Patrick Reusse: Dealer Kahn is reshuffling the deck

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 25, 2009 - 9:09 AM

The new Wolves boss has revitalized interest in a downtrodden team.

The Vikings and Brett Favre are closing in on a deal that will bring the Grey Ego to training camp in Mankato. The Twins are in the high-interest portion of the schedule, before the dog days arrive and the NFL starts to steal headlines. There's also the anticipation for Tiger Woods and Co. arriving at Hazeltine later this summer.

Amid this competition, David Kahn in the past week has created more hopeful conversation over the Timberwolves than has existed since May 19, 2004, when they defeated Sacramento 83-80 in Game 7 to advance to the Western Conference finals.

A week ago, Kahn made it official that Kevin McHale would not return as coach. The new man gave McHale a fair hearing and a praise-filled send-off, but it was never logical for Kahn to bring back in any capacity the individual most responsible for the mess he was inheriting.

One positive for Kahn in taking over as the Wolves' basketball boss was that the team held three first-round draft choices -- Nos. 6, 18 and 28. On Tuesday, reports surfaced that Kahn had acquired No. 5 from Washington, along with three inside players with short-term futures in Minnesota for guards Randy Foye and Mike Miller.

Last week, Kahn's remark included a hint that his willingness to dump players for whom McHale had a fondness might have been a problem. Foye was one such player.

On Wednesday, Kahn shook off the notion that this move would have been a blow to a still-employed McHale.

"I thought he was very accepting of the notion that as long as it was a fair deal and we were getting value back, you can't become too attached to players," Kahn said Wednesday.

The Wolves will benefit both from addition and subtraction with Wednesday's deal. The fifth pick will help add a talented player, and getting rid of Foye will remove the constant reminder of his shortcomings in contrast to Portland star Brandon Roy.

When reports of Kahn's first big deal arrived Tuesday, startribune.com lit up with hits on Wolves material in numbers not reached since the Kevin Garnett trade two years ago.

That was a different dynamic -- outrage over losing the franchise's lone superstar, rather than the current wonderment over what this new basketball boss has in mind next.

The pundits have been calling this the weakest draft in years. Clearly, "in years'' doesn't go back to 2006, when McHale had by far the best player in the class in his grasp -- Roy at No. 5 -- and promptly traded him for No. 6 Foye.

The top dozen in the '06 draft included stiffs Adam Morrison (3), Shelden Williams (5), Patrick O'Bryant (9), Mouhamed Sene (10), J.J. Redick (11) and Hilton Armstrong (12).

This year's group is guard-heavy, but there's no chance the choosing will be as feeble as in 2006. Another example: Oleksiy Pecherov, a floater from Ukraine, was No. 18 in that draft -- and Wednesday he was a throw-in to the Wolves from Washington.

There are so many guards in this bunch that a projection by nbadraft.net had Jrue Holiday, an intriguing young point guard from UCLA, falling to the Wolves at No. 18 today.

This is Kahn's first time in charge of an NBA draft room. There's a feeling he has set an impossible goal: Getting the best inside defender, Hasheem Thabeet, and the most dynamic point guard, Ricky Rubio.

It would take much more maneuvering -- and probably sacrificing Kevin Love -- to get the No. 2 from Memphis to land Thabeet. The odds are much better that Kahn will draft Rubio, the 18-year-old from Spain.

The complication with Rubio is that the player would have to pay all but $500,000 of the $6 million required to escape his Spanish club. And he could stay there if he didn't like the NBA team drafting him.

Previously, players with options were in no hurry to come to Minnesota, but NBA rumors suggest Kahn has already cultivated a relationship with Dan Fegan, Rubio's agent.

There was an indirect confirmation of this Wednesday when Kahn threw out the aside that Fegan was "one of the toughest and one of the best" agents in the NBA.

At this point, Kahn looks like a man who doesn't miss a trick -- and there will be more of those tonight.

Patrick Reusse can be heard 5:30-9 a.m. weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP. preusse@startribune.com

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