Patrick Reusse: Manna man needs to be part of running team

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2010 - 12:06 AM

If Vlade Divac/Chris Webber facsimile Darko Milicic is going to be part of a team that wins more than 15 games this season, then the Timberwolves will have to be the up-tempo group they claim to be.

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Kurt Rambis guided a Timberwolves team that won only 15 games in his first season as an NBA head coach.

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The Timberwolves' summer league collection was featured on NBA TV on Wednesday night. David Kahn, the president of basketball operations, dropped in for a chat with play-by-play guy Matt Winer and Chris Webber.

What happened over the next few minutes has gained Kahn a degree of celebrity on YouTube. As of 2 p.m. Saturday, there were five postings of the interview on youtube.com and total of roughly 5,000 views.

The headlines on the videos included "Insane Kahn ... " and "David Kahn is an IDIOT."

This seemed to be the popular opinion after Webber called on Kahn to defend his recent moves -- most notably, the trade of Al Jefferson to Utah for draft choices and the signing of Darko Milicic to a four-year, $16 million contract.

Webber was offended when he was mentioned in the same sentence as Milicic by Kahn, as the Wolves basketball boss talked about a player's NBA development. And when Kahn suggested Milicic's passing skills were remindful of "Vlade," Webber said:

"Vlade ... Divac?"

More intriguing from here in the Webber-Kahn tête-à-tête was our guy's contention that Milicic was "manna from heaven" when he came to the Timberwolves in February.

It made me wonder if my modest focus in long-ago religion classes left a distorted impression of manna. This was a definition found Saturday: "... a supernatural substance created during the twilight of the sixth day of Creation and ensured to be clean by the sweeping of the ground by a northern wind and subsequent rains."

Minnesota can offer plenty of northern wind during the basketball months, and snow provides the same benefit as rain, so perhaps Milicic's reputation as a basketball talent will be cleansed.

Sadly for him, even with the YouTube derision aimed at Kahn, the guy who will have to overcome the "manna from heaven" quote will be Darko. First, he had to deal with being taken No. 2 in 2003, behind LeBron James and in front of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, and then this.

There was enough ridicule for any young athlete in being posterized as "draft bust," and now every clunker Darko offers in an 82-game schedule will be reviewed NBA-wide with manna jokes.

One excuse we heard as the Wolves went 8-33 through the first half of 2009-10 was, "There's a high learning curve for the triangle offense."

There was a four-game winning streak from Jan. 29 to Feb. 6, including a 117-108 victory at Dallas. A few Wolves employees were heard to whisper, "Our young players are finally starting to get it."

From there, coach Kurt Rambis' students went 2-31, including 24 games in which Darko supplied his manna.

See, I told you: It was Kahn -- Milicic is completely innocent -- but we can't stop ourselves. We're natural-born smart alecks, meaning Darko will be subject to manna one-liners for the rest of his NBA career.

For sure, the last two months of the season made it seem as if all those practice hours Rambis spent on the complexities of the triangle were an awful waste. And, that theory has been confirmed with another roster purge.

Presuming Kahn is successful in dumping Ramon Sessions, there will be five players back that spent all of 2009-10 on the roster: Corey Brewer, Jonny Flynn, Kevin Love, Wayne Ellington and Ryan Hollins. And Darko had those 24 games.

That's about the maximum you would want back from a 15-67 season, but why bother to install a stifling offense for young players when there's another 60 percent turnover in personnel in the offing?

Everyone would have been better served last winter if "United We Run" was a game plan rather than a mere slogan.

If there is a method to Kahn's maneuvering, it would be putting so many up-tempo, 6-7 players on the roster that Rambis has no choice but to turn loose Flynn and have the point guard push the pace in every situation.

This will be a team with mostly poor defenders in the rotation, with two "Vlade-like" outlet passers in Love and Milicic, and with athletes such as Michael Beasley, Martell Webster and Wesley Johnson to get down the floor and quickly find shots.

United they run? Let's hope so. It has to better than a signature offense that fuels a 2-31 stretch drive.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP. • preusse@startribune.com

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