Wolves are losers to the end

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 14, 2011 - 6:28 AM

In perhaps the final game for coach Kurt Rambis and guard Jonny Flynn, the Wolves closed with a 15th consecutive loss and the NBA's worst record.

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The Timberwolves finally said goodbye to a long, lousy season Wednesday night with a closing 15-game losing streak, the NBA's worst record and the best chance to win the No. 1 pick in the June draft.

With a 121-102 loss to Houston, they also perhaps said farewell to coach Kurt Rambis and former No. 6 overall draft pick Jonny Flynn.

In a very strange day at Target Center, President of Basketball Operations David Kahn held a morning media briefing and sure seemed to say, without actually saying it, that Rambis will not return as coach.

As night fell, Flynn was one of four players -- injured Kevin Love, Darko Milicic and Sebastian Telfair the others -- who missed the season finale. Flynn wasn't in attendance at all, gone for what the team called personal reasons, two days after he played only three minutes at Phoenix.

After two disappointing seasons affected partly by a slow-recovering hip injury, Flynn very likely will be traded before the Wolves play another game -- whenever that might be because of an expected labor lockout this summer -- to make room for Spanish prospect Ricky Rubio, who could sign with the Wolves as early as May.

When starting center Nikola Pekovic left the game because of an Achilles' tendon injury, the Wolves were down to three available bench players on a night when they trailed by 21 points, fought back to within a single point and then fell away again.

Their 17-65 record leaves them with the NBA's worst by two games over a Cleveland team that set a league record for consecutive losses by losing 26 in a row this season.

"If you're a true winner and it's in your heart to win, it's got to hurt right now," Wolves guard Martell Webster said. "It's just got to."

On Wednesday morning, Kahn said he expected more victories and more improvement from a team he said is significantly more talented than the one he inherited two years ago. He declined to discuss Rambis' future, other than to say it will be one of the many things discussed within the organization in the coming days and weeks and months.

Kahn's meaningful avoidance left a coach who has eight NBA title rings as a player, coach and front-office manager with the Los Angeles Lakers basically to twist in the approaching summertime wind.

"I have a contract, and I just work under those guidelines," said Rambis, who signed a four-year contract worth about $8 million two summers ago. "Until somebody tells me differently, that's how I'll approach everything."

Rambis is 32-132 -- a .195 winning percentage -- in two seasons with a Wolves team that completely ripped up its roster after last season and started over with a roster that grew even younger, to the youngest in the league when this season started.

"I love Kurt, on and off the court," Wolves forward Michael Beasley said after scoring 34 points, his first 30-point game since late January. "We just couldn't put it together. I'm not blaming the coach. I'm not blaming the players. It's really all of us. I really don't want Kurt to go anywhere. If it happens, it happens.

"It's the game. It's life. You just got to move on."

Somebody asked Rambis before Wednesday's game how he would feel if he wasn't given the chance to return as coach.

"I just deal with situations as they come along, so I'm not going to think about that or say anything about that," Rambis said. "It's completely out of my control. There's nothing I can do about that, so I'll just deal with that when it presents itself."

Love was asked whether Rambis, if indeed he is fired, was given a fair chance as coach.

"That's a tough question for me to answer," he said. "If that's the case, he had two years to show what he can do. There's no doubt in my mind he can land a job elsewhere, but I just don't know what will happen right now. Kurt and I haven't been on bad terms at all this season.

"Whatever happens, happens. I'll be content with it and see where it goes from there. More than anything, I just want to start winning, whether that's with the coach we have now or a new coach. I just want to start winning now."

Love said he will give his opinion about Rambis and a coaching change if owner Glen Taylor asks him during a meeting sometime soon here after season's end.

Before that, he will have his season-ending exit meeting with team management Thursday.

Asked whether he would give his opinion then, Love said, "They're not going to ask me that, because they're both [Kahn and Rambis] going to be in the meeting with me."

  • NBA PLAYOFF PAIRINGS

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