The thought of a sports writer becoming the President of the Minnesota Timberwolves is unfathomable – Bill Simmons was never going to receive the nod from Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor to be the hoops el jefe – but Glen Taylor did hire David Kahn as President of his Minnesota Timberwolves, and Kahn is a former sports writer with The Oregonian and the Los Angeles Times.
Kahn will probably insist that his sports writing days were two lifetimes ago, before he attended NYU Law School, and became a sports executive. Kahn was with the Indiana Pacers, from 1995 to 2004, and clearly learned nothing at the knee of Donnie Walsh. Kahn then left Indianapolis to assist his hometown of Portland, Oregon, lure the Montreal Expos or another major league franchise to the Pacific Northwest. Kahn and the City of Portland failed in that endeavor, but Kahn did manage to purchase a few NBA Developmental League franchises.
It has been reported that Derr Kommissar David Stern suggested to Glen Taylor that David Kahn would be the man to lead his franchise from irrelevancy to the heights of NBA supremacy. (Akin to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle instructing New York Giants owner Wellington Mara to hire George Young, but David Kahn does not seem to bring the same level of competency and professionalism to the T’wolves.) It’s only guesswork, but one can assume that Derr Kommissar instructed Taylor to ignore the rantings of ESPN’s Bill Simmons who had been politicking for the job – and that Taylor needed to hire a sober and experienced sports executive to lead his downtrodden franchise. A sports executive who had invested funds in the NBA’s D League.
At Chasing 23, we are not suggesting there was a quid pro quo between Stern and Kahn, but it does make conspiracy theorists such as David Kahn and his inappropriate comments regarding Cleveland snaring the NBA’s #1 overall draft pick in the 2011 Draft Lottery, pause to think. Kahn buys NBDL teams and then is anointed by Derr Kommissar to be Minnesota’s top man?
After firing Kurt Rambis, with all the tact and diplomacy of a 16th century Teutonic despot, Kahn is interviewing head coaching candidates who will embrace his vision of an up-tempo offense. Kahn has brought in veteran head coaches, such as Terry Porter who slowed down the Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns, and Mike Woodson whose Atlanta Hawks’ teams never seemed to be an up-tempo bunch.
Watch for Kahn to hire up-tempo guru Don Nelson, whose teams score a lot of points, and never challenge for an NBA championship. (Not that Kahn’s current collection of talent has any chance to even make the playoffs.) Nellie has yet to discover a defensive system that adequately complements his offensive juggernaut.
There is no doubt that Kahn’s desire to play up-tempo basketball is based on an illogical infatuation with his young twenty-year-old Spanish prodigy, Ricky Rubio, who has shown he can average 6.5 points and 3.5 assists per game against European competition that is inferior to the NBA. Kahn is staking his job on the growth of Ricky Rubio, which is a lot to ask of a twenty-year-old, who will be experiencing vast professional and cultural adjustments.
So Kahn wants an up-tempo coach to assist Ricky Rubio’s development, and Kahn appears to have the outside shooting to play Nellie Ball. For the 2010-11 season, the Minnesota Timberwolves shot 37.6% from beyond the arc, which placed them sixth in the league and allowed the T’wolves to average 101.1 ppg for 12th in the league.
I’m feelin’ Kahn on this one, but his vision of Nellie Ball isn’t going to help Minnesota on the defensive end, where the Timberwolves gave up a league-leading 107.7 ppg, and allowed opponents to shoot .468 from the field for 22nd in the league.
Nellie Ball and Ricky Rubio will not help the Timberwolves play better defense, and in an attempt to save his job and generate fan interest, Kahn is taking the tried and failed approach of playing up-tempo basketball. Fans do want to be entertained, but fans want to be associated with a winner, and aesthetically-pleasing basketball is great to talk about but fans want playoff appearances. Fans want to see their team heading in the right direction, and perhaps that is playing a style of basketball that isn’t based on what will make Ricky Rubio succeed, but what will make Minnesota a competitive NBA franchise.
It’s easy to condemn David Kahn for all of Minnesota’s ills, but Glen Taylor has owned the franchise since 1994, and has been the one constant factor contributing to Minnesota’s torpid level of achievement. Taylor is one of the owners who has predicted that the NBA will go dark for the entire 2011-12 season.
When examining Kahn’s zany draft strategy – Kahn’s propensity for draft day deals and a desire to accrue draft picks – it also becomes clear that the Timberwolves are constantly seeking cash. Glen Taylor has been named by Forbes Magazine, as one of the richest men in America, but he isn’t going to squander a dime on the Timberwolves.
It has been written to death Kahn’s fascination with drafting point guards, but the 2011 Draft Day trade of Jonny Flyyn to the Houston Rockets merits a closer look:
In the 2009 NBA Draft, the Timberwolves selected the Picasso of point guards, Ricky Rubio, with the #5 overall pick in the draft. Minnesota also held the sixth pick, and opted to take Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn – another point guard – with that pick. That daily double, of point guard mania, caused NBA types to raise their eyebrows and inspired huge laughs amongst Kahn’s front office brethren.
Going into the 2011 Draft, Kahn knew that Rubio was ready to bring his continental game to the Twin Cities, and it was time to ditch Jonny Flynn. Throughout the NBA, it was known that the T’wolves had soured on Flynn and that Rubio was The Chosen One – lowering the trade value of Flynn.
Kahn sent Jonny Flynn, the rights to Minnesota’s 20th pick Donatas Motiejunas and 38th pick Chandler Parson to the Houston Rockets. In return, the Timberwolves received thirty-five-year-old veteran center Brad Miller, the rights to the 23rd pick Nikola Mirotic and Houston’s 2013 first-round pick.
What was the purpose of the trade? Kahn was coveting another first-round pick or was Brad Miller the key to the deal?
Flynn is two years removed, from the being the 5th overall pick, and he’s being dealt for a for a thirty-five-year-old center. This doesn’t seem to be consistent with a legitimate rebuilding program, but it bears all the traces of a team looking to become marginally better, and is Brad Miller going to bring fans to the Target Center?
Kahn’s fascination with Rubio has distorted the rebuilding process in Minnesota. Yeah, but Kahn scored a first-round draft choice for Flynn – that’s something. Oh, it’s something, but Daryl Morey is too smart to allow his Rockets to bottom out. That pick is going to be a mid-to-late draft choice, and Kahn will make another boneheaded decision to cancel the value of accruing an additional first-round draft choice.
What’s the value of a draft choice when the person making the picks is clueless?
If Kahn believes he is the Patriots’ Bill Belichick, and is affixing a certain value to draft picks, the NBA is radically different than the NFL. Before the Celtics’ Danny Ainge acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, Ainge understood that draft picks and young talent were the way to lose and lose often in today’s game.
David Kahn is looking for a quick-fix, but Minnesota’s long-term solution isn’t about a the 2011 “fixed” draft, Ricky Rubio or a bevy of first-round choices – the answer is Glen Taylor hiring a competent NBA front office executive.