TNT analyst Mike Fratello knew Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn when.
Not as far back as Kahn's lowly sportswriter days, but back to the early 1990s, when Kahn worked as a researcher for an NBC Sports crew that included Bob Costas and Pat Riley in the studio and Fratello and Marv Albert calling NBA games.
Kahn attended law school in New York City then, not with the intention of spending his forthcoming years racking up massive billable hours but rather as passageway into an NBA front office.
Did Fratello know way back then that the guy prepping for that weekend's broadcast someday would lead an NBA team?
"Well, he wanted to be in that front-office position," Fratello said. "That was one of his goals way back then. He was more Bob Costas' guy, doing the research and preparing Bob for what was coming up that week. He was kind of attached to Bob Costas' hip, but I knew that was something he had wanted.
"He worked on what he had to work on and, to his credit, it happened for him. It was something he dreamed about, and it wound up happening for him."
Fratello won 667 games as an NBA coach, starting with Atlanta in 1980 when he was just 33 and ending with Memphis in 2007 at age 59 after 2 1/2 seasons with the Grizzlies.
In between, he became known for his television work -- "The Czar of the Telestrator," as partner Albert famously named him -- that continues to this day. He called Thursday's Clippers-Timberwolves game on TNT with former Wolves broadcaster Kevin Harlan.
The Wolves hired Kahn to replace Kevin McHale in May 2009, and the two former colleagues had what Fratello called brief discussions about the coaching job, though Fratello said he never interviewed before Kahn hired Kurt Rambis in 2009 or Rick Adelman in 2011.
"If they don't want to talk to you, it doesn't matter what kind of interest you have, you know what I mean?" he said. "I don't think I've ever been a guy who can wait for just that one job because they're that well-respected. If somebody's interested, you talk to them."
Kahn hired Rambis and then Adelman to coach a team that collected mostly young, talented, unproven players. Many of those players -- No. 6 pick Jonny Flynn, No. 4 pick Wes Johnson, No. 2 picks Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic, Anthony Randolph, Martell Webster -- now play elsewhere.
"He has certainly accumulated pieces," Fratello said. "For a while people were trying to figure out what David Kahn was doing. It looks to me like he started out with an idea, 'Let's accumulate as many talented pieces as we can and then we'll sort it out.' If he felt they were the best player, take them and then move them if they have value to other teams for other picks or in a package for something big and impressive."
Most of those players Kahn has moved on have been released, traded for little or paid to go away. So far, there's been no "big and impressive" signature trade for a team that Fratello says could make the playoffs and win one playoff series perhaps if Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and everybody else all were healthy.
"They're good, if they're healthy," Fratello said. "They've got a great coach and some nice pieces."
JZ's NBA SHORT TAKES
Wearing out his welcome
The Timberwolves' visit to Atlanta on Monday just might be their last look at temperamental Josh Smith in a Hawks uniform.
Smith becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Hawks appear to play better without him anyway. They had lost six of seven games before whupping Brooklyn at home Wednesday while Smith was suspended by the team for the game because of an unspecified incident in practice.
The Hawks are 3-0 this season without him and plan to clear all kinds of salary-cap room to make a run at homegrown Dwight Howard next summer, so expect to hear Smith's name all over the place as February's trade deadline approaches.No more Mr. Nice Guy
First, former Laker Robert Horry publicly criticized Dwight Howard's demeanor, saying the big guy ought to be much more focused and less fun-loving. Then TNT analyst Shaquille O'Neal -- another former Laker himself -- joined in.
"I admit, I was a smiler, but when I stepped on the court. ... I took care of business," O'Neal said. "He's a nice guy, but we don't want to see a nice guy. We want to see him throwing [elbows], making people quit, making coaches complain and make them change the rules. That's what I want to see.
"I agree with Robert Horry: Take the headband off and stop smiling. When you're four games below [.500], there's nothing to smile about."A look at new-look Nets
The reborn Brooklyn Nets make their first visit to Target Center on Wednesday.
The Nets have stylish new uniforms, a new city and new home and perhaps most important now, a new interim coach in P.J. Carlesimo, who -- more than anything -- is not fired Avery Johnson.
The Nets won seven consecutive games before losing last week at Atlanta, where fans welcomed back former Hawks guard Joe Johnson with chants of "We don't miss you."
WOLVES WEEK AHEAD
Monday: 1 p.m. at Atlanta (no TV)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. vs. Brooklyn (FSN)
Friday: 6 p.m. at Washington (FSN Plus)
Saturday: 6 p.m. at Charlotte (FSN)
Player to watch:
Brook Lopez, Nets
The guy who went five picks after Kevin Love in the 2008 draft is healthy after a lost season a year ago and playing for All-Star consideration (averaging 18.6 points, 7.4 rebounds) on a Nets team that recently won seven straight under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo.
« This Minnesota team, without Kevin Love it's over. » TNT analyst Charles Barkley