To you, from David Kahn
- Blog Post by: Jerry Zgoda
- September 14, 2010 - 3:53 PM
David Kahn has gone silent and deep with the media since that ESPN1500 interview and subsequent NBA fine, but he's back with a letter to the fans now that training camp is just 11 days away.
It's a bit more detailed than the full-page ad the Wolves ran in yesterday's Star Tribune. Most interesting is his mention of a "singular" move that awaits, to complete the rebuilding of a roster than has been transformed with the addition of Wes Johnson, Martell Webster, Nikola Pekovic, Lazar Hayward, Luke Ridnour (and the re-signing of Darko Milicic) and the subtraction of Al Jefferson since the team last played in April.
It'll be great sport to watch in the coming months -- a time frame Kahn lays out that will run until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place -- and contemplate what "star" players might become available for a team that has now young players and two extra first-round draft picks to offer.
The first, of course, is Carmelo Anthony. There will be more -- maybe not quite of Carmelo's stature -- to come.
The Wolves' chances of getting Melo to agree to a long-term contract here are small to say the least, but I expect Kahn to certainly explore the possibility. There's been talk here on the blog about the Wolves getting involved in a Melo deal as a third partner, but, as Kahn states in the letter, it's looking like the Wolves won't be adding a piece or two here and there much anymore (they believe they've done that) but rather will be looking for that one big move.
Who could it be, if not Melo?
It'll be interesting to see if Andre Iguodala's play and attitude impressed Wolves assistant GM Tony Ronzone at the World Championships and if his influence might sway Kahn, who last year maintained that Iguodala isn't worth his huge contract. He's one name sure to pop up if Evan Turner comes in and takes over the Sixers.
And I still say keep an eye on Atlanta, a team that historically struggles to draw fans and soon will be faced with big salary-cap issues as they deal with re-signing Al Horford and appeasing Jamal Crawford, two developments that could leave players like Josh Smith or Joe Johnson available.
As training camp approaches, I know many of you are anxious to see what this coming season will bring. We'll be better this season, but you're no doubt wondering: How much better? Fair question. And because you are vested partners in our organization and members of our Pack, I feel it's important to share with you how this busy offseason has helped our team.
At this point, I can safely say that the rebuilding of the Timberwolves roster is, at long last, nearly complete.
Well, come to think of it, it hasn’t taken that long.
But I recognize it’s been several seasons since our team contended for a playoff spot and you’d like results now.
Nevertheless, to build a team to win at the highest level, it takes time. Band-Aids and shortcuts typically aren’t lasting in the NBA.
During the last 14 months, we have added several pieces to our ballclub: perimeter shooting, athleticism and length to the roster, and all while maintaining our youth. Just as important, we have done so with an eye toward adding more talent by choosing to operate under the salary cap.
The reality is, we are still lacking a dominant player – our version of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade or Kevin Durant – and that will remain an item at the top of the To-Do list.
It’s possible this player could emerge from within the roster. Nearly every player on our team has his best days ahead of him. Some could make an All-Star team during their careers and one has already become an impact player on the USA Men’s National Team in this year’s FIBA World Championships. We also have eight players currently on the roster who were selected in the top-seven of their respective drafts: Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Wes Johnson, Jonny Flynn, Darko Milicic, Corey Brewer, Martell Webster and Ricky Rubio.
The average age of those eight players is 22.
However, if one of our players fails to emerge, we will be prepared to find more talent for our team – and we will seek a singular move rather than a series of moves, as we did these last 14 months.
Hence, the desire to operate under the salary cap.
Just as we took advantage of Miami needing to move Michael Beasley to a “room” team on short notice, I am hopeful other opportunities will come across our desk at three specific periods during the next several months:
• Before the 2011 trading deadline, when teams that are over the tax line and not playing up to their capability seek to move a star player as the first step of a rebuild;
• During the 2011 draft period, when some teams will be seeking to move salary to create room for free agency (although the class of 2011 is not nearly as attractive as the class of 2010); and
• Immediately following the announcement of the new collective bargaining agreement, in whatever form it may take.
It’s been about 14 months since I took the job as President of Basketball Operations. Upon my hiring, I laid out a plan.
First, we would become a running team – it’s what the fans want to watch and the players want to play. Every player we have considered adding to our roster is first evaluated based upon his ability to play an up-tempo style, and then we look for the attributes that we have been lacking: size, shooting and athleticism.
Second, we would in all likelihood become younger – that we might have to take a step backward before moving forward in order to build a team that could compete for a number of years. The decision in particular to trade Randy Foye and Mike Miller for the fifth pick in the 2009 draft no doubt cost us a handful of wins last season, but it also presented us the opportunity to draft Rubio, who doesn’t turn 20 until October and who we expect to have join us in 2011.
Third, we wouldn’t be outworked – that we would instill a culture in basketball operations where management, coaches and players were accountable and expected to work around the clock -- around the year, really -- on reviving this franchise.
Fourth, we would be as transparent as possible in making these changes and explaining the reasoning behind them. Hence, this latest letter.
Without exception, every personnel move that was made this past summer was in keeping with the vision I described in late May 2009. On the night of the draft, we added young, athletic wing players who can run and shoot in Wesley, Martell and Lazar Hayward, to complement Corey Brewer and Wayne Ellington.
Wesley was the Big East Player of the Year last season for Syracuse and was considered the best pure wing in the draft.
Martell, who is only 23 even though this will be his sixth NBA season, has been a starter for the Trail Blazers in the past. Martell often was used as a spot-up 3-point shooter in Portland but we believe he can do more things when asked.
In July, we re-signed 7-foot Darko Milicic and brought aboard 6-10 Nikola Pekovic, both of whom can change ends quickly and play at the fast pace we want. Darko turned 25 this summer and Nikola is 24 – still young, but with the necessary maturity to compete against other big men in this league.
Last season Darko earned $7.5 million in the final year of a four-year deal. He took almost a 50 percent paycut to return to the NBA. He wants to be here and we want him here. There simply aren’t many centers of his size and athleticism who are capable of playing an all-around game.
Telling Darko how important he could be to our future while offering him a contract that represents a major paycut was a delicate dance. Darko understood this, too, and thus was willing to allow us some financial protection in the final year of his deal if things didn’t work out. But let me be clear: we think they will work out.
Later in free agency, we took advantage of our cap room to acquire Beasley for a pair of second-round picks. Michael was the No. 1 prospect in his high school class of 2007 and averaged 26 points and 12 rebounds in his one season of college basketball at Kansas State. He is only 21, with just two years under his belt, and may prove to be our most talented player – perhaps even a 20-and-10 player. He could blossom here under Kurt’s tutelage.
We also felt the time was right to trade Al Jefferson. We will miss Al. Kurt and I want this team to run and flow into a halfcourt offense that features passing and ball movement, with all five players capable of making plays for others. Though capable of playing in this offense, it doesn’t play well to Al’s strengths. Most important, Al would have impacted the playing time of Love, Milicic and Pekovic (and, as it developed, Beasley).
Finally, we added Luke Ridnour during free agency for a variety of reasons. Luke is more of a push-the-pace player than Ramon Sessions and also has several seasons of experience. He did a magnificent job last season both playing and mentoring Brandon Jennings in Milwaukee. I anticipate him challenging for significant playing time but also having the ability to mentor Jonny Flynn and, eventually, Rubio.
We are now a deep team, with quality backups at nearly every position. But we remain young, perhaps even the youngest team in the league. It’s highly unlikely we will challenge for the NBA championship this season, but I believe we now have a collection of talent that could form most of a core nucleus that has its best days ahead.
We will be a better team next season: better because we have more shooting, athleticism and length. Better because our coaches have a year together under their collective belts. And better because we are driven to upgrade our defense, which, frankly, was abysmal last season.
Our players and coaches have been working relentlessly this offseason. All of them. We are committed to being all we can be, as soon as possible, but knowing that our best days are still to come.
Thanks for your patience.
President of Basketball Operations
UPDATE: The Wolves will hold a free scrimmage in Mankato on the final night of their training camp, Wednesday, Sept. 29. The 7 p.m. scrimmage is free, but you need a ticket, which can be picked up at a number of Mankato locations starting tomorrow.
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