Q, If you could go back, you could took a lot of gambles on a lot of guys who were talented but underachievers, hoping they’d grow up. Would you have done it with as many as you did, with Beasley, Darko, Randolph, Martell?
A. Well, let’s take those one by one.
Beasley, with the price point being what it was, absolutely. We were in a very difficult financial situation that year because of the revenues of the team were so poor and I was in agreement with this, it isn’t a complaint, but we had to be creative adding talent without blowing the bank and put ourselves up against the tax line. We were operating that season near the salary-cap line. Michael I felt was too attractive to pass up because of his talent. And when Michael was playing well for us, especially offensively, you could see the enormous talent he had. His challenge always will be on the defensive end.
Darko, we played Darko. Kurt Rambis and Dave Wohl both were big proponents of making the trade. And once we obtained Darko, I could see what they were talking about. Darko has enormous skills. Both Kurt and Bill Laimbeer played the big-man position in the league and they felt if it ever worked out for him psychologically, he could be one of the top three or four centers in the league. And gain the risk point was quite low when we made the trade and even the contract we gave him that many people talked about was really no more than what a backup center gets in our league this days, about $4 million a year. We didn’t pay him as a starting center even though we had him ticketed as our starting center. So I think there were some reasons to do it and I recognize those reasons even today. One of the things I wished we had done a better job of there was, I only learned after he left, I think there were some family pressures. He had so many visitors, so many family members here at times, there was a lot of pressure and stress in his life that maybe it would have helped to overcome.
Randolph, Dave Wohl was very high on him. Our background research was that he could develop into somebody with some star potential. Again the price point was very low. It was Corey Brewer for the most part, who we knew we would probably not want to re-sign and allocate resources to. The risk reward was quite small.
And your last one?
Q. Martell Webster.
A. Well, I think we just caught Martell in two-year period where he was especially hurt. I thought he played toward end of his Blazer career he played very well. With us, he was injured for most of the two years due to the back issue. He had a very above average year with Washington this year and all indications are they are going to make him a priority come this summer. That almost was a microcosm of the bad luck we had with injuries. I think Martell is actually a pretty decent player.
Q. Before you brought in David Lee for a free-agent visit in July 2011, I heard you were willing to trade Kevin for Anthony Randolph but Golden State turned you down.
A. Not true. I never have ever wanted to trade Kevin, ever. And there was no way as I sat in the chair that I would have recommended to the owner that we do so. That’s a fact.
Q. If you had been able to sign Lee, you would have kept both?
A. We would have had to, but I never thought when David visited that he would sign with us. The main purpose for his visit was, he was interested in us. One of the things I felt I needed to change these last four years was, the perception was that people didn’t want to come to Minnesota. And once they heard Minnesota, that was it. You had heard that four years ago, too. Having him to come in – it was a very serious visit – but I thought it was a highly unlikely we’d be able to come to a deal with David. In free agency, you do things like that. And I thought it was a necessary step for us to change the image of the franchise. So we were very happy he came and visited. Once we heard what he was able to obtain from Golden State, I can confirm it wouldn’t have fit the cards. It would have been too much a duplication of Kevin’s skills at that price point.
Q. You think you changed that image of Minnesota into a desirable destination?
A. Well, the word destination, I’ll let other people make the definition. But if four years I would have told you we would have Ricky Rubio, Rick Adelman, Kevin Love playing at his level, a starting center (Nikola Pekovic) who’s probably aiming for a double-digit salary, Andrei Kirilenko, J.J. Barea off a championship team in Dallas, I could keep going. I think you’d look at me like … So yes if there’s one thing I’m most proud of, I think we’ve changed the entire perception around what can occur here. And but for the injuries these last 14 months, I truly believe the results would have matched with that atmosphere. But I’m the first to acknowledge that because of the injuries they do not.
Go to Part IV of the interview