Patrick Reusse: Complacent no more

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 12, 2009 - 4:48 PM

David Kahn has been nothing short of ruthless in bringing broad changes to a Wolves organization mired in complacency.

David Kahn

Photo: Jay Janner, Star Tribune

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The allegation was made and oft-repeated that David Kahn was a third choice to be the Timberwolves' new basketball boss, behind San Antonio's Dennis Lindsey and Portland's Tom Penn.

Whatever the qualifications of Lindsey and Penn, we know this: They could not have dived into the task of rebuilding the ruins of this franchise with more assuredness and aggressiveness than has Kahn.

He has made several dramatic moves in his 12 weeks in Minnesota, and yet it was a minor move last month that proved he brought to the job not one whisper of sentiment.

Mark Madsen had spent six seasons with the Wolves. As "Mad Dog," he was the uniformed version of a team mascot and a superstar in community relations.

Last month, Kahn put Madsen in a deal that also sent Sebastian Telfair and Craig Smith to the Los Angeles Clippers for veteran Quentin Richardson. They joined Mike Miller and Randy Foye as players traded away by Kahn with time remaining on their Wolves contracts.

On Tuesday, Kahn said there was a chance Richardson will be moved before the end of the week. That would make him the second player -- joining Etan Thomas -- to be both acquired and traded by Kahn.

There are six players on the roster from last season: Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Kevin Love, Corey Brewer, Brian Cardinal and Bobby Brown. Another holdover, Rodney Carney, is questionable because he's a free agent.

Kahn's first major decision was to drop Kevin McHale as coach. That announcement came in mid-June. On Tuesday, he introduced the replacement -- Kurt Rambis -- at a news conference.

When it comes to curb appeal, this is the most impressive coaching hire in the team's two decades of existence. That's because he is the first with enough leaguewide appeal to have other options.

Bill Musselman. Jimmy Rodgers. Sidney Lowe. Bill Blair. Flip Saunders. Dwane Casey. Randy Wittman. Kevin McHale (twice). They had this in common: When hired here, no other NBA team had an interest in them as a head coach.

Rambis arrives after being shoulder-to-shoulder with Phil Jackson on the L.A. Lakers bench -- and, after turning down an offer to coach the Sacramento Kings.

Guess what? If Kahn had not cleaned out the roster, there's not a chance Rambis would have left the glitz of Staples Center for what's become a tomblike Target Center.

Foye can't play point and can't guard an off guard. Miller was a bust. Smith can't be effective against half the teams in the league. Telfair has moments, not months, of solid play.

Presuming everything clicked, the Wolves had a chance to win 36-38 games with those four, plus the current holdovers and rookies. After Kahn's purge, the Wolves will be huffing and puffing to win 20 games in the season ahead.

So what?

There will be a very high 2010 draft choice, and money to spend, and the key to the revival will come at point guard.

The Wolves haven't had one since Sam Cassell pouted his way through the losing season of 2004-05. Now, they have a kid with a dynamic future in Jonny Flynn, and possibly a second in that category with Ricky Rubio.

OK, you can say the Wolves didn't need Kahn to land Flynn -- that they had the sixth pick in the draft without making any moves. Then again, there's no guarantee the prior administration would have been smart enough to take Flynn and then keep him.

Those guys traded Brandon Roy for Foye. They drafted Rashad McCants and not Danny Granger. They let Chauncey Billups leave and coveted the talents of Ricky Davis and Marko Jaric.

It was long past time to bring in a bulldozer and clean the mess.

Kahn has bulldozed the dead wood, and brought in a coach willing to help with the new growth. Rambis was a blacksmith as a player, but he sees the possibility of two young point guards -- Flynn and Rubio -- as an asset and not a glut.

"Point guard is an invaluable part of our sport," he said. "I had a chance to play with outstanding point guards ... elementary school, junior high, high school, college, all the way to Magic [Johnson]."

Elementary school? "Dennis Elkins," Rambis said. "He was doing Pistol Pete Maravich stuff, passing behind the back, between the legs, as a fifth-grader."

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

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