Category: 2011 Offseason

Waning through the rumors

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Agree or disagree but rumors have the power to saturate one’s mind. Living in a fantasy where everything lives up to your standards is the ultimate dream for so many Americans. Even us basketball junkies can become swept by the rough tide rumors create.

So it’s time to face our fantasies. Let’s quickly review all the rumors going on in the past few weeks and I’ll tell you exactly why they will/won’t/should/couldn’t work.

Andre Iguodala

Andre Iguodala:

This one is a bit old dating back to the trade deadline but Iguodala’s name has popped up everywhere this offseason to no surprise. Most recently he’s been linked to the Golden State Warriors, where an Ellis-Iggy swap could be done straight up. As for the Wolves, a move for Iggy would be picture-perfect; he’s an NBA All-Defensive team player with emphatic skills on the offensive end to hold his own.

The issue is the asking price. Some rumors are linked to Mike Beasley, Ricky Rubio and the #2 pick (Not all but a combo of probably two of them). The other problem with Iggy is his contract. Iggy’s guaranteed over $44 million for the next three seasons. And although the Wolves have the money and flexibility to absorb that deal, it’s not very practical. David Kahn has been adement on keeping that cap flexibility open — for only God knows what reason — but now with the financial stability of the league at stake as well as a looming lockout, it’d take a Charles Barkley to gamble that much money away in unstable times like these.

Iggy would be a great play for the Wolves if the conditions were perfect, but they’re not. From what I’ve been hearing, the 76ers are asking for too much, Iggy gets paid too much, and so, it’s just not there. Therefore the rumors should be DENIED. Continue reading

So, who's the coach?

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Kurt Rambis: Head Coach or not?

It’s been 51 days since the Timberwolves’ season ended and yet there’s still no clarity into who the head coach for the ’11-’12 season will be.

In the meantime, Kurt Rambis, with two years still remaining on his contract, has had no problem in being who he’s supposed to be, even if it means showing up when desperately unwanted. Although Rambis missed the NBA Draft combine in Chicago last week, he was present for the Wolves first draft workouts as well as today’s free agent workout.

“The way I see it — I’m doing my job,” Rambis said today at the Target Center. “I’m still the coach of this team until something happens otherwise.”

In what seemed like a shock at the moment, Rambis actually talked to the local media in attendance today. Perhaps the plan was to show his side of the story, a story which has turned into a huge soap-opera ever since the end of the season. Rambis said that he and Kahn still need to have a substantial conversation about his future with this franchise. They’ve only had “minor conversations” since season’s end.

This whole situation is starting remind me an awful lot like that friend who’s been dismissed from the group but always has a knack of finding his way back in. The only difference: These are grown men with real jobs acting unbelievably childish over a situation that can be resolved with a simple Donald Trump line: You’re fired!

It could be that easy, and perhaps should be. Rambis is the Timberwolves’ worst coach in history given his record. He’s only won 32 games in the past two seasons and sports the league’s worst losing percentage.

Really, though, why is this dragging out for so long? Perhaps Kahn and Taylor already have their mind made up and are just looking to focus on the draft, but still, it seems like they’re taking the wrong approach at going about this. Shedding off something as important as choosing your head coach isn’t right, especially before the draft where the head coach could give some insight into. Jerry Zgoda, Timberwolves beat writer for the Star Tribune, asked if the situation could be tied to the pending lockout hanging over our heads and Rambis said, “Don’t know.”

It seems to me that the situation is just being handled improperly altogether. “It’s not how I would handle it, no…I think everybody has reasons for why they conduct their business in the way they want to conduct their business,” Rambis said. “If you’re asking me if that’s what I’d do, no. That’s not how I would handle things, but everybody’s different.”

Sounds like someone thinks the same.

The reason for this immature standoff or David Kahn’s silence could be literally anything. At least Rambis is still interested in resolving the issue. At least he’s showing the motivation to go to these workouts to analyze and do his job as the head coach of this team. For me, this is enough evidence to let him come back for a year, barring he makes some changes with his assistants as well as his philosophy on offense (The Triangle-ish offense just ain’t working and will seriously suffocate Rubio’s creativity in the open court.) If someone is devoted enough to attend workouts where he probably doesn’t feel very welcomed says a lot about his character and his passion for his work. Even if he’s lost 100 more games than he’s won, he’s also had to work through some difficult roster building as well as a boss, who’s the league’s jester as well as afraid of conflict.

But now’s the time for a little conflict. The resolution of this team’s vision has gotten that much clearer with Rubio on his way. Now all they need is an established and enthusiastic coach who’s ready to lead this young team through thick and thin to growth and improvement and, ultimately, some wins. But seriously, who’s that gonna be? It’s about time we make that decision.

Paulo Prestes: An introduction

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Paulo Prestes

The NBA Draft has some sort of knack for devaluing players based on where they get drafted. 2nd round players will never be as good as 1st-rounder. Lottery picks are guaranteed to improve your squad immediately.

These are just fallacies that coaches, scouts and front office big-shots fall into, as well as the youngsters looking for their shot at the big time. I’m only a 2nd-rounder? Guess I have no shot then.

But let’s put those thoughts aside, shall we? After all, the NBA, just as any other league, has seen its fair share of rags-to-riches success stories coming from lottery slides, late first-rounders, second-rounders and even undrafted free agents. Paulo Prestes, odds are, will never formulate that famous American success story, but he is indeed the most interesting prospect the Wolves probably have overseas. (Rubio’s bound to be here next season, right?)

Prestes’ selection in the 2010 NBA Draft was obviously clouded by other story lines: The trade talk, Demarcus Cousins, the un-ending desire for Evan Turner to be a T-Wolf. But his selection isn’t one to get completely lost in the smog of 2010. There’s actually a decent chance he could be in a Wolves uniform next season, which is why it’s important you ought to get to know him.

Over the course of the next few days, Kahn hilariously decided to bring in an odd group of free agents to get a gauge on who he wants to spend big bucks on come the time to. Included in this list and in no particular order are the likes of Paulo Prestes, J.R. Giddens, Matt Janning, Steven Hunter, Quincy Douby, Darius Washington Jr. (Come on, keep guessing who these chumps are without Googling them) James Singleton, Matt Bouldin, Deshawn Sims and more. As you can tell there really isn’t much of substance, leaving fans puzzled as to why Kahn is holding these tryouts for players who likely don’t belong in the NBA instead of gauging where to draft newcomers come June 23rd. But I digress.

Clearly the most intriguing name mentioned above is that of Prestes. Last season Prestes played for CB Muria in Spain and averaged 9.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 24 minutes a game. He’s shown the ability to dominate games like against Granada where he had 16 points (7-7 shooting) and 11 rebounds. He’s known as yet another belligerent bruiser and at 6′-11″, 270, he ought to be.

Prestes is similar to Nikola Pekovic in the way they play the game but the two are very different also. Prestes has been compared to Kendrick Perkins, the Oklahoma City’s starting center. He’s a big body underneath that is difficult to move and box out. Prestes has a bit of a mean streak in the way he plays, which could be helpful to add to the team. And although his game needs some more fine-tuning, especially on offense and his low-post moves, Prestes’ time could very well be now. And with Pekovic looking an awful lot like a bust and Darko Milicic already proving a total bust, Prestes could come over this year, sit a year out, perhaps work with the D-League a bit and really learn the NBA style of play. He is only 22 after all and has the time to grow into his game.

So, although Prestes may never be a shining star — neither will any of the others Kahn is bringing in this week, — his physical presence may be helpful down the line this season as well as many more to come. And who knows, whenever talents come overseas such as him, they sometimes have a knack for immediately showing what you’re going to get long-term. Prestes could be a great contributor off the bench and he’s definitely a name to keep in mind for the future.

Countdown to Rubio

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Hope you have a happy Ricky Rubio's Judgment Day

Today marks the final day  in which Ricky Rubio can exercise his buyout with Regal Barcelona and join the Wolves for the ’11-’12 season. Under the current rules of the CBA, May 31st is the final day for teams to sign a player to a contract under the rookie scale before the next season. But really, today shouldn’t be recognized as the last for anything; instead today could be viewed as the start of a countdown. For many of you who don’t understand, there are other ways the Wolves and Rubio can get around either signing or reporting he’s part of the team and not actually have to announce it today.

But with today being the most important in months, fans must realize this is all but a done deal. Some obstacles remain very present and could force Rubio’s fate away from the NBA for yet another season.

One of them being Rubio is still under contract with his current team in Europe right now. It’s playoff time, actually. And although Ricky’s not playing as big of a part as some would think (He’s coming off the bench) there’s a good chance he wouldn’t set sail from his squad in the heart of a playoff race. The Wolves, after a couple years of studying Spanish law, actually have figured out that they can sign Rubio to a “future contract.” That way he’d be able to finish the postseason in Spain and join the Wolves near the end of June when the postseason ends.

Another issue could be the international factor as well as the fact that Rubio doesn’t want to play here, as he subtly hinted at when he was drafted. Rubio’s been oh-so shy since receiving even minuscule amounts of NBA attention, making the likelihood of him making his decision via press conference or anything like that slim-to-none. So if later tonight he does indeed decide to be bought out, you won’t hear it unless you have Twitter or an up-to-date news source of that nature. And if you’re looking for this decision to reach the amount of production, limelight and sickening suspense like “Lebron’s Decision Day,” you’re in the wrong place. This news, if broken, will be a small but important bit of info fans can get excited about. Not like using some charity philanthropy to gain leverage on NBA fans around the world and then drop them on their heads in one man’s quest to be a part of an All-Star squad. But I digress.

And finally, the most serious threat to Rubio not signing at all: The expiring CBA. With a lockout looming and neither side, the players or the owners, budging on negotiations to fit a new CBA into place, Rubio may not want to deal with the unpredictability of the whole situation and rather stay in Europe altogether. But, under the current CBA, which expires on June 30th, players are able to sign a free agent on July 1st. So Rubio, if he doesn’t declare his future today and the Union and the owners can sign a deal before the CBA expires, has a new date, July 1st, to actually sign a contract with the team for next season.

Still, even with these issues present, there are “good things happening” behind the scenes, a source told me. The odds of us hearing it today may not be the highest by any means, but they’re more than zero. That’s a very good thing. That means Kahn and co. have done good work the past few months and made progress on getting their man overseas. I’ve even heard from others that the Wolves have already signed Rubio and are just waiting for another date to release the good news, which would be fantastic!

And that is why today should be a good day, rather being the final or last time we can get Rubio over here before next season. There are ways around it, as I already reviewed, that make it possible for today to be just as normal as any other. It’s just that today should be thought of as the start of something, not the end.

So if all ends well, something Timberwolves fans know absolutely nothing about, Rubio will be a Timberwolf at some point this summer and will join the team in their effort to turn this ship around, so there’s not reason to fret. It’s another piece to the puzzle but it’s the one you lost under the couch from three months, and you’re happier than hell to get it back and connect it to the board.

Howlin' T-Wolf's Mock Draft 1.0

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Being no stranger to the NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves should be pros at this. And, as a fan of one of the lottery’s likely contestants every year, so should Howlin’ T-Wolf. With that said, from now up until the actual NBA Draft, Tom and I will tackle the task of role-playing every GM for each team in the league by alternating picks throughout the first round. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? But with the “David Kahns” of the NBA world today, believe me, it’s much more difficult to predict one’s fate than it seems.

We will release three total mock drafts: This one, one in two weeks and one the night before the draft. As always, feel free to criticize accordingly. Just please be kind.

Without further adieu, here we go! Continue reading

Rubio Lessons: Never Trust a Jonas Brother

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RickyRubioNBADraft452.jpg (452×338)
We don't need the dude from Lie to Me to tell us what Rubio is thinking.

When I was about 10, I was still convinced that I could play basketball in the NBA. I learned to dunk on my Nerf basketball hoop just like Vince Carter. I spent hours in my drive way, pretending to hit buzzer beaters. Suffice to say…if an NBA team had ever tried to lure me away from, well, just about anything, I would have dropped it like it was hot and moved to Minnesota, Charlotte, Alaska, Russia, or pretty much wherever they told me to be.

So maybe a part of me is just jealous of Ricky Rubio. Maybe.

But honestly, I can’t be the only one getting sick of the Rubio drama, right? The never-ending speculation? The waiting game? At this point, I feel like we are getting expertly led on by a girl who knows the game much better than we do, leaving us just interested enough to keep hope alive, but deep down, of course, fully aware that we have no chance in hell.

I started writing this piece several days ago, actually. The original title was Ricky Rubio: A Refresher. Included within the article were glowing reviews of Rubio’s court vision, defense, and addiction to no-look passes; all the reasons why Wolves fans should be excited. See, things were starting to look optimistic. Kahn had just visited Spain. NBA writers were speculating on how Rubio coming over would change up the draft. I caught myself frequently refreshing my Google news with the key word “Ricky Rubio” typed into the search bar. I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one.

Then, somewhere along the line, my Ricky positivity faded. I’m pretty sure it was around the time the draft lotto happened, and reminded us all that the Timberwolves are still the Timberwolves, and they still never catch a break. And Kahn stopped sounding optimistic, and started saying things like “I’ll talk about it when there’s news.” And Rubio decided that he didn’t want to ditch his Spanish League team during their playoff run, which sounds all well and good, until you consider that Rubio’s next series doesn’t end until June, and nobody really has any idea when David Kahn’s mystery timeline runs out on signing Rubio…including David Kahn. Not only that, but Rubio is a bench contributor at best on his Spanish League team. In their clinching game of the last series, Rubio played 19 minutes off the bench. Ricky! You are getting the same kind of playing time as Eric Maynor! They would survive without you!

Tangent: Is Rubio aware that the only way he doesn’t start on the Timberwolves is if he’s a European flop of Darko proportions? Or, as a matter of fact, that Darko actually started for the Wolves this year? (Insert the sound of Wolves fans weeping.)

Anyway, at this point, thanks to a badly worded clause in the CBA (see the fantastic Canis Hoopus link above), we don’t actually know when the Wolves have lost their opportunity to bring Rubio to the States, or when they could sign him if he was even interested. Speculation is running rampant that Kahn has to be considering trading Rubio, especially if Derrick Williams succeeds in his campaign to have Cleveland draft him second.

So which would be more frustrating: suffering through even more Rubio drama or seeing Kahn trade away the player we’ve been hoping and waiting to see in a Timberwolves uniform for the past two years?

You tell me. I’m tired of thinking about it. If you are looking for me, my Nerf basketball hoop is calling.

Stuck in the middle

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From left to right: Kahn, smug white dude, bastard child (I'm kidding, of course, in the same sense Kahn was...)

It just seems like they never catch a break. Inconceivably, even with the greatest odds of walking out with the winning card and an enormous grin on his face, while possibly saving the franchise and his legacy with one combination of ping-pong balls, David Kahn was caught in the middle between a Hall-of-Fame-coach-firing GM and a chronically ill 14-old good luck charm for a team that was demoralized harder than any other before.

“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.”

But who can you blame? Kahn, obviously pissed at the outcome of tonight’s suspenseful events, nailed it right on the head. No one wants to wake up in the morning and see that the lonely Wolves ended up with the #1 pick. Rather the feel-good story — Americans love those — of the son of Cavailers’ owner, Dan Gilbert, is a real headline-catching type of way to sum up the night.

It’s just unfortunate things had to play out as they did. The tens of hundreds of Wolves fans, anxiously anticipating who may be in that second-to-last envelope as it was disclosed, were gunned down and their hope, perhaps, shattered, including my own to a certain extent. Wolves Nation desperately needed the top pick tonight. Not to fulfill their quest in the Irving Sweepstakes but rather to inject some life, some sort of passion, back into a fandom that once thrived rabidly thanks to the smallest sense of competition and, of course, a little lottery luck.

But things aren’t all that bad. Because, really, if it weren’t for bad luck, the Wolves would have no luck at all. Now the Wolves have to wander into unchartered waters a bit. Without a clear-cut choice with the second pick, the Wolves have tons of options to play with. The only thing with that is that our GM is somewhat of an ape: He decides on instinct, not upon reason, but that’s an entirely different story. Like I said, the Wolves really have some ways of turning this fortune into just that, a fortune. It all just comes down to careful and calculative decision-making. They could begin with trading the pick outright and moving down, hopefully picking up some veteran leadership in the process (Chad Ford already noted that Kahn immediately made this adamant upon learning our fate.) They could go with Williams, the projected #2 coming into the lottery, but then Kahn would face an imminent obstacle of choosing between seemingly redundant spitting images of each other in Williams and Beasley (Do you choose the clinically insane scoring machine or a similar type player with a better, smarter head on his shoulders?) Or they keep the pick and make a reach for a more pressing need, perhaps an upgrade at center with Kanter or improving the interior defense, which is a must, and take Biyombo. Both would be highly criticized as reaches but they’d fill needs. Simply put. (But are the Wolves really in a position to draft by need, though?)

It’ll be an interesting month coming up. Kahn now has the alarming task of signing Ricky Rubio before the CBA expires on May 31st, as well as gain some insight into what to do with this upcoming draft. But one thing is clear: They need help and they need it fast. A little luck and fortune wouldn’t hurt either.