Oh what to do with Kevin Love

A Look inside Bill Simmons’ Mailbag

Oh what to do with Kevin Love

Oh, what to do with Kevin Love

How many hours have you spent on the trade machine this week? How badly are you trying to virtually aide Flip and the Wolves in getting rid of the cancer that is Love before we have to boo him during home games? No one feels comfortable stepping outside of the ‘We have to trade him sooner than later’ bubble, and I don’t blame you. For me, I’ve been trying to stick shovels, garden hoes, pitchforks (Why do I have so many gardening tools?) into the bubble’s shell from inside but it just doesn’t seem very plausible at this point.

So if it’s a reset button they have to press, let’s press the right one. AMIRITE?!

Go back to 2007, when the Wolves needed to trade Kevin Garnett. Subtly curving downward from his prime, there were suitors all over the league drooling over the chance at grabbing Garnett. McHale had his pick from a giant litter of offers that were laced with helpful assets as far as the eye can see. But in the end, he chose an enticing at the time but mediocre deal with his old friend and teammate in Boston, Danny Ainge. Did Ainge get the ‘buddy discount’? Of course he did but Minnesota still thought they got a decent haul headlined by Al Jefferson, two first-round draft picks, and then a slew of intriguing young players like Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Ryan Gomes. Oh, and Theo Ratliff was there too.

The return was enticing because of the similar stages each player was in at that point in their career. Although the key players coming from Gang Green all were young in years, at least they had some NBA-game action, which can be important when you’re trying to sustain at least a moderate level of success while still trying to mold a young athlete into the player/person you want them to be.

Looking back now, though, I think it’s pretty clear that that’s a deal you want to stay away from in the future. Do you really want a bunch of players who some experience and okay potential  in a blockbuster trade for you superstar when you didn’t even do the scouting/drafting of these players to begin with? Are you just gonna take the other executive’s word that these guys can play and are stand-up off-court characters? I don’t believe in that one bit. We all know how the Garnett trade faired for both teams in the end and a lot of Minnesota’s negatives from the deal stem from the lack of any of the young players’ abilities to find their fit/niche in Minnesota as well as Minnesota’s ability to not give them enough time (Gerald Green kicks ass now, if you didn’t know).

I think, if Flip and Glen Taylor want to make the right move and do this thing correctly, they need to trade Love early/on draft night to cash in on the highest value possible. But even more important than the timing is the return and that it NOT resemble anything like the Garnett deal in that you don’t take on players that you haven’t scouted thoroughly and just taking on because “the coach said they have potential.” This is a trade that’s going to dictate the path for the next five years and probably even further, so don’t set your future in another front office’s hands. The only way to get a solid return is to take on a slew of draft picks, where YOU get to do the scouting and drafting of these young men and choose the ones you want of 60 incoming players, not 15 from another roster. And then you also need to take proven commodities who have real experience in the league, like four to six years, not one to two. If those two requirements aren’t met by the time a deal is announced, then it’s a complete fail in my mind, and Taylor should sell the team, leaving Flip with the mess of another potential Post K.G. Era, where darkness, shame and bullying/abuse are all inevitable.

Bill Simmons of ESPN and Grantland wrote a snippet of his take on Love’s situation and went into detail on potential trades for different teams and then ranking them from least likely to most likely to trade for Love. First off, this guy must never sleep, or when he does, his brain is in eternal Trade Machine mode because he won’t give it a break. His ideas for potential trades are so out there, there’s no way he’s not scheming 24 hours a day. Anyways, I’m going to go through his potential trades and give my two cents on each one, starting with the least likely trade spots moving into the most likely. Herewego!

L.A. Lakers: Could offer the no. 7 pick, the chance for Love to come home, and the chance for him to be reunited with his girlfriend (the actress Cody Horn). I don’t know how any of this helps Minnesota. And also — if you’re Kevin Love, you’d really want to play with Kobe for two years on a poorly owned team with no other assets? Why not just stay in Minnesota one more year, then sign with the Lakers in 2015?

First off, I’ll get to what really matters first. Cody Horn is not that hot. Nope. She’s very meh in the world of Hollywood, which isn’t what you want to be there. Kevin, you can do better, I just know it. But I can tell you this much: Love isn’t going to L.A. for at least one season. The Wolves would keep him before trading him to the Lakers because they have NOTHING to give back other than that 7th pick. It just won’t work, but if Love really wants to be in L.A., he’ll do exactly what Simmons’ says and sign there as a free agent next summer. And even that’s a long-shot considering the Wolves are going to look for a place to trade him where he wants to go, so he can re-sign with them. Sorry, Lakers, but the Love sweepstakes odds are extremely low unless something drastic happens.

Golden State: Reportedly made Klay Thompson untouchable, which makes no sense because (a) he should be VERY touchable, and (b) you should want to flip David Lee and Thompson for Kevin Love every day and twice on Sunday. If they want to expand the deal with Harrison Barnes and Kevin Martin, that’s fine, too. Love and Steph Curry on the same team? Come on. Actually, why am I helping the Warriors? Definitely keep Klay Thompson! Best 2-guard in the league!

You know, I think Golden State has one of the better packages to offer. In this one, you get two players you know are good, which is key for me, remember. But you have to get Barnes to make things right, just because he’s the “Gerald Green” of the deal. I’m not high on those kind of players but getting just one on top of the real package of Lee/Thompson is better than fine. The only problem is, like Simmons says, why the hell would we help the Warriors? They took the point guard we were supposed to take in 2009. What the hell, guys!! No, no, screw you! This conversations is over.

Phoenix Suns: They have a bunch of decent assets (the nos. 14, 21, 28 and 29 picks, Alex Len, the Morris twins, etc.) but no headliner. They’d have to package multiple picks to move up to no. 5 (Utah) and no. 7 (Lakers). Not likely. (More likely for them: Al Horford.)

Just no. The package is way too similar to KG/Boston’s minus the headliner of Al Jefferson. The picks are nice but where’s the proven commodity? They don’t have one except for Goran Dragic, who’s practically untouchable in the loosest sense of the term. Plus, there’s no way Love has actual interest in re-signing with Phoenix. We’ve already figured out that two Morris’ doesn’t make one good one. This isn’t Transformers, ya know.

Houston Rockets: Have to be mentioned because of Flip Saunders’s friendship with Kevin McHale, and because Love absolutely loved playing for McHale. But they’d have to convince Chandler Parsons to agree to a sign-and-trade, something they couldn’t do until July (after the draft). No way Parsons wants to live in Minnesota — he wants to be famous too badly. He’d rather attend Hollywood red-carpet premieres and become the next Bachelor. (I’m not even kidding.) So what if they sign-and-trade Parsons to the Lakers for whomever they took with the no. 7 pick (not inconceivable), deal Omer Asik for another first-rounder, then package those picks with other assets (future picks, Terrence Jones, etc.) for Love? Unlikely … but not impossible, right?

Julius Erving said a the Draft Lottery that the league has always worked in cycles. Generally speaking, teams are good for 5-10 years, and then turn bad again. Unless you’re the outlier like Minnesota but that’s a whole different conversation. For the sake of argument, let’s just assume he’s 90-percent right. That means it’s Houston’s time to rise for the next five seasons at least. Why would Minnesota want to push that cycle into overdrive? And for Chandler Parsons, who, like Simmons’ said, would never re-sign here and Jones, who would never re-sign when he’s ready too. Again, the potential package has no headliner and strikes to similar to the KG deal. It just won’t work.

Chicago Bulls: For Taj Gibson, no. 16, no. 19 and the rights to Nikola Mirotic. Not sure that’s enough for ’Sota. Also: That trade chews up the Bulls’ cap space, and, by proxy, their July chances for Carmelo. I can’t get a feel for the Bulls — I mean, that’s the same team that gave Luol Deng away in January, then claimed publicly that they weren’t quitting on the season. Huh???? It’s also the same team that plays in the third-biggest TV market in America and could sell for $2 billion tomorrow (not a misprint), only they operate their business like they’re stuck playing in Indiana or Milwaukee. Keep getting dem checks, Jerry.

It’s like a broken record at this point. No headliner. I do love Taj Gibson but not as the main piece. Mirotic may never be anything substantial. The only way it would work for the Wolves is if the Bulls do the hard work and shop picks 16/19 to move up into the top ten, somehow, and then give us a few future first-rounders as well. To make it work, the Bulls have to offer a minimum of three picks or find another team to help bring a headliner to Minnesota in a deal.

Okay, this next one is long because Simmons is a Celtics junkie:

Boston Celtics: They have a war chest of assets, including two 2014 picks (no. 6 and no. 17), two 2015 first-rounders (their own and an unprotected Clippers pick), two unprotected Brooklyn first-rounders (2016 and 2018), a pick swap from Brooklyn in 2017 (unprotected), a $10.3 million trade exception, Keith Bogans’s waivable-ASAP contract ($5.1 million, perfect for trade match), Brandon Bass’s deal (expires in 2015) and two decent young players (Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk). They can accommodate ANY Kevin Love trade. Oh, and they have Brad Stevens and one of the league’s most respected organizations, as well as the team that keeps celebrating its players and welcoming them home even after they retire. That too.

The most logical offer: Both 2014 picks, both 2015 picks, Sullinger, Bogans and Bass’s expiring for Love. That’s four first-rounders (including the no. 6 pick). If they pulled it off, they’d have to move quickly on Houston’s Asik, even if it meant taking Jeremy Lin’s contract as the price for Asik — conceivably, they could absorb Asik with the aforementioned trade exception and absorb Lin’s deal with their cap space — which helps Houston because they need to dump the Lin/Asik contracts to pursue Carmelo. You tell me: Could you compete in the East with a starting five of Love, Rajon Rondo, Asik, Jeff Green and Free Agent 2-Guard TBA? And could you make the Finals with a Big Three of James Harden, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony? YES AND YES! Let’s do this!

(And if all of this happens, followed by an unhappy Celtics season and Love and Rondo bolting in 2015 to sign with the Lakers and Knicks, respectively, then I’m moving to England and throwing myself into the Premier League. No farewell column, no good-bye party, nothing. I’m out. Nice knowing you.)

Oofta. Can you blame the man for trying? I mean, four first-round picks? The problem is the Celtics aren’t that good. Bringing in Love will put them back into the top four or five teams in the East with a healthy lineup, but they’d sacrifice any chance at a future with Love beyond a year or so because they’d be absolutely depleted. It makes sense for the Wolves because they get the picks they really need, which is a must-have in my opinion. And if you’re getting four draft picks in the trade, who needs proven players? You have four potential starters at your disposal sitting in the draft somewhere. The Wolves would happily take Sullinger, who is more of a locker room guy than Love and also plays a little bit like him too. I like Sully.

I’d say, if the Celtics were willing to roll the dice on a deal like this, I’d shake on it with my mouth shut, if I were Flip. It’d be the dawning of significant work moving forward in regards to scouting for the picks and even moving them for players they might like. But the haul is probably too good to be true.

And last but not least:

Cleveland Cavs: It all depends on whatever Bat Signal LeBron is sending them. If they truly believe they can bring LeBron home this summer or next summer — remember, he can always opt back into his Miami contract for one more season, then leave after the 2015 Finals — then here’s what the Cavs SHOULD do:

Step No. 1: Trade the no. 1 overall pick, Anthony Bennett and an unprotected 2015 first-rounder to Minnesota for Kevin Love. That’s a MONSTER offer. Boston wouldn’t be able to trump it from an upside standpoint. And by the way, ’Sota could flip that no. 1 pick to Philly for no. 3 and no. 10, take whomever’s left between Wiggins and Parker, then have the no. 10 and no. 13 picks as well, plus Bennett! That’s a RESET button and then some.

Step No. 2: Pull Miami’s old Udonis Haslem trick — renounce Anderson Varejao’s rights (for more cap space), then re-sign him in July for a longer deal.

Step No. 3: Bring LeBron home.

Your 2014-15 Cavs (potentially): LeBron, Love, Kyrie, Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Jarrett Jack, Dion Waiters and their choice of three ring-chasing veterans who would commit murder to play on that team. A little more palatable than that 2014-15 Heat roster … right?

Cleveland getting the 1st overall pick could be a blessing in disguise for the Wolves. I see two teams going the hardest after Love and that’s the Cavs and Golden State. But we already know the Warriors’ stance. The Cavs, however, have a lot more to offer and it’s all about the picks, baby. The one caveat to ANY deal with the Cavs for the 1st overall pick is that the Wolves MUST do what Simmons proposed and move the top pick to the 76ers for no. 3 and no. 10. That means you gain two lottery picks, a future first in another good draft and then Bennett, who’s a bit of an unknown but I still like him as the Gerald Green in the deal. But come on! With nos. 3, 10 and 13, you could come away with a down-the-road star and two starters within a year or two. That’s this draft flexing it’s muscles in front of our faces. And one of the best parts of the deal is Love would be heading East, not West. We’d never have to deal with his bullshit like we would in the East, just like Garnett. Love did a lot for this franchise and it’s been fun watching him over the years but the only way for him to gain his respect back from the fans is going out East, so we don’t have to see his mug on a regular basis.

Regardless of how many trades Bill Simmons con conjure up, he’s right about one thing and it’s the Wolves have to move Love by draft night. If not, his value will cut almost in half and the Wolves will be doomed for another 5-10 years. It’s just about inevitable. So, don’t let that happen. Pull the trigger on what feels right but just be sure that it’s the deal that YOU want and not another team’s misplaced oddballs that they call “assets.” It’s more effort but acquiring the picks and then finding the pieces you want in your puzzle is the way to go. Don’t screw this up, Flip.

Simmons/Kahn: A Love Story

wrathofkahn.jpg (500×384)

The man who created this parody of Minnesota's GM sat down with him a few days ago

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.

Aaaaaaaand scene!

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.

Bill.

The end of things as we know it?

How about those NBA Playoffs?! Derrick Rose is leading the Bulls like a once-led-by Jordan team did back in the day. Russell Westbrook has established himself as just as worthy and important to the OKC Thunder as teammate Kevin Durant — might there be some jealousy clouding the team’s Playoff hopes? We already witnessed the Hawks of Atlanta beat down Orlando and their muscly-chiseled giant and could very well see Memphis take the Best of the West down too. All that in the opening round, and it’s just heating up.

It’s really unfortunate that these lively and entertaining Playoff games have to be dolefully overshadowed by the unfortunate situation in Sacramento. Some may think nothing of it — Why should we care about what’s going on in a poor basketball town like Sacramento? But when the league’s integrity is at stake, it should be considered a big deal.

If you’re not up to date on the Sacramento situation, here’s where we are now: The Maloof’s, Sacramento’s “proud” owners of their Kings, screwed up, ran out of money, cut the costs of operations throughout the organization and now they’re in a pickle looking for a new arena and a new beginning. Unfortunately, a city as small as Sacramento can’t afford a new arena to please the Maloof brothers’ requests and they’ve explored the option of relocating. “Relocation,” it’s the only word that provides enough motivation in the word itself to bring a community together to fight the stronger powers of the world. So as the city of Sacramento rallies itself to save their lone professional franchise — The Maloof’s already allowed their WNBA team to hit the fan — the fate of the Sacramento Kings is now in the NBA’s hands, as they’re now figuring out if it’s worth their interest to keep the franchise afloat in a dismantled NBA market.

In Sacramento’s case, we’ve quickly learned the fact that smaller-market teams are ruining the NBA’s limelight. By that I mean that they’re low attendance, poor marketing and tendency to withhold franchise players from going to a preferred destination hinders the league and its owners — and in Lebron James’ case, can curse a franchise and its fans. That won’t get you on David Stern’s good side, where he pictures the NBA as joyful as a fairy tale, where Chicago, New York, Miami, Boston and L.A. are all an integral part of each season and postseason.

But we’ve seen this all over, especially as of late with the Kings on the fence and other franchises in limbo. To make matters even more relevant than it blatantly should be already is that it happened in our very own city. Kevin Garnett hoisted this franchise onto his back and hauled it for 12 long, demanding seasons. But when KG left at McHale’s request — and ultimately for the good of the league — the franchise turned into a crippled and demoralized heap of excrement that proved to be more detrimental to the league than helpful. After that, all those involved, especially the fans, grew detached from the situation entirely. And now we’re winding down an awfully similar, and eery, path that the Kings tumbled down. We’re watching operation costs getting slashed, the fan support is decreasing and they haven’t caught a glimmer of luck, or hope, yet.

We’ve seen very similar situations happen multiple times — Seattle and New Orleans most recently — where the NBA’s front office has had to intervene in one organization’s business because either A) Owners go broke, B) Fans grow disinterested for any number of reasons, or; C) The team just flat out sucks. But more importantly, what all these troubled teams have in common is they’ve just failed to catch that break and, honestly, were never in the right caring hands to begin with.

Why didn’t the situation implode? Because Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge showed up. Because owner Paul Allen embraced how deeply Portlanders identified with his franchise and started emphasizing character. Because Allen hired an enterprising front office that used his money as a competitive advantage, buying extra draft picks, thinking outside the box with creative free-agent offers and raiding cost-cutting teams of solid veterans. The team built a good enough foundation to survive a few bad breaks (most recently, Oden and Roy), and now they’re giving the Mavericks everything they can handle in Round 1. Maybe the Blazers haven’t been totally lucky, but they’ve definitely been smart.

Bill Simmons said that here and I advise taking 15-20 minutes out of your day to read the article in its entirety. Anyways, back to the point: Teams in smaller markets are doomed in the NBA. Unless they’re being run by very smart people, such as the Blazers, or have just caught some lucky breaks, such as the Thunder, you’re years in the NBA, or at least in a specific city, are limited at best.

The next question is how can we fix this dilemma. Underprivileged owners in poor markets don’t have the gonads or the resources to survive in the NBA. It could very well lead to a contraction process in the NBA. Would contraction be a bad thing for the NBA? Looking forward both economically as well as the entertainment factor, a condensed and consolidated league could be the best thing going forward. No longer would Stern have to worry about bankrupt owners. No longer would city’s sit through season after season of suffering and aching. No longer would down-to-earth athletes have to make a professional decision about leaving their “home team” because of a “business decision.” The league would flourish in mounds of cash, sponsorships and the overwhelming amount of publicity they’d receive with all the different rivalries that could stem from big name players moving from one big name city to the next.

But at the same time, you can take Minnesota’s perspective and shoot all of those glamours of contraction down. We have the talent to turn things around. We have enough fan support, as we showed during the KG era, to make a statement amongst a league of coast-dwelling, tax-free states that have all the night clubs and warm weather to attract any talent they sought after.

The league doesn’t need to jump to any conclusions: If they find the right hands for a franchise like Sacramento, there’s hope. And if they also hit the lottery like OKC has, they could very well be the Blazers of tomorrow, even in a city as irrelevant to basketball as Portland once was. Minnesota is no different. Given the right amount of time and brains working behind the curtain, any team can be flipped right-side-up.

It’s just a matter of luck and intelligence. Isn’t everything?

A Second Bowl of Wheaties for You

And since it’s the inaugural weekend here why not a second bowl of the Weekend Wheaties for you?

  • Thanks to T-Wolves Blog for finding this Big Al interview:
    The “Sludge” marathon for lupus (?) on KFAN today included an interview with Al Jefferson. It’s maybe a third of the way into that link’s mp3 file.

    Al’s take, shorthand version:

    * Offseason in Florida, MN, and Mississippi.

    * Rehab’s feeling “real good,” says he’s feeling confident, it’s getting stronger. Ready for training camp, which was the plan.
    * January. Sigh. Several mentions of January.
    * McHale, coaching: Playing for McHale wonderful, didn’t feel pressure, could play through mistakes. Sitting back and waiting to see what happens.
    * Kahn: Kahn called him, they had a “great” conversation. Made Al feel confident.
    * Al says he “most definitely” wants to come back lighter, and says he and Kahn discussed that. Says he played heavier last year to play the center position. Wants to be more mobile, and being lighter would help the knee.
    * Sludge cannily uses LeBron to bring up defensive improvement: Al tosses Michael Jordan into the comparison. “I’m not there yet, if I want to be that guy…. I have to step up defensively.” Thinks the weight might help him. McHale and Wittman have “talked to him about” that. “80% of it is just a work ethic.”
    * The draft: Al likes “the idea of a great point guard.” Randy to the two, Sebastian backing up with the second unit is how he sees things.

Lots to like from this, that Kahn and Jefferson had a great conversation, that he’s looking to slim down this offseason (always a good idea in today’s NBA, I never understood the bulking up thing unless of course your Ndudi Ebi), and that he likes the idea of bringing in a great point guard and having Foye shift to the two. Kirk Hinrich anyone? (I should be throwing out my version of a “State of the Wolves” breakdown later this week with a more in depth look at the current team and where to go from here.)
  • After deeper reflection on the draft I am now throwing my hat into the “Wolves should use the #6 to make a move” camp. Here’s to hoping Kahn can leverage it in a deal and pick up a solid player that can contribute who’s team is moving him for cap purposes. (A couple of guys come to mind, Hinrich as I mentioned yesterday, Chris Kaman or Baron Davis would also fit nice and the Clips have to do something, not sure on how he fits but Jamal Crawford is a solid player that could be had from GS, and what about the Sports Guy’s hypothetical deal for the Wolves to get Tony Parker? Sign me up for that one.)
  • The Wolves have to bring back McHale at this point right? The players want him (and seemed to like playing for him and played hard) Otherwise who is left to bring in? It would have to be another current assistant (which always seems hit and miss on who pans out) as Flip and Eddie Jordan were both signed, although a guy like Boston Celtics defensive ace Assitant Coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t be too bad. Really we need a guy who can develop the young guys and isn’t the good stuff we always here about McHale his hands on development of our bigs from KG to Big Al to Love?