Timberwolves scan the horizon
Friends, if you have even the slightest inclination toward professional basketball, I would urge you to begin watching the NBA playoffs this weekend. I can't remember a year in which, especially in the Western Conference, so many teams were so much fun to watch, so compelling, so good. The injury ravaged but stunningly resilient Blazers will face the beautiful but brittle Phoenix Suns. The child-prodigious Oklahoma City Thunder and their baby genius, Kevin Durant, will attempt to do something fun with the wayward Lakers. The Nuggets will attempt to avoid a total meltdown. Manu Ginobili will attempt to flail and contort San Antonio to an upset. Utah will be (I can't believe I'm saying this) fun to watch. Lebron will dance and giggle and then get heavier than "War Pigs"; Dwight Howard will devour your babies. Seriously guys, its going to be awesome.
Photo by Pasukaru76
So its a pretty large bummer that our Wolves are so many universes removed from this potent stuff. Right now, after a full three years of halting rebuilding and so much unsatisfied hope, it feels like it would take a fundamental realignment of the cosmos for the Wolves to ever get back to playing fun basketball in April and May (to say nothing of June). Should we be hopeful? Should we despair? Let's discuss.
Wolves' coach Kurt Rambis had this to say in summing up the Wolves' year:
Our players held it together and they are to be commended for that. And again, I cannot reiterate enough, it was not their fault. The blame falls right here, with David [Kahn, Wolves GM] and me. It is not the players' fault, it is our fault.
As we've discussed, the ultimate cause for this grinding, painful season (the blowouts, the awful defense, the blown leads, the squandered opportunities, remember?) is the players' inexperience and collective lack of talent (relative to the rest of the league, of course). This is kind of just a fact of nature and inasmuch as blame can be assigned, that blame ought to fall on David Kahn, the man who mostly assembled the team last summer. Kahn, of course, was under punishing time and logistical constraints, having been hired only four weeks before the draft, not yet having a coach, and being forced to unravel Kevin McHale's incoherent roster.
Some folks have already written off this past off-season as a total bust but I don't happen to be among them. It does seem apparent that Kahn blew it in taking Flynn--at the time, perhaps, the obvious choice given his righteous athleticism, high visibility and postseason pedigree--over Steph Curry, the scrawny gunner from Davidson. But, folks, draft hindsight is 20/20 and for everybody that "knew" Curry was the right choice, there's another person that was sold on Flynn from the start. (I myself wanted Demar Derozan, so there you go).
If Ricky Rubio comes over in a year and is as good as advertised, if Flynn either settles into a more appropriate role (probably as a scorer off the bench) or gets traded for somebody good, and if Kahn can manage to shore up the team's many other dire needs, the 2009 point guard orgy won't have gone so badly (if not...). That last one is the key: the Wolves have three first-round draft picks, around $15 million in cap room, and lots of room to deal. Things need to happen now.