Well, here we are. Fans and bloggers alike are running around like they’ve been beheaded like a chicken. Not really, but this is a real mess, regardless.
So the NBA will lock out its players, a long-expected move that puts the 2011-12 season in jeopardy and comes as the NFL is trying to end its own work stoppage that began in March.
The latest lockout begins at 12:01 EDT on Friday. It will last until players and owners can agree on a new collective bargaining agreement, one owners demand must give all teams a chance to profit.
Everyone agrees that this couldn’t have come at a worse time. The NBA just came off one of its best seasons in decades that ended with the ultimate American comic book story ending of good over evil, all while the good team’s lone superhero emerged victorious, officially inscribing his legacy in stone. Honestly, what could have gone better, besides a successful Wolves’ season of course?
Now we just have to sit and wait and hope for the best. At least we have football to look forward… Oh, wait. Is it just me or did I miss some phenomenon of some demonic, lockout bug that came in, poised to suck the fun right out of our key means of entertainment and, for some, a lifestyle, and gnawed on the NBA’s and NFL’s reason to negotiate? It sure seems that way.
Anyways, the world’s not over, especially here at Howlin’ T-Wolf. We will continue to do our best, giving you all the up-to-date news on the lockout and, of course, anything and everything Minnesota Timberwolves that surfaces during the downtime. So continue to check back here for a fresh perspective on your Minnesota Timberwolves.
We’ll only be waiting in a lockout for a little while, right?
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.
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 →
When one Googles the words “Oklahoma City Thunder model”, 9 of the first 10 results are NBA lottery level teams claiming they are going to follow the Thunder’s recipe for recent success. But what is this formula? And is it actually possible for other teams to follow it?
It seems overly kind to the Thunder’s brass to say that Oklahoma City’s success is based solely off making good basketball and financial decisions. After all…the whole franchise at the moment is built off a twice-lucky draft pick in 2007, lucky once because they were able to draft a franchise superstar like Kevin Durant, and lucky again because instead of winning the lottery and picking Greg Oden (the consensus number one at the time), they got the second pick…which turned out to be the real winner.
Not only did the Thunder score on Durant, they somehow won a superstar who was uninterested in the bright lights of Broadway or Hollywood. In the Summer of LeBron, of loud Decisions, documentaries, and even louder commentary, Durant quietly signed a 5 year extension on his current deal with the Thunder. Instead of announcing it on a one hour special on ESPN, Durant announced it on his Twitter feed, informing the basketball world that he was committed to winning a championship for Oklahoma City. No GM in the world could have seen a superstar like that coming.
Likewise, this current Thunder squad wasn’t going to be a true contender to defeat the Lakers or Mavericks out West without GM Sam Presti somehow encountering Boston GM Danny Ainge, the only executive in the league willing trade Kendrick Perkins, a defensive specialist against the biggest, baddest bodies in the NBA, for two players who are currently buried in the bench rotation in Boston. (Ugh.)
Still, while it may be a bit implausible to ask small market teams to fully follow the Oklahoma City model, given the whole “Kevin Durant, the best scorer in the freaking NBA, totally fell into their laps” thing and all, the Thunder have certainly made many wise decisions, shattering common belief that it was all just luck.
Russell Westbrook was pegged to struggle at the point guard position coming out of the draft in 2008, and Presti was widely criticized for taking him 4th. But while recent accusations about his shot selection are fully factual, nobody can deny that he has been an instrumental part of this OKC team, as well as a deserving All Star this season. His continued development is one of the biggest keys behind the Thunder’s current status as a legitimate championship contender.
Also, allowing Serge Ibaka to develop made the Thunder frontline of Perkins and Ibaka a dangerous combination of athletic and strong. Not only that, but trading Jeff Green and giving Ibaka more minutes at the 4, by far his more natural position, has worked wonders defensively for the Thunder.
So what does this mean for Minnesota? It’s tough to tell. It certainly means some hard questions need to be asked if this team is going to truly contend in the future. The hardest question of all might be this one: can a contender be built around Kevin Love? Let’s be honest: Kevin Love’s free agency is approaching, and he is going to get paid handsomely by someone. Which, of course, he deserves; he had a great season, winning the MIP, becoming an All Star, and significantly developing his offensive game. There is no reason to believe that next year won’t be equally successful. But he’s not a go-to scorer in crunch time. Minnesota still doesn’t have one, as much as we all love Beasley. And given that Love can also be abused on defense, Minnesota will be forced to ask themselves this: How much are rebounds and hustle worth in dollar bills?
Ultimately, it appears the formula for success as a small market team in the NBA is a strange, difficult to define combination of foresight, luck and losing. One needs the wits to realize what will work in the NBA, the luck to acquire it, and the patience to see it through.
But losses in the standings mean losses in the stands, which in turn leads to losses in the checkbook. And ultimately, money runs (and ruins) everything. One can preach about teams needing to lose to rebuild, but in these volatile NBA times, with the lockout looming, the horrifying word “contraction” being thrown around, and small market teams constantly in danger of bouncing from city to city (Sacramento is just the start of things, folks), the biggest question for small market teams actually becomes a bit frightening.
How many franchises can actually afford to improve?
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?
Yesterday I wrote my reasoning for why Rambis should be feeling the heat of potentially losing his job along with all of his assistants. I’ll be the first to admit that the piece may have been premature, especially after hearing some details form this morning.
ESPN Insider initially reported the potential danger of Rambis’ status of head coach, but since then has started to take a different stance.
“It’s easy to say when you’re having a tough year,” Love told the Pioneer Press. “It’s not a direct reflection on him. It’s all on us being a young, youthful team. It’s unfair. As a player, I have Kurt’s back.”
“He gets blamed for everything because he’s the coach,” Tolliver said. “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. It’s up to us out there on the floor to execute the game plan. As players, we have to take more accountability and responsibility for our actions.”
“He’s always putting the work in,” Webster said. “He and the staff never give us the short end of the stick and just throw us out there and say, ‘Whatever happens.’ We’re the ones who have to go out there and play. As players, we can always say the right things, but the proof is how you do on the court.”
Take this how you want, but the players are essentially doing and saying what they’re supposed to. With a GM infatuated with younger, newer players, these guys are supposed to say things like this in order to get the most burn on the court in the final 12 games of the season. No player in their right mind would speak out against their coach at the end of the season unless there was serious turmoil from before that just needed to explode out to the public, but in these players’ cases, all of them are just looking for job security, even Love, who’s looking for a contract extension in Minny (Say he speaks out negatively against Rambis, he could very well find himself following the same path as Big Al).
So no matter what the players say, it comes down to the front office’s opinion.
President of basketball operations David Kahn refuted the report that Kurt Rmabis could be fired after the season and that Kelvin Sampson could be his replacement.
“The notion of Kelvin Sampson is completely false,” Kahn told the Pioneer Press, via the Timberwolves media relations director Mike Cristaldi. “That report is not true in all aspects.”
Rambis didn’t seem too concerned about his job security.
Ok, so maybe the front office, Kahn in particular, won’t go against their beliefs either. Like the players, Kahn, with his best interest at heart, wouldn’t speak negatively against Rambis either. I mean, that’s his guy! He was the guy who hired Rambis in the summer of 2008, hoping for a coach to absorb the blow of some rough seasons in hopes of turning this ship around. If Kahn decided to fire Rambis this summer, all it would show is Kahn admitting he was wrong, which is something no GM wants to swallow.
So what about the guy above the front office? He’s been awfully quiet…
“Owner Glen Taylor cannot be happy with how Rambis handled [the end of Kevin Love's double-double streak] or how he has coached, period,” he wrote. “In fact, I know he’s not remotely happy. I can assure you, the Timberwolves will be looking for a new head coach and a full bench of assistants as soon as the season is over.”
This quote comes from a journalist… from the New York Post. Remember towards the beginning of the season where another New York paper released rumors of Ricky Rubio’s desire to play for the Knicks? I’ll make it simple for you: New York has as many, if not more, bad reporters as good reporters. The last few reports regarding our Wolves coming out from the Big Apple have been malarky at best, so take this with a big grain of salt. Glen Taylor is a tough cookie to crack, some of Minny’s best reporters know that, but clearly the head honcho should be upset — we don’t need some New York article to tell us that. Kahn promised a turnaround in three years, and although we’re not there yet, the Wolves took maybe a half-step forward towards a brighter future, but that may be it. Compared to last year, this year could even be more disappointing because there were higher hopes, so that alone should be enough for Taylor to put his foot down. This ship is his after all, and he indeed has the final say, right? Let’s just hope he steps in, for once, and demands the change needed to take a step in the right direction.
From the very moment after the Cleveland Cavaliers were ousted from the playoffs, the same question ran through everyone’s mind; “Where will Lebron James be playing in 2010?”
While the sports world, as we know it, continues to spin, the news on James and is whereabouts for next season continue to come into question. They’ve flooded my news feed as well as yours too.The latest team to be identified as a possible destination for the courting of “King” Lebron James: The New Jersey Nets.
Really? The Nets, the worst team in the NBA, have a shot at acquiring Lebron James?
I, for one, am flabbergasted at how many teams have a shot at James this summer. It seems as if the list is up near around ten teams now. Do all ten teams have a legitimate shot at landing him? No. Does it also seem like reporters tend to bend Lebron every which way so that it looks like he could fit any team of their choosing? Yes.
So, let’s play make-believe. Since the Nets are a possible destination for King James, then why can’t the Wolves be too?
I’m going to wait until the season is “officially over” at then end of this week after the last 3 games to start breaking down everything in review and looking forward, but Phil Miller of the Star Tribune got the offseason started with David Kahn talking about a lot of change on the horizon.
From the beginning, Timberwolves boss David Kahn and coach Kurt Rambis called this nearly finished season one devoted to player evaluation and development, concepts that also mean few expectations and little pressure.
All that is about to change.
Still aimed at tying the worst record in franchise history, the Wolves head toward a summer in which they possess three first-round draft picks, hefty salary-cap space and a roster that includes nary a player untouchable for a trade, except perhaps the rights to European prospect Ricky Rubio.
Among the things they’ve learned during these past six months: They lack a game-saving star player and also need a traditionally sized center on a team previously built around undersized power forwards Al Jefferson and Kevin Love.
Hired 11 months ago, Kahn immediately embarked on what he called a 17-month process to transform the franchise. He started by trading away player after player last summer to improve draft positioning and clear cap space.
The maneuvering presented what he now calls an obviously incomplete team that produced the league’s second-worst record and nearly a 20 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft.
The clock is ticking.
“Those 17 months expire in September,” Kahn said. “I can assure you the ballclub will be measurably different by then. It will. Obviously, we’ll have to demonstrate some significant progress next season, whether you want to define that by wins and losses or other measurements.”
Obviously it looks like Curry wants to be a Knick and does not want to be T-Wolf.
So what should the Wolves do if Curry is the BPA (best player available) at #6 on June 25th? Personally I don’t think you can pass on him. Curry is not Steve Francis and is not the type of player who would put up such a fight that he would sit out and not play. He might drag his feet on the way to camp but sooner than later it’s in his best interest to play and be a team guy. Of course this would also allow Kahn to have a nice trade chip especially if the Knicks really want him as much as is being rumored. Could the Wolves trade Curry for say sparkplug and solid six-man Nate Robinson who the Knicks don’t have enough money to resign (once they give Lee a boatload of money)? Or a possible future 1st round pick and either versatile swingman Wilson Chandler or the #8 pick where they could take Flynn? Kahn won’t be able to fleece his old mentor Donnie Walsh the same as others have Isaiah Thomas in the past but you have to believe their friendship will offer plenty of trade talk and options shoud a situation like this come together on draft day.
EDIT 6/13/09: Kahn agrees the skipped workout is not enough to force him to not draft Curry.