Souhan: Adelman, Love moves earn Kahn chance for real impact

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 26, 2012 - 11:29 AM
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Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn

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Timberwolves history has frequently proved that one bad decision can lead to a dozen more.

This winter, we're seeing an equal and opposite reaction. David Kahn's decision to pursue Rick Adelman is creating the right kind of ripple effects.

Kahn's hiring of Kurt Rambis cost the Wolves two years of ticket sales, television ratings, personnel development and relevance in the Twin Cities. Kahn's hiring of Adelman has reversed those trends.

With Adelman in place, Ricky Rubio is thriving as a rookie and optimistic about the Wolves' future, when as recently as a year ago he seemed ambivalent about relocating to Minnesota.

With Adelman in place, the Wolves have regenerated interest in their team.

With Adelman in place, Kevin Love was willing to sign a contract extension on Wednesday tying the Hollywood-loving West Coaster to at least three more winters in our friendly Siberia. Without the presence of Adelman, I don't believe Love would have signed a deal that, for him, was a compromise.

Of course, without Adelman, the Wolves might have continued to play so poorly that they would have been forced to trade Love in another attempt to rebuild. Only with the team and Love himself showing improvement did this contract make sense.

As it is, the deal feels more like cohabitation than marriage. Love did not land the five-year maximum contract he sought. He settled for a four-year deal with the ability to opt out after three years if he doesn't like the direction of the franchise. Three years from now, Adelman and Rubio will be at the end of their current deals, as well.

In other words, Kahn has three years to build around the three most important people in the organization, and to persuade them to stay longer.

For all of the Wolves' improvement and promise, Kahn's work is only beginning. Hiring Adelman gives him a chance to succeed. Only a series of intelligent personnel moves will give Kahn and Adelman a chance to win big.

Today, the Wolves are improved because of their coach, their point guard play and Love's statistical dominance, but in their third season of rebuilding under Kahn, they still lack a quality starting shooting guard, small forward and center.

They have three capable point guards, in Rubio, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea. They have an All-Star power forward in Love, and intriguing talents at forward in Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley. Credit Adelman for having the skill and flexibility to make the Wolves more competitive even as he gives most of his minutes to role players and those playing out of position.

Kevin McHale failed as a general manager because he grew desperate to surround Kevin Garnett, his All-Star power forward, with competent players. His desperation led to mistakes unworthy of his basketball intelligence, as he invested faith in the likes of Ndudi Ebi, Marko Jaric, Mike James and Michael Olowokandi.

Even when McHale succeeded in augmenting the roster and the Wolves advanced to the Western Conference finals with Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell, McHale's best roster wasn't built to last.

Now it's Kahn's turn to surround an All-Star power forward with enough talent to keep him happy and the franchise competitive. To date, in three offseasons Kahn has added one guaranteed long-term starter to the franchise: Rubio. And even Rubio has much to prove.

Kahn inherited Love. He has taken fliers on Beasley, Anthony Randolph and Darko Mlicic, none of whom are guaranteed to be here next season. He has continued to hoard point guards. And he made the only pick he could have with the second choice in last year's draft, taking Derrick Williams, who could eventually turn into a dynamic small forward who complements Love and Rubio, but is far from establishing himself as a quality NBA starter.

Hiring Adelman was a franchise-changing stroke, for a franchise that has displayed little personnel savvy for the past seven years. Signing Love was necessary. Now Kahn's job becomes difficult, just as McHale's was.

Luckily for Kahn, he has Adelman, a great coach and talent evaluator, as his key advisor.

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

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