Tag:Kurt Rambis
Posted on: March 31, 2010 5:01 pm
 

Minnesota Timberwolves 2009-10 Season Review

In a few days the Timberwovles will play the final game of their 2009-10 campaign. It will officially mark the third consecutive season of virtually unwatchable Wolves basketball to anyone other than the hardest of core fans. This season holds the distinction as perhaps the worst full season performance by any Timberwolves squad in team history. Yes, this assemblage of “talent” could very well be worse than the early 90s teams that showcased Felton Spencer, Gerald Glass and Doug West. Of course, one could argue that this particular outcome was intentional. That in order to truly rebuild the team had to abandon the ‘one foot in, one foot out’ approach that McHale had attempted and instead fully hit rock bottom before they could rebuild the right way. To that I say mission accomplished, Mr. Kahn. Mission most definitely accomplished.

There is, fortunately, reason for hope. Optimism can be found in the team’s considerable assets. Three 1st round picks. Ample cap room. Youth. Blah. Blah. Blah. That may all be so, but when reviewing this god forsaken season there can be no sense of hope. No silver linings. No glimmering instances of good to hang your foam finger on. There’s no way around it, this was ugly in it's purest form. Turnovers upon turnovers. Ill advised pass after ill advised pass. Missed dunks and missed free throws. NBDL bench players masquerading as NBA athletes. More 15-0 runs than I ever care to remember. Yes it was so very, very ugly. On that note, I present my 2009-10 team grades.

(I should warn you, this is going to be a bit negative. I’ll probably even say some things I don’t really mean out of anger. Such, I feel, is my right, my allowance if you will, for enduring yet another year of basketball by the loosest of definitions and yet surely pulling myself off the mat to do it all again next year.)


The Roster: F
The worst team in the Western Conference deserves no better a grade. Honestly, there is no one on this team that played well enough to make me declare them vital to the team’s long term plans. The closest thing they have to that is Kevin Love but even he showed his flaws. Most notably, his tendency to become obviously shaken by a lack of minutes or cold shooting streak or some other slight that anyone with an appropriate level mental toughness would have overcome. Also, he was used in a reserve role most of the season and is yet to show that he can still put up the ridiculous rebounding numbers against frontline starters.

Al Jefferson, the most dominant player they have, actually had his most unselfish season but never seemed to fully recover from the torn ACL that ended his previous season early. As with pre-injury Jefferson, post-injury Jefferson continues to look a little lost when the offense isn’t running through him.

Jonny Flynn showed glimpses of both good and bad extremes. Regrettably, more bad than good. I can say that he might be the victim of being the most miscast player I’ve ever seen as far as style of play and type of offensive system go. In an up tempo offense I could see him thriving through a persistent fast break attack. In the triangle hybrid offense the Wolves run he was reduced to an undersized guard who cant shoot. His well advertised on ball lock down defense was either an outright lie or the result of criminally inept scouting.

Ramon Sessions had his moments but it was hard to appreciate his game when every minute he was on the court was a minute that Jonny Flynn wasn’t. And Jonny Flynn, as I have already highlighted, needed the minutes.

Corey Brewer was the most improved Timberwolf, probably one of the top five most improved players in the league, but he still can’t shoot well enough to warrant the lion’s share of the minutes at the two guard.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Ryan Gomes needs to be the 8th man on a contending team. Read into that however you like.

At any given time on any given day at any given YMCA in any given pick up game there are no fewer than three guys running full court that are more athletic than Damien Wilkins.

I actually felt disrespected as a fan every time Ryan Hollins, Sasha Pavlovic or Nathan Jawai were on the court.

Oleksiy Pecherov had two good games all season.

Wayne Ellington: a young guy with room to develop, who plays a position of need and unlike the rest of the guards on roster – can shoot. So naturally, he hardly ever plays. I’ll get back to this in the coaching section.

Darko Milicic. I like his game and think he could eventually be solid contributor to a winning team if given the chance. There has been a lot of talk about convincing him that he should stay in the NBA and specifically, with the Timberwolves. How about we flip that and ask ourselves the question, has he done enough to convince the Timberwolves to keep him? I'm not sure that he has.

And finally, the Wolves traded Brian Cardinal to the Knicks. The Knicks cut him. Then the Wolves resigned him. Kind of like when the Cavs traded Zydrunas Ilgauskus and then resigned him a month after he was cut by Washington, except for in the Cardinal instance the player is worthless and the team is irrelevant.

Your 2009-10 Minnesota Timberwolves, ladies and gentlemen!


The Coach: C
The hiring of Kurt Rambis was unusual because at the time he was the highest profile candidate out there. Whereas the Wolves previous few head coach hires had been straight from the bargain bin, Rambis was top shelf, and they paid for it. So far, they’re yet to get their money’s worth.

On the plus side, Rambis kept the team together. Over in an equally pathetic situation, New Jersey, there was all kinds of player drama. Guys were demanding trades or to be outright released. Signaling the onset of female puberty, some Nets players even Tweeted their disgruntled feelings. The Wolves didn’t have any of that and it showed Rambis has their ear. That’s a good thing and a positive sign to move forward with.

On the downside, Rambis failed to achieve what this season was about: player development. I didn’t sense or see that Jonny Flynn was ever getting consistently better. Wayne Ellington regularly and inexplicably took a back seat to the likes of Sasha Pavlovic. Kevin Love and Al Jefferson were given very little opportunity to play together before it was declared a failure. Similarly, Flynn and Ramon Sessions rarely took the court together. I realize these situations created mismatches for the Wolves but in the end, who cares? Instead of going with a non-traditional lineup and trying to create a mismatch for their opponents as well as themselves, Rambis quickly resorted to a safe and formulaic rotation which went on to produce an embarrassingly few amount of wins and a bountiful number of blowout losses. Could it have really been all that much worse had a lineup of Flynn-Sessions-Ellington-Love-Jeffe
rson took the court together? Would they have ended up with the worst record in the league instead of the second worst? Oh no, that would have sucked.

In fairness, Rambis needs more talent. Phil Jackson would have maybe squeezed twenty wins out this group. Beyond that, he needs to develop an identity as a coach. He’s attempting to run some sort of triangle-fast break cross breed offense. Typically, players that thrive within one of those aren’t really suited for the other. The thing is, and I really think Rambis needs to consider this, the only two successful triangle offenses in NBA history have included guys named Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, neither of which have anything to do with the current Timberwolves makeup.


The Front Office: C
David Kahn inherited a tricky situation. His predecessor, Kevin McHale, had acquired just enough talent to not be amongst the league's worst and to give the semblance of a team on the rise, but at its core, was limited in growth potential. So Kahn’s inevitable dilemma was that he was going to have to blow the whole thing up and start over. To a fanbase that had already felt like they were blowing things up when they traded Garnett, the notion of doing it all over again wasn’t in the slightest bit appealing.

The 2009-10 season is ultimately what it needed to be and at heart, what we all knew it would be: a disaster. This season was a series of painful losses followed up by a series of slightly less painful losses, sprinkled with the occasional win. This is what rock bottom is. Rock bottom is somewhat acceptable when you know that your stay on the bottom is merely a pit stop on your eventual way back up to the top. It is in this way that David Kahn will eventually be judged. A little lottery luck and a Ricky Rubio sighting in Target Center within the next year or so will dramatically help that cause.

Other than that, what Kahn does this offseason will be extremely vital. All those afore mentioned assets need to materialize into
positive growth. One thing Kahn said before this season that stuck with me was, and I’m paraphrasing here, that the Wolves wouldn’t
realistically win a lot of games this year but they would always play hard and with tireless effort. They would never lose for a lack of trying. They would be the gritty, gut it out sort of team that other veteran teams don’t like to play for the high level of effort they would need to exert in order to beat one of the league’s supposed bottom feeders. If the players didn’t do that, Kahn promised, he’d find ones who will. Unfortunately, this team rolled over far too many times this season. It led to the disgust I felt, which I’ve never had for this organization before. I hoped it would never come to this, but Kahn will need to live up to his promise on this one.



Up Next: my 2010 mock offseason, in which I speculate on things that will almost certainly not happen!


Posted on: October 28, 2009 4:41 pm
 

The Season Opens

In a few short hours the Timberwolves will open the 2009-10 campaign against their mirror image in the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Nets. In recent years both teams have completely deconstructed their core veteran team and have begun the lengthy process of rebuilding around a young and dynamic player. The Wolves with Al Jefferson, the Nets with Devin Harris. Both teams feature a promising 2nd year big man, who surpassed all expectations during their rookie seasons. The Wolves with Kevin Love, the Nets with Brook Lopez. Both teams are stock piled with young potential, which may someday amount to something special or something all together worthless. The Wolves with Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer and Ramon Sessions, the Nets with Yi Jianlin, Courtney Lee and Terrance Williams. 

As for the Wolves, success this season will come in the form of effort, development and chemistry. Wins are ideal, but if that's the only barometer for measuring success then us Wolves fans might as well start planning for the 2010 draft now. They're simply too young, too inexperienced, too injured and and too unfamiliar with each other to realistically make a legitimate push this year. What I do realistically envision is a move like Oklahoma City made last year and Portland made several years ago just before becomming a playoff caliber team. That being a transformation to a scrappy, yet inconsistent team that will be on the losing end of their fair share of blow outs but from time to time will also flash their enormous potential and beat a few of the league's best, earning the reputation as a team better than their record and most definitely on the rise. Combine that with another high lottery pick, two additional 2010 1st round picks, Ricky Rubio's perceived value, enough cap space next offseason to offer a max contract and several expiring contracts that could aide in a deadline deal, and the Wolves could be back in the playoffs sooner rather than later. Or at least sooner than the Nets.

If pressed to put a number prediction on wins I'd say somewhere between 28 and 35, which is presumably where they would have ended up last year if not for losing Jefferson for nearly half their games. I think the additions of Jonny Flynn, Ramon Sessions, Wayne Ellington, Sasha Pavlovic, Ryan Hollins and Kurt Rambis easily offset, if not improve, the losses of Randy Foye, Mike Miller, Sebastian Telfair, Craig Smith, Mark Madsen and Kevin McHale. For the Wolves to end up on the higher end of that prediction or even exceed it, the following things will need to happen.


Al Jefferson - will need to be healthy. If his knee isn't right the Wolves are in big trouble. His well documented 30 lb. weight loss seems to suggest he'll be fleeter of foot on both defense and fast breaks but first he'll need to ease everyone's fears that his knee is going to give out every time he jumps for a rebound.

Jonny Flynn - will need to be wise beyond his years. Truthfully, he's probably the best true PG the Wolves have had since Terrell Brandon. If he can come in and be more Chris Paul than AC Law, then the Wolves will be better than anyone would have thought.

Kevin Love - will need to get healthy. A broken bone in his non-shooting hand should keep him out well short of the projected 6 weeks. When he's back he'll need to prove that his ridiculous rookie rebounding rate wasn't a fluke and that his conditioning has improved. After all, you can't average 12 rebs per game if you can only play 30 minutes a game.

Corey Brewer - will need to build on the preseason. This is the first time I have given Brewer a compliment without surrounding it with a ton of "buts" and "ifs" and "maybes". He was genuiniely good in the preseason, which can be inflated but can also be a sign of things to come. Shit, I said "but".

Ramon Sessions - will need to make Milwaukee regret letting him go. Right now, he could be Mike James (circa Raptors to Wolves, 2006) having just parlayed a bunch of empty stats on a losing team into a longterm contract. Or he could be Chauncey Billups (circa Wolves to Detroit, 2002) having just begun to show what he's capable of and on the verge of establishing himself as a force in the league. Most likely, he's somewhere in between.

Ryan Hollins - will need to block a lot of shots. They don't need him to do much. Just block shots. He should be watching every minute of Chris "Birdman" Anderson film he can get his hands on. Or rather video. The kids watch video these days.

Wayne Ellington, Sasha Pavolvic and/or Oleksiy Pecherov - will need to become reliable outside shooters. Right now the deep ball is this team's major weakness and if they can't hit shots Love and Jefferson will eat non-stop double teams.

Ryan Gomes, Damien Wilkins, Brian Cardinal - will need to be steady veterans. Outside of these three guys everyone else on the team is 25 or younger. No one is expecting much out of them production-wise, but they will need to be the on court teachers to do the little things that build a winning team.

Mark Blount - will need to sit on his couch, collect a paycheck and wait to be traded or cut. Nice career.

Kurt Rambis - will need to be as good and as patient as advertised. Hopefully, all those years sitting next to Phil Jackson pay off.



Enjoy the season.
Posted on: August 9, 2009 11:02 pm
Edited on: August 10, 2009 11:54 am
 

Wolves (and a little NBA) Talk in August

THE NEW GUY
Kurt Rambis is the new head coach of the Timberwolves and I really, sincerely, hope he still wears the thick black frame glasses. Given that he's never been a head coach on the NBA level, no one short of maybe recent Lakers' players or coaches really has any idea how good he is. David Kahn certainly believes he's the best candidate. Going off his pedigree alone, Rambis looks like a good with the potential to be great hire.

First and foremost, he was a player for several years on championship contending and winning Laker teams (four championships, to be exact). He wasn't the greatest player but was good enough to stay in the league for fourteen seasons and play on teams that featured Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabar and James Worthy. He went on to work for the Lakers in various front office roles. Most recently, he's been an assistant under Phil Jackson for the past several years. You could argue there aren't many better people to learn from.

Maybe it's the stark contrast of this move compared to anything McHale/Taylor would have done during their reign of terror, but like the other moves made since the Kahn Era began, I'm intrigued by this one. After firing Flipnosis, McTaylor (just made that up) went to the bargain bin for their coaches. First Dwayne Casey, a nice guy but pretty much the definition of career assistant. Then Randy Wittman, literally one of the most losingest coaches in NBA history. Then Kevin McHale, which requires no elaboration whatsoever. Rambis, on the other hand, is not a bargain. He's not anyone's leftovers. It would have been easy to go with a retread like Avery Johnson or Sam Mitchell. It would have been easy to go cheap with an unproven like Mark Jackson or Elston Turner. But they didn't. The Wolves went after the most high profile assistant out there and they ponied up 8 million over 4 years to land him. Like I said, I'm intrigued.

Rambis Fun Fact: During his first year of professional basketball he played in Greece under the name Kyriakos Rambidis.

Rambis Thinking Point: A couple of months ago he turned down the Sacramento Kings offer, which was rumored to be comparable to the one he just agreed to. Why'd he do that? Is it possibly saying that he sees more hope in the Wolves situation? Is he like me and thinks the Maloofs are giant douchebags? Does he actually likes Winter?


GLEN TAYLOR OBSERVATION
It's funny. When Kevin McHale and Glen Taylor were running things Taylor was always the one who came across like the more articulate and prepared of the two. Us fans turned to him for the vision of the Wolves future. Now, in the shadow of Kahn and his overhauling ways Taylor comes off like a bumbling old Grandpa who calls you by your Dad's name and makes reference to people who have been dead for ten years as though they were still living. Just another in a long line of indictments against McHale.


THE OTHER MUCH LESS IMPORTANT NEW GUY
The Wolves signed a young center by the name of Ryan Hollins to an offer sheet. I doubt Dallas will match given that they just signed Drew Gooden and are already over the cap. Hollins is an unproven and an unknown talent and so to make a big deal out of this would be a little premature. He is, however, the type of player they need to compliment Jefferson and Love. A true seven footer, a shotblocker, a leaper, a defender. Most importantly, he won't demand a lot of minutes. The flaw I always saw in the idea of bringing in a Tyson Chandler or Sam Dalembert or in drafting a guy like Hasheem Thabeet is that it would, in effect, delegate Love into a lesser role because those guys would need minutes. Word is that Kahn thinks this kid can be the Wolves' equivilent of Chris "Birdman" Anderson, which certainly puts his planned role into perspective. Youtube Hollins. He's got some nice highlights but he looks like a walking technical foul.

I like this quote from Hollins' ESPN scouting reports: “Hollins is 7 feet tall and a plus athlete who can run the floor and jump, the type of guy who would go 12th in the draft if he was a Serbian 19-year-old.”


NEW YORK SUCKS (and everyone knows it)
Do you get the feeling that the sports media whores are the only people who actually believe that the New York Knicks are the team everyone secretly wants to play for and in 2010 they're gonna sign LeBron AND Wade AND Bosh AND Jesus Himself? Take this offseason, for example. The mighty Knicks have now been scorned by Jason Kidd and Andre Miller. Trevor Ariza would rather play for the McGrady/Ming-less Rockets. David Lee was willing to sign with Memphis instead of return to New York (but in true Grizzly form they instead opted for Zach Randolph). Nate Robinson is giving serious thought to playing in Greece as an alternative to resigning with the Knicks. Ramon Sessions is stalling in hopes that some other team besides New York will offer him a deal, even though they're the only team willing to throw the entire mid-level exception at him. The one guy who is self-serving enough to want to play there is Carlos Boozer. The Knicks would no doubt pay him whatever he wants but of couse that reveals another problem, the Knicks have nothing to trade Utah for him. What? Wilson Chandler? Eddy Curry? How about Jared Jeffries and an autographed John Starks mini-basketball? Did I mention, they're currently working out Jason Williams. Yes, the retired White Chocolate Jason Williams. Good luck in 2010, Knickerbockers.


2009 ALL STAR
Al Jefferson, if healthy, should be a lock for the All-Star game next season. Yao Ming is permanently broken. Shaq is in the Eastern Conference. Carlos Boozer will either be traded to the East or relegated to backing up Paul Milisap. Three open big man spots, plus everyone knows he got screwed last year and if they want to redeem themselves they'll have to vote him in. First All-Star Wolf since KG. Lock it in. It should be a fun weekend with the possibility of Jonny Flynn, Ricky Rubio, Wayne Ellington and Kevin Love in the Rookie/Sophomore game.


Have a good day and thanks for reading.


 
 
 
 
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