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(From left) Glen Taylor, Kurt Rambis and David Kahn

Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune file

Wolves are a tough sell to free agents

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN
  • Star Tribune
  • July 2, 2010 - 12:37 AM

The most amazing free-agent class in NBA history hit the market late Wednesday night, and the most ambitious teams in the league started lining up their celebrities and their city's attractions like duck decoys.

The Knicks offer Madison Square Garden, Times Square, a city that doesn't sleep, Spike Lee, the media capital of the world, a run-and-gun coach, and cabbies who can cuss out Stephon Marbury while running a red light.

The Nets offer a billionaire Russian owner who wants to lick beluga caviar out of the Larry O'Brien Trophy, Jay-Z, a new arena in Brooklyn and Avery Johnson's airhorn voice, which is guaranteed to kill cold and flu viruses on contact. Plus, Snooki.

The Bulls offer America's most livable great city, Michael Jordan's aura, the Billy Goat Tavern and an autographed Vinny del Negro hair pick.

These teams, sadly, have underestimated the competition. They are in no way prepared for the Minnesota Timberwolves' shock-and-awe offensive.

If only the Wolves could get LeBron James to fly in for a visit, imagine his reaction to what Wolves GM David Kahn has planned for him:

A tour of Target Center, and a meet-and-greet with Glen Taylor.

Seriously, that's Kahn's game plan -- to introduce future billionaires to the Twin Cities' worst sports venue and worst owner.

If only the Wolves were offering a full-body cavity search. Then they would have the Triple Crown of free-agent selling points. LeBron, you can have all of this and frostbite, too!

When you're as bad as the Wolves have been for the past five years, there are all kinds of traps you can fall into, and they're all borne of desperation.

The stickiest trap of all: Players outside of your organization look good, because they're better than what you've got. It's the basketball version of beer goggles.

Kahn said the first free agents to visit Minneapolis would be Knicks power forward David Lee and Grizzlies small forward Rudy Gay. Gay, frightened by the fate that has befallen everyone who has shaken Taylor's hand in the past five years (Kevin McHale, Flip Saunders, Randy Wittman, Dwane Casey, Kevin Garnett, Randy Foye, Troy Hudson, Ndudi Ebi, and, I think, that guy who turned into an alien in "District 9") immediately re-signed with Memphis just so his agent wouldn't make him fly to Minnesota.

Lee might fit the Wolves' supposed philosophy of rebounding and running, and he was highly productive last year.

That's what makes him such a risk. Beware of players who accumulate big numbers on bad teams. If they can be that productive without winning games, that probably means they don't make their teammates better.

Also, Lee built his numbers playing in Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun offense, meaning there were more points and rebounds available to him each game than to the average player on the average team.

Do we even need to mention that Lee plays the same position as Kevin Love and Al Jefferson, two more guys who put up numbers on a terrible team?

There is a vast gap between the Wolves becoming better (which means winning more than 15 games) and becoming contenders (which means winning 40 to 50 games). Lee would make the Wolves better without making them competitive.

This will not be an easy summer for the Wolves. As a business, they can't survive another season of fan apathy. As a basketball operation, they can't afford to panic, rush, and overspend on lesser free agents, and go right back to being a mediocre team saddled with bad contracts.

In short, they may be stuck, unless LeBron or Wade suddenly decides he needs to be in closer proximity to Crunch, Taylor's death grip and black ice.

Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday on AM-1500. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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