For Wolves, what's the price to win?

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 1, 2012 - 8:42 AM

A couple of players are out as the Wolves speed their push to improve.

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Michael Beasley was not extended an $8.1 million qualifying offer, making him a free agent.

Photo: Jeff Chiu, Associated Press

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When the Timberwolves plucked David Kahn to lead them in May 2009, he immediately set out to make Target Center the Disneyland of the NBA.

The Happiest Place on Earth.

In one breath, he dismissed the notion that building a championship team in cold, snowy Minnesota is an inherently doomed proposition, and in the next he hired coaches Kurt Rambis, Bill Laimbeer and Reggie Theus to prove recognizable names indeed will come to the frozen tundra.

He also set out gathering a collection of runners and jumpers -- long and athletic, don'tcha know? -- chosen to complement the mythological Ricky Rubio, no matter how young, wild or mismatched they were.

He did so because players love to run and gun and if Minnesota is really going to be an attractive NBA destination and if Target Center is really going to be the Happiest Place on Earth, well ...

But that plan left out one little thing:

Winning, at least in this generation.

Enter Rick Adelman.

The Wolves team Kahn built these past three years is getting a summer facelift, guided by a future Hall of Fame coach's sensibilities.

Out is the former big-top tent circus and its emphasis on youth, athleticism and potential's eternal promise.

In: shooting, savvy and smarts.

Tuesday's trade that brought Adelman favorite Chase Budinger from Houston for the 18th pick in Thursday's draft and the selection of Purdue's Robbie Hummel 58th overall were starts.

The team's pursuit of aging Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol by trade -- even if it costs them last year's No. 2 overall pick, Derrick Williams -- and former All-Star Brandon Roy or veteran Jamal Crawford in free agency are two possible next steps.

The message is clear, what with a 66-year-old coach, an owner who intends to sell the franchise in three or four years, a basketball boss who probably needs to make the playoffs to keep his job and star Kevin Love signed through 2015:

Win now.

Two symbols of Kahn's experimentation -- low-cost gambles on former No. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley and former lottery pick Anthony Randolph -- did not receive sizable qualifying offers Saturday, and both became unrestricted free agents late Saturday night.

Beasley will not return to the team after two uneven seasons because the Wolves were not willing to extend a hefty $8.1 million qualifying offer. They still could send him to the Lakers or another team in a sign-and-trade.

Beasley arguably was the Wolves' most talented player, an unstoppable player at his best because he's a 6-8 forward who can score all over the floor. But Adelman -- and the Wolves -- ultimately decided Beasley's immaturity, inconsistency and individualism outweighed his unmistakable talent.

The Wolves are open to bringing back Randolph at a price below his $4 million qualifying offer, but that will depend on what other moves they can make.

The Wolves kept their trade options on Saturday when they also reached agreements with Brad Miller and Martell Webster to extend into July the deadline to pick up team options for next season. That enables them to continue to talk trade for Gasol or another such big-salaried player and include the salary-cap-friendly contracts of both Miller and Webster in the deal.

Both players are due to make more than $5 million next season, but each can be bought out for less than $1 million each, which makes their contracts attractive to a team such looking to shed salary and slash its luxury-tax penalties.

Miller announced his retirement after last season, but his contract isn't yet retired under the NBA's confounding salary-cap rules.

Gasol's arrival -- at age 32 and with $39 million owed for the next two seasons -- would be Kahn's biggest gamble yet, far bigger than signing Roy, a "retired" player with little cartilage left in either knee, simply because of the price paid for each.

His presence alongside Love and Rubio might not make Target Center the Happiest Place on Earth, but a possible 50-victory season would make it full and loud again, for now.

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