Logical No. 2 pick gets lost in an ocean of franchise turmoil

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 24, 2011 - 10:10 AM

Congratulations, Timberwolves fans. This week, your team retained the title, by knockout, as the most interesting bad team in the world.

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Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn

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Congratulations, Timberwolves fans. Your team leads the league in intrigue.

David Kahn's Wolves are masters of machination. This week they retained the title, by knockout, as the most interesting bad team in the world.

Thursday night, the Wolves made the correct choice, using the second pick in the draft on Arizona forward Derrick Williams. They also added UCLA guard Malcolm Lee, and traded for veteran center Brad Miller.

That's an excellent draft, and Kahn vowed to keep Williams, another good decision. He also said the team will have to be "creative" in playing a handful of forwards on the same team.

That's where the Wolves and Kahn get into trouble, when they think too much.

For most teams, this would have been an absurdly positive week. But the Wolves are not like most franchises. They can't get out of the way of even their own best stories.

On Monday, they celebrated the arrival of Ricky Rubio. On Tuesday, they introduced him. On Wednesday, news leaked that Kahn finally would fire Kurt Rambis, after letting him twist for months. On Thursday, the Wolves chose Williams and traded Kahn's first failure, Jonny Flynn, for Miller and a future first-round pick.

On Friday, most teams would celebrate like Pac-Man Jones in the vicinity of a vertical pole. Most teams would concentrate on introducing their new players to their coach.

The Wolves, instead, will be calculating exactly how and when to announce Rambis' firing, and how to replace him, and how Kevin Love and Kahn's multiplying forwards Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Martell Webster, Wes Johnson and Williams can coexist.

Kahn has assembled an intriguing collection of promising athletes, and given us little reason to believe this organization knows how to meld them into a winner.

After the way this organization treated Rambis, and given this organization's reputation around the league, the Wolves face a version of the old Catch-22 conundrum: Would the Wolves want to hire any coach who wanted to work for them?

That's not the only question facing the Wolves.

We don't know whether Rubio can play effectively in the NBA. We don't know whether Love is an accumulator of numbers, or a franchise cornerstone. We don't know whether Johnson will prove the Wolves were right to choose him over DeMarcus Cousins, or whether that choice will hang over the franchise like all of their other draft-day black clouds.

A good coach might solve many of these problems, or at least provide sound advice as the franchise claws upward. Kahn needs to prove he can hire such a coach.

A good coach, with the implicit backing of a solid front office, could push this group of athletes to play defense and share the ball, could make the Wolves worth watching for the first time in a handful of years.

The latest rumor on the Wolves' intentions, though, is another glimpse into basketball purgatory.

If it is true that Kahn is considering hiring 67-year-old Bernie Bickerstaff, then owner Glen Taylor hasn't just lost his mind, he dropped it down a sewer grate and watched rats carry it away.

There are two reasons the Wolves would hire Bickerstaff:

1. They can't find anyone else with a legitimate résumé who would take the job.

2. They know they would be able to control Bickerstaff, where most accomplished coaches would demand some control over personnel decisions.

Bickerstaff would want to stay on good terms with the front office so his son, J.B., the Wolves' assistant, would be given a chance to succeed him.

And if Bernie failed, signalling another bad coaching decision by Kahn, Taylor could fire them both and start over once again.

Kahn dismissed the notion that his trades were designed to amass cash to pay off Rambis. He also refused to answer questions about Rambis.

A more straightforward operator could have spent Thursday night celebrating an excellent draft, rather than putting out the fires his inner arsonist keeps setting.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. jsouhan@startribune.com

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