Posted on: July 27, 2009 5:17 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2009 5:41 pm

More Trades and Stuff

The Wolves continue to wheel and deal talent at a video game like pace. Today, they sent Etan Thomas, a 2010 2nd Round Pick and a conditional 2010 2nd Round Pick to Oklahoma City for Chucky Atkins and Damien Wilkins. At first, one sees the involved players and most likely yawns. But for a moment, consider the deeper implications. For the fanatics and capologists and capologist wanna-bes out there there's more to this trade than meets the eyes. Why else would either team do it?

For the Zombie Sonics I assume they felt that with their glut of guards and need for a big man the trade made sense. Everyone involved is playing in the final year of their contract so there's no financial obligation beyond this upcoming season. They also probably felt like they were able to condense their roster a bit. Plus, they got a couple of 2nd Round Picks. All valid reasons to make the trade. For the Wolves, they balance a roster short on guards. But that, I suspect, is merely a bi-product. My gut instinct, which is based on Kahn's short but spastic history, tells me this is just another piece to the puzzle. Sure, Chucky Atkins could provide veteran PG council to Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio without demanding many minutes. And sure, Damien Wilkins is a very solid all-around wing player, who on a side note, I've been a big fan of for years. Those things make sense but in the end this trade, just like the Q-Rich deal, will be exposed as another cog in the wheel, another link in the chain, another anal in the analogy.

Consider this, Etan Thomas is slated to make 7.9 mil in 2009-10. Chucky Atkins will make 3.48 mil and Damien Wilkins 3.4, together totaling 6.88 million. Also, only $748,00 of Atkins' salary is guaranteed. Bust a little math, round some stuff for simplicity sake, and you learn that the Wolves are only on the hook for 4.2 million between these two players next year. That means in this trade alone they saved 3.7 million. Given that every rational NBA mind won't try to justify Etan, Chucky or Dominique's Nephew as relevant, the Wolves essentially just sold one or maybe two 2nd Round Picks for 3.7 million buckarooss. The Zombies no doubt have their reasons, but I gotta appreciate the savy by David Kahn on this one.

Sure, the average fan will say "Who cares about Glen "Billionaire" Taylor saving a few dollars. Why don't they trade for some real talent instead of lining their pockets?" At any other point throughout the last ten seasons I probably would have agreed with them. But these are different times. The ill-conceived, penny pinching, blind leading the blind, mediocrity inducing ways of McHale/Taylor are officially dead. This is the Kahn/Taylor Era and we can all plainly see who wears the pants in this relationship. To his credit, Taylor recognized he had completely lost touch with modern day basketball and did what he had to do to fix that. Also to his credit, he went with the guy he liked and not who the fans were clamouring for (David Kahn never would have been hired had the fans had any say). A third and final credit to Taylor, he has stayed completely out of the way. Hardly a peep from the guy since Kahn was hired. Kahn still has a lot to prove as a talent evaluator, but as I've said over and over again, it's at the very least refreshing to be under leadership that you trust is making things happen and not just accepting what comes to them.

FUN FACT: Including the two most recent acquisitions today and the inevitable hiring of a new head coach, over the past 5 seasons (2004 - present) the Wolves have acquired the rights or hired 72 different players and head coaches. I repeat, 72 players/head coaches since 2004. Definitely not the trademark of a winning franchise, but amazing nonetheless. That's roughly the equivalent of six complete roster revolutions. Don't believe me, check this link:

(Seriously, check it out. It'll be a trip down memory lane, with unfortunately too many bad memories).

This is a common sentiment I've been hearing and reading lately and I'd like to take a brief moment to refute it. I've got no illusions of a playoff berth or even a +.500 record, but I see no reason why this team won't exceed last year's win total. Leaving Rubio and Rodney Carney out of the equation for the moment as their situations are currently unresolved, the only main contributors they lost are Randy Foye, Mike Miller and Sebastian Telfair. On the flip, they've added Jonny Flynn, Wayne Ellington and Quentin Richardson. Foye lost the team more games than he helped win. That's a fact. Miller was an enigma and I wouldn't at all be surprised if Wayne Ellington proves more valuable. At the very least, Q-Rich will match his production. I really believe that Jonny Flynn will be in the top three for Rookie of the Year if Rubio doesn't come over and substantially better than Telfair in every facet of the game. And most importantly, Al Jefferson missed half of last season. If he doesn't do that this year I see no reason why this team is not only way more entertaining, but also just flat out better.

David Kahn spent most of last week in Spain meeting with Rubio and his people. Everyone has been really quiet since then, which could either be a good thing or a bad thing. David Stern is sending a team of league salary cap officers over this week to iron some more stuff. Again, could be good, could be bad.

Down to three, according to most sources. There may be an announcement by the end of this week. The next Wolves head coach will most likely be Kurt Rambis (Lakers Assistant), Mark Jackson (Analyst) or Elston Turner (Rockets Assistant). All three have pros and I'd have a hard time criticizing any of them right off the bat, as I don't know enough about them. I have heard that Kahn's philosophy on head coaches is to get a guy the players like and will play for, which explains the Rambis and Jackson factors. Assistants can handle the technicalities but a head coach needs to get through to the players over the course of an 82 game schedule.

Posted on: July 21, 2009 12:05 am
Edited on: July 21, 2009 12:18 am

Wolves Update

Mandatory Rubio Allotment
David Kahn is currently in Spain doing God knows what to convince DKV to free Rubio. For that to happen they'll need to lower their buyout demands. I continue to predict, as I have all along, that Ricky Rubio will play for the Timberwolves this season. I base this prediction on info I've pulled from various sources that has successfully passed my common sense filter. A week or so ago Chad Ford (ESPN toolbox/douche bag hybrid) had to swallow his pride and go back on all of his erroneous 'Rubio wants to play in New York' reporting and break the verified news that Rubio's camp has no problem whatsoever playing in Minnesota. In fact, they were very open to the idea. The problem from the beginning was that when Rubio fell to #5 he lost out on contract money that would have helped with the buyout.

The course of events over the past two weeks has made it look increasingly clear that Rubio is on his way. First, Dan Fegan, Rubio's agent, flew to Las Vegas to meet with Kahn and Glen Taylor. Then Kahn announced he was flying to Spain to meet with Rubio and his people. Then Rubio dropped his lawsuit against his Spainish team, DKV (this was a stipulation before they would agree to negotiate his buyout). You could even look at today's trade of Sebastian Telfair as further evidence the Timberwolves are clearing a path for the kid's arrival.

The word is Kahn went to Spain loaded with creative "solutions" in order to accelerate the process. One such solution is the Timberwolves organization becoming long term business affiliates with DKV. This would be in the form of publicity, annual scrimmages, off-season camps and other money generating arrangements. In theory, this partnership would effectively be worth a few million dollars and placate DKV enough to lower Rubio's buyout and at the same time get by the NBA's limit on buyout money, which is a measley $500,000. Now before visions of Joe Smith dance into your head, rest assured that this is totally legal and has been done before. The Houston Rockets, for example, poured all sorts of money into Yao Ming's Chinese team in a similar fashion.

One theory I like is centered around the drafting of 2nd round pick, Henk Norel. Who, you ask? Exactly. He's some marginal talent who shockingly no draft expert had going in the actual draft this year. Yet the Wolves mysteriously took him in the 2nd round. During the McHale era one could have simply shrugged this off as another McHale blunder but what we're coming to realize in the current era is that Kahn actually plots and schemes and plans stuff out in advance. A novel concept. Norel happens to also play for DKV and is a good friend of Rubio. Not only could the prospect of playing with a friend ease the transition to the NBA for an 18 year old kid but the Wolves could also buyout Norel for the max $500,000 although he's probably worth more like $500. That way DKV gets a cool million towards the buyout effort even though the money technically came from two different buyouts. Stay tuned.

Coach Search
Still ongoing. Rumors have the pool down to former point guard and current analyst, Mark Jackson (makes sense because of his connections to Kahn when they were both with Indiana and hiring a former PG to mentor Rubio and Flynn would be ideal), current Rockets assistant Elston Turner who is partially credited for Houston's potent offense, and current Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis (check it - http://thesportshernia.typepad.com/

Summer League
Four relevant players partook in this year's Summer League for the Wolves, Jonny Flynn, Wayne Ellington, Corey Brewer and Oleksy Pecherov. Flynn was incredible. Faster than anyone on the court. Great vision. Under the Foye/Cassell years at PG I forgot how awesome a true point guard is. They put a mic on him one game and the rumors of his oncourt leadership appear to be completely true. Most impressively, he not only got to the rim at will but also displayed the strength to take contact and finish. His physical appearance and movement on the court reminds me of Chris Paul. Wayne Ellington was shakey to start but calmed down and did exactly what the Wolves need him to do: score. He can flat out shoot and I saw him getting a lot of praise from league execs in interviews. Brewer was a trainwreck in three of the games, didn't play in one and looked really good in the finale. It was his first basketball since tearing his ACL so you've got to cut him some slack, but he showed enougn to confirm my suspicions: the team won't be able to count on him for anything heading into this year. Anything they get from Brewer will be a bonus. Pecherov is a legit 7 footer with a legit 3 point shot. I don't know if he's much of a post player but he can definitely shoot and that should be a nice compliment to the down low games of Jefferson and Love.

Other Summer League news: Blake Griffin was a manchild. Simply dominant. Brandon Jennings was better than expected. Tyreke Evans was a mini-Blake Griffin. Stephen Curry averaged 33 minutes a game and shot 33% from the field. Yikes. Hasheem Thabeet was every bit as akward and weak as his detractors predicted he would be. James Harden was forgettable. Non rookie, Anthony Randolph (27 PPG, 9 REBS, 3 BLKS) was freakishly good. Calm yourself, Randy Foye won Vegas Summer League MVP one year.

Jefferson's Injury
By all reports he is well ahead of schedule and expected to be fully ready to go at the start of training camp.

Clippers Trade

As you've probably heard, the Wolves traded Craig Smith, Sebastian Telfair and Mark Madsen to the Clippers for Quentin Richardson. In terms of cap room, the Wolves won. In terms of likability, the Clippers won in a landslide. This move is all about money. The Wolves will shave another 3 million off their total salary next, making them a stronger player in free agency. Reports that the Wolve have found their future shooting guard with this trade are dead wrong. He'll get minutes because by default they only have one other 2 guard on roster but I'll be stunned if he survives on this team past the trade deadline. Q-Rich Fun Fact: Over the last month he has been traded three times (New York to Memphis, Memphis to LA, LA to Minnesota).

On the real, Smith, Telfair and Mad Dog are by all accounts cool guys. Telfair, in particular, seems like grounded person and I believe will have a long career in the NBA. I hope to see Madsen on the bench wearing a suit as an assistant the second he retires. As a fan, I appreciate their time on this team.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com