Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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Kirilenko decision could help Flip escape

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: June 29, 2013 - 3:32 PM

Andrei Kirilenko did the Timberwolves a favor by deciding not to pick up the $10 million player's option for the 2013-14 season. There now will be some money for Flip Saunders to try to make up for his blundering in Thursday's draft.

This was the first draft that officially belonged to Saunders and, whatever his excuses, this was the bottom line:

He started with a choice in the top 10 and wound up with a player that he didn't want and doesn't fit with his team.

If David Kahn had maneuvered to turn the No. 9 selection into Shabazz Muhammad, the Wolves fans (still plural, I believe) would be hostile and the NBA's Kahn-bashing national media would be celebrating his ineptitude. Since it's Flip, the fans are merely agitated and the national folks have ranged from tolerant to positive.

Hogwash.

Kevin Love is coming off a season in which he played 18 games, yet he's still getting the star treatment ... so much so that Saunders rejected a chance to turn him into Victor Oladipo, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. He also could have then kept Trey Burke, the potentially great player who wound up in Flip's lap on Thursday, however briefly.

Saunders decided Burke was rendundant as a point guard on a team with Ricky Rubio, sent him to Utah, and wound up with Muhammad. He's 6-foot-6, never threw a pass that he really wanted to on a basketball court, and won't be quick enough to guard an off guard or strong enough to guard a small forward.

The worst part of Muhammad's resume are those 0.7 assists per game as a UCLA freshman. He would rather take on a triple-team than find an open teammate.

The fact fired UCLA coach Ben Howland has been defending him with, "That's the way we asked Shabazz to play,'' is more hogwash. The only big-time college coach in history who didn't want a player to make an occasional pass was Press Maravich when he was coaching son Pistol Pete at LSU.

The real problem here is that Love plays with one eye on his points and the other on his rebounds. He wants his shots to get his 22 points a game. We know how quickly his feelings can be hurt.

And now the Wolves are bringing in dedicated shot hog as the new blood for the lineup?

The only good news in the past 72 hours for the Wolves was Kirilenko's decision to decline the option. Thanks to that, estimates are Saunders will go into Monday's free agency with $7 million in cap room to spend on a shooting guard.

That's not enough for J.J. Redick, and makes O.J. Mayo more probable.

Mayo shot 40 percent on threes last season for Dallas. He also continued to avoid defense, as does Muhammad, as does Love. Nikola Pekovic and Derrick Williams try a little more, but they aren't very good at it.

Late in the 2010-11 season, I was interviewing Kahn on the public airwaves and offered this opinion: "You are the head of basketball operations for the worst defensive team in the history of professional sports in this country.''

Kahn rejected this as hyperbole, while admitting the Wolves were bad defensively. If Flip winds up with Love, Mayo and Muhammad sharing the court, "worst defensive team in history'' might not be hyperbole.

Go ahead, tell me about this character Flip took with the second first-rounder -- [Georgie Jeng] -- being a rim protector. That will help for the 12 minutes that a high-priced Pek isn't playing, leaving only the other 36 to bring agony to Rick Adelman.

Muhammad at No. 14 comes with a resume similar to the No. 14 in 2005, Rashad McCants, other than ''Boz'' is two inches taller and presumably has never romanced the huskier of the Kardashians..

 

 

 

 

 

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