dolan Years are plenty bleak.

The most tragic thing of all about the Knicks, though, is also the funniest: the people covering and cheering for the Knicks think of them as mega-champs going through a generations-long dry spell. Which is New York, I guess. But I grew up in New Jersey, where we build towering and ornate ziggurat-y monuments to our failures — mansions of glory, suicide machines, you know — and make pilgrimages to revisit it and generally glory in overstated struggle the way New York glories in success. Also I’m kind of a masochist. So I chose the Nets.

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Derrick Rose is a special player. How special is obviously dependent on who you ask and more importantly, what they value. Now there’s certainly no shortage of metric centric posts available to espouse or denounce his worth, so let’s just take a moment to appreciate the obvious.

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Underneath the rubble

Myles Brown —  March 28, 2011 — 3 Comments

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So where does this leave us? When Rajon Rondo’s name was wiped off the locker room whiteboard, there was a sigh of relief, as the struggling Celitcs of late became slightly more beatable. But after the first quarter ended, so had any thoughts of morale lifting victories. Boston was in the midst of a 32-13 drubbing, to the delight of several new found fans. Ray Allen ran Wes Johnson ragged, Delonte West met no resistance in serving his role as starting point and Michael Beasley seemed intent on breaking a shooting record, if not a scoring one. Woe were the three hundred Wolves fans in attendance.

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Photo by Wright Reading

On Thursday, we discussed the coach’s role in ensuring that his players execute his game plan, and in creating a team culture of effort and accountability. I spend a lot of time around these Wolves but it remains unclear to me how well Kurt Rambis does this extraordinarily important part of his job. My guess is that, for the Wolves, the erratic ebb and flow of inspiration, focus and confidence remains as much a mystery to them, players and coaches alike, as it us to us. These Timberwolves are a strange beast; I’m not sure we’ll ever figure them out.

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