The NBA champion Miami Heat returned to the Twin Cities on Monday for the first time since late December 2011 when the Wolves pushed them to overtime before losing by two points.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade gushed about the future of the Wolves that night.
“I think Timberwolves fans will have something to cheer about for a while here,” Wade said.
Said James: “They’re going to be a really good team. If it’s not this year, soon.”
Wolves fans are still waiting, their patience tested by injuries and extended losing streaks to the point that any optimism requires a leap of faith. This is not a team on the rise, as anticipated. If anything, the organization feels like it’s approaching a critical crossroads, its future path determined by decisions that require action this offseason.
The Wolves must decide Nikola Pekovic’s value and whether the bruising center is worth $12 to $14 million annually. They must figure out what to do with former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams. And they likely will own another Top-10 pick in the upcoming draft.
Can the team really afford to let David Kahn oversee those decisions?
The answer to that is obvious. They must know it internally, too. Lampooning Kahn’s draft history has become a cottage industry and this is not intended to pile on, but the Wolves desperately need a new basketball boss to tackle the big-ticket items that await this summer, whether it’s Flip Saunders — as reported by Sid Hartman over the weekend — or someone else.
Kahn deserves credit for drafting Ricky Rubio and hiring Rick Adelman, but his timeline as president of basketball operations includes far too many mistakes for any other conclusion. (Watching Stephen Curry light up Madison Square Garden with 54 points last week caused Wolves fans to flood Twitter with more vitriol directed at Kahn.)
Kahn’s contract expires after the season, and owner Glen Taylor has offered no public indication of his intentions. Taylor has a track record of showing loyalty to coaches and executives, and he might even sympathize with Kahn being treated as a human punching bag since he’s been in that position, too. But giving Kahn one more chance would be bad business and dangerous to the future of this organization.
The Wolves need a smart basketball man sitting in that chair. Someone who brings credibility and likability and an ability to evaluate personnel with a keen eye. Someone everyone believes in — coaches, players, fans and team employees. Basically, they need a front-office version of Adelman.
The Wolves can’t afford to waste any more time. Their Big Three — Adelman, Rubio and Kevin Love — need to feel confident in the direction or else they’ll lose incentive to stick around long enough to see what this collection can become. Love’s biting comments to Yahoo earlier this season came across as petulant and whiny, but his message underscored the urgency that the entire organization should feel right now.
Love can opt out of his contract in 2015 and has dropped hints that he’ll exercise that if he’s not comfortable with the direction. If he leaves, Adelman and Rubio might feel compelled to follow him out the door and then what? And what about fans who were teased by this team’s potential last season, only to see their optimism crushed by Rubio’s knee injury and Love’s broken hand? The Wolves can’t return to the dark days when nobody cared enough to show up.
The foundation is solid with a healthy Love, Rubio, Adelman and Pekovic, although his nagging injuries complicate his contract decision. They need to find a legitimate-sized shooting guard and hope that Alexey Shved continues to develop physically. The idea that Williams might be able to play small forward didn’t pan out, so he’ll probably be traded because he plays the same position as Love.
Adelman has considerable influence over personnel matters and would need to mesh with a new boss, but it’s unknown if his wife’s medical condition will spur him to reconsider his coaching future. Losing has taken its toll on him, too.
Taylor picked up Kahn’s contract option last spring because he liked the roster that he assembled and the fact he attracted Adelman to coach it. Injuries stunted this team’s development and ruined another promising season. That’s not Kahn’s fault necessarily, but the focus should be on the future and what’s best for the organization.
Big decisions loom this offseason, and the roster could get reshaped again. Kahn had his turn. Now the Wolves must entrust someone else to run the operation.