I’ll admit: I’m a big fan of Bill Simmons. As Jonah mentioned in my intro to Howlin’ T-Wolf, though I cheer for the T-Wolves, my true love is the Celtics. Simmons is a Celtics fan. He’s opinionated, he’s smart, he’s a talented writer, and he’s kind of an ass. I’m also opinionated, I like to pretend I’m smart and talented, and I’m also kind of an ass. Simmons gets me.
So, like everyone else who knows about such things, when I discovered that he was about to have David Kahn on his podcast, the very same NBA GM for whom he created the internet sensation “KAAAAAAHN!“, well…I’m not going to pretend that June 24 wasn’t a big day for me.
If a day in history is big enough to bring David Kahn and Bill Simmons together, quite frankly it’s big enough to take notes. Here are mine. (And here’s a link to the actual Podcast.)
1:15- Kahn tells Simmons “it feels like it’s been more than two years, trust me Bill.” Savvy move by Kahn, laying the hostilities out on the table early. Sure enough, Simmons immediately confesses, “I’ve written some unkind things about your performance over the years.” This is the very dictionary definition of an understatement, but while it might not have cleared the air, the fog of hatred is a little less dense afterwards.
1:52- Kahn answers Simmons’ queries about the Jonny Flynn trade. Say what you want about Kahn, he is candid. A trained monkey with a good set of contacts could see that the reason Jonny Flynn struggled in Minnesota was because of his injury, and the Triangle offense that Rambis imposed upon him, but not many GMs would admit it. Kahn’s reasoning for unloading Flynn is solid, saying that Flynn wasn’t in a situation in which he could succeed, and it was kinder to Flynn to unload him before he damaged his stock any more.
3:39- Kahn claims that one day, Jonny Flynn could be one of the very top point guards in the NBA. Soooo…Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams…and Jonny Flynn. Not seeing it. Sorry Kaaaaahn.
4:27- In response to Simmons’ question (paraphrased) “Didn’t you totally screw up by not grabbing Stephen Curry in ’09?”, Kahn launches into a very long winded explanation, which boiled down to “we didn’t have any point guards at the time.” Unfortunately, Simmons’ follow up question wasn’t “ok, so you drafted Rubio. What the hell possessed you to continue picking them?!”
5:14- Simmons annoys me for the first time in the interview, as he sounds incredibly condescending as he tells Kahn (about the Mike Miller/5th pick deal) “no, that was a good trade. I’ll defend that trade.” Really Bill? You would do that? For me?
5:50- Kahn claims he is “yet to meet a player who says ‘God, I wish we could play another grind it out half court 82-81 game tonight.'” Clearly, David Kahn never met Shaquille O’Neal. Or, for that matter, his own center last year, Darko.
7:29- A priceless moment. Simmons asks “if you wanted to play uptempo, why did you install the triangle offense?” Kahn’s response: “well I didn’t…” HEAVILY emphasizing the world “I” before starting to explain, realizing that he needed to think of a glossed over way to say “I haven’t fired Rambis yet, but you are damn straight I’m going to soon”, then saying “let’s come back to that in a second.”
8:00- You know, as Kahn wrapped up his explanation for not taking Curry, it’s actually fairly plausible. They took Rubio knowing he might not come over right away. They took Flynn for the immediate future. They didn’t think Curry could play point guard, and, coming out of college, that was a very popular opinion. They traded Lawson when they got him to Denver for Martell Webster, which in hindsight is a terrible deal, but at the time was fairly respectable. Ok, Kaaaahn. You can have this one.
9:10- Kahn essentially blames Rambis (correctly) for not installing more of a moving offense, for pushing the Triangle too much. A little later, the best things he can say about Rambis are “he’s a great guy and a wonderful family man. He’s a smart basketball man.” It took Kahn three tries to say something nice about Rambis’ basketball know-how. Seriously, he can’t be around much longer, can he?
10:15- Is it possible that the reason Kahn has been stringing Rambis along so badly is because he feels too connected to him? Kahn: “When you inherit what we inherited roster-wise…this is painful. I think we both underestimated how it hard is was going to be.” Sounds like a guy who put a friend in a bad spot and doesn’t feel right dropping him.
11:45- Kahn starts saying “Bill” every couple of words, which makes him sound like a used car salesman trying to unload a lemon. This seems mildly incongruous, because what he is saying makes a lot of sense…that the biggest disappointment of the season isn’t that they lost a lot of games, but that they seemed to get worse throughout, rather than better, a very disappointing result for a young team.
12:47- Kahn (in my opinion) correctly assesses Darko’s potential: somebody who is good to have on the team in the correct role. (Insert your own joke about his role being “practice squad”) I like that Kahn doesn’t try to claim that Darko is a starting center in this league. Good sign.
17:40- Well, Kahn is quite correct in saying that Rubio certainly hasn’t hit his potential at the age of 20, as well as his claim that one needs to be patient with young players, especially point guards. But what he fails to address in his answer is that the disturbing thing about Rubio is that he got noticeably worse. For the record: I don’t think we need to worry about Rubio’s drop in production. I think the difference in NBA rules and having better teammates will both make Rubio a successful point guard. It just seems like Kahn could have done a better job expressing that to Simmons.
19:00- Kahn makes a VERY interesting point (in my mind) about letting go of Jonny Flynn, saying that Jonny had a couple of tough years, and in order to become a place that free agents would want to go to, organizations need to be willing to say “I don’t think it’s going to work for you here, we need to try to get you somewhere where you can have a career.” Ways to make your franchise UNattractive: throwing a ranting, immature hissy fit when your star signs elsewhere. Yep, Dan Gilbert. I’m still looking at you.
20:20- Is it possible? Am I gaining respect for (gulp) Kaaaahn? David scores another excellent point in response to Simmons’ follow up question “Well, couldn’t you have traded Rubio and kept Flynn, to make Minnesota a better place for him?” saying that with all of Minnesota’s scorers who really really like to shoot, having a pass first (to a fault) point guard like Rubio makes a lot of sense. And…he’s right. Whoa…
20:36- Ballsy question from Simmons, which, boiled down, was “You are going to be fired if Rubio doesn’t pan out. Discuss.” To Kahn’s credit, he didn’t get angry or defensive. Impressive on both ends. Can somebody explain to me why these two enemies are making for such a pleasant interview?
21:53- Simmons finally asks the question I’ve been dying to hear: “Can you explain the Rambis situation to me?…Van Gundy killed you guys last night during the draft, he thought Rambis was basically being dragged through the mud…” before giving Kahn an easy out by continuing the question: “Adrian Wojnarowski wrote basically that you guys were trading back in the draft to get money for Rambis’ buyout. Did you think that was a fair comment?” The second question was infinitely easier to answer, and, thus, far less interesting. It opened the door for Kahn to wax poetic about the old days back when he was reporting and people got their facts straight, including a long story about Steve Kerr discussing Amar’e for Al Jefferson. This story featured lots of unnecessary details like “It was a Sunday” and “We had the usual chit chat”, and full of more car salesman “Bills”. Several minutes later, as the story draws to a close, Kahn seemed to be hoping that Simmons would be sufficiently distracted from his original question, which you may have forgotten as well by now. (It was the whole “dragging Rambis through the mud” thing.) Fortunately for us, Simmons was not so easily fooled…
25:50- Simmons reiterates his question: “I don’t understand why this is taking so long. Is there some legal issue or something you can’t discuss?” Kahn’s answer in a nutshell: Things were too raw emotionally at the end of the season to discuss the future, and things stretched a little too long in between discussions. Wonderful, David. Can you imagine a less professional answer? Can you imagine a boss in ANY other profession, after two consecutive epic failures, saying “Hey, things are a little too emotional right now, let’s take some time to think before we move forward?” NO! He would immediately fire the incompetent employee and look for a suitable replacement. And that replacement’s name should have been Dwane Casey. (Alas.)
28:05- My new favorite metaphor, from David Kahn: “I can’t just walk up the aisle and [and pick up some veterans]. The NBA is not a grocery store.” Golden.
29:57- Simmons makes a slightly unfair comment about getting a new coach as he asks “What do you have to do going forward?” No surprises from Kahn’s answer; more veterans. But, as he points out, some optimism: coming out of the lockout, Minnesota is likely to have a ton of cap room to chase those veterans, no matter what the agreement. Kahn says that in a couple years “we just might be kinda good. We just might.” Did you leave yourself enough room to wiggle, David? Just a little bit?
32:24- Kahn lands a jab! In response to Simmons asking if he enjoyed the “KAAAAHN!” joke, Kahn responds by asking Bill if he shouldn’t be driving somewhere, in reference to Simmons mailbag, in which he claimed that he might drive all the way to Minnesota from LA if Rubio actually did come over. While this is a good line from Kahn, it contradicts his comments of roughly 30 seconds ago in which he said he doesn’t really read stuff on the internet anymore. Still! Credit where credit is due, it was a good line.
34:10- Though it’s not exactly news, I love Kahn’s point about Love’s value on a running team. Having a great rebounder who also throws a fantastic outlet pass and can trail the play and knock down a three if necessary? Perfection. I’m getting shivers just thinking about it.
34:37- Kahn swears on his son’s life that Kevin Love has never been a part of any trade discussions. Apparently, David Kahn doesn’t value his son the way that Dan Gilbert does. No wonder the T-Wolves lost the draft lottery.
If ever it was true that an interview was a contest, this was it, and I would say that David Kahn actually won. Please, leave comments down below letting me know your thoughts, I’m as eager to hear your reactions as I am to share mine.
But I’m encouraged, Bill, as much by Kahn’s optimism as by his realism. His expectations didn’t seem unrealistic, Bill, and his plan for the future seem attainable. But most importantly, Bill, he seemed to recognize the correct issues, and be working to fix them. More on the lineups and styles of offense later, Bill, but for now, if you agree with me, you can take home some comfort knowing that while our GM’s decisions may be inscrutable at times Bill, at least he does a damn good interview.