When the Minnesota Timberwolves announced the hiring of Rick Adelman earlier this week Minnesota media members praised the move. Slowly national analysts from other markets such as the Miami Herald and the Associated Press joined this conclusion saying the perpetually losing franchise finally made a good decision.
Besides owner Glen Taylor, a man who should get a lot of credit (but won’t) is Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn, who the national media and even some members of the Minnesota media, clearly think is an over-matched joke of an executive.
Explaining the Media’s Long Hatred for David Kahn
We know their long hatred for Kahn. He was once one of them writing for the Oregonian as a sports writer before moving on to the Indiana Pacers front office as an assistant GM for seven years before after a gap away from the NBA, resurfacing with my Minnesota Timberwolves.
The very idea that one of their own could run a franchise makes them laugh since they know in their hearts they couldn’t do it, so how in the world could he? They point to easy fodder being the 2009 NBA draft when Kahn supposedly took four point guards in the draft when in reality here is how it went.
Those four: Ricky Rubio (fifth), Jonny Flynn (sixth), Ty Lawson (18th) and Nick Calathes (second round). Rubio wasn’t expected to last nearly long enough to fifth. Had the Wolves passed up this fallen asset pundits like those from the Boston Globe and other ESPN NBA insiders (you know who you are) would be complaining how “the Wolves deserve their fate” because “how can you pass on a talent like Rubio, twice?”
Rubio was considered a top 3 talent and was supposed to go that high, when he dropped the Wolves had to take that chance, even if I personally didn’t agree with it at the time. Of course for those of you who read my columns, you know I was on record of saying I didn’t think he’d ever sign with Minnesota and Kahn made that happen.
Next, Jonny Flynn was the wrong pick at No. 6. We know that and that is why we shipped him out to Houston where he is now ex-Wolves coach and front-office bumbler Kevin McHale’s problem as you will see the next time we have an NBA season.
Furthermore, the players many Wolves fans wanted in hindsight: Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings did not want to come to Minnesota evidenced by Curry refusing to work out here. If a player openly expresses he does not want to play in a certain market and backs that up so passionately by refusing to give your team a workout prior to the draft, what are you supposed to do?
The third point guard, Ty Lawson was a pre-arranged draft-day trade with the Denver Nuggets to whom Lawson was shipped after the Wolves technically drafted him in this arranged deal with Denver. How many times do we have to tell you, we drafted Lawson for the Nuggets? As good as he is and might further become, he was never going to be a Timberwolf.
There are even those who will tell you the rumors that the trade was made after James Johnson who the Chicago Bulls actually drafted, was supposed to be taken with the No. 18 pick and shipped in a package deal with Flynn to Sacramento for Tyreke Evans. Had Kahn been able to pull that off (had Johnson lasted that long), all of you would be singing a different tune about him.
Finally, Calathes wasn’t even a point guard in college, having mostly played shooting guard at the University of Florida and not only were his right traded later that night to the Dallas Mavericks, but he plays in Greece anyway and likely will never be in the NBA. So can we please finally close the books on Kahn drafting four point guards when he really only took two?
Before Kahn Is Shown the Door, Let's Look at His Good Moves
Now that we know the error of Kahn’s ways, we can discuss the point of this article, why the signing of Rick Adelman was so important to Kahn and the future of this franchise. There are those who will say (and the Minnesota media report) that Kahn’s days with the organization are numbered anyway.
Operating on a one-year contract, there are already reports that Adelman never got along with Kahn from their days in Oregon together covering the Portland Trail Blazers and all communication is going to be done from Adelman to owner Glen Taylor, skipping Kahn as the middle man.
If this is indeed true, then it's quite obvious that Kahn will soon be phased out of the organization the same way Assistant GM Tony Ronzone left the organization last week to little fanfare. Pretty soon, media, you won’t have David Kahn to kick around anymore.
Never mind the fact he got Michael Beasley for pennies on the dollar (two second-round picks). I know, I know “Anyone would have made that deal. It fell into his lap.” Yeah, tell that to the Toronto Raptors who botched a four-way deal to land him. Everyone knew the Heat needed to clear cap space for the three big frauds and Kahn was the only one who got it done.
Forget the fact he brought in Anthony Randolph, a raw 22-year-old who had worn out his welcome in Golden State and couldn’t even get off the bench in New York but who added nice depth to the Wolves front court as soon as he arrived.
Don’t mention how he continues to get us under the cap by shedding bad contracts or how he got us in the Rubio sweepstakes in the first place in 2009 by trading scraps like Mike Miller and Randy Foye to Washington for their unwanted lottery pick everyone knew was hawking.
The national media doesn’t like Kahn (I’m looking at you Yahoo Sports! who've never had anything good to say about him) because they hate Darko Milicic and consider him to be one of the, if not the, biggest busts in NBA history and the fact Kahn traded for him (Brian Cardinal) and gave him $20 million seals it for them.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Darko fits this offense as a big-man passer, the same way new Wolf Brad Miller will under Adelman, but I don’t suppose we’ll hear that same vitriol?
Kahn, whether his controversial comments (“Manna from Heaven” describing Darko landing on the Wolves and how he fits the system) or for not being afraid to call out the NBA draft lottery for the rigged sham that it is, he brings excitement and keeps an otherwise woeful 17-65 team in the headlines whereas the rest of the league would just ignore them.
If Kahn goes, I will miss him because I don’t think even his own fans or media, the ones who were meant to support him most ever gave him a fair shake. Kurt Rambis, his hire, was a bust, but he manned up by canning him and upgrading with Adelman, something no one thought was ever going to happen.
So What Makes Adelman So Great?
The biggest thing the Adelman hire does is take the coaching excuse and inexperience of Kahn off the table. One of his biggest negatives (besides his multiple drafts) was his coaching hire of Kurt Rambis who, at 32-132 in two seasons with the team, turned out to be one of the worst coaches ever in league and franchise history.
But Kahn took this negative label off the table in one foul swoop by signing Adelman who doesn’t just have 20 years coaching experience, but wins whenever he goes and commands respect along the way. It doesn’t take Adelman long to figure out what he’s got and what he doesn’t (something Rambis could never figure out), and his teams always seem to improve under his tutelage.
Kahn’s job, for however long he has it, just got a whole lot easier with Adelman in charge. Now all he has to do is focus on sprinkling a few real veterans into the rotation along the way, off the bench and we’ll really be in business.
It's already been suggested that Rockets forward Chuck Hayes could be one such veteran. Kyle Lowry has already told Wolves forward Anthony Tolliver he’d “ask for a trade” just to play for Adelman again.
With Miller already on board, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wolves next opening day roster features a few more veteran faces from Adelman’s previous stops in Sacramento or Houston. McHale, meanwhile, is welcome to adding any of the junk ex-Timberwolves he drafted when he ran the team. We’ll see who comes out on the better end of that deal.
Information and references from ESPN.com, Yahoo Sports, ESPN, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, and St. Paul Press directly contributed to the content of this article.