Posts Tagged ‘Glen Taylor’

Adelman retires, Wolves focus on successor (and keeping Love)

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com

Rick Adelman won more than 1,000 games in a 23-year NBA coaching career. (Noah Graham/NBAE)

Rick Adelman won more than 1,000 games in a 23-year NBA coaching career. (Noah Graham/NBAE)

The residue of another season of expectations not met continued to build in Minnesota, where Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman announced his retirement Monday morning.

Adelman, 67, exits via an option on the fourth year of his contract. The Wolves had targeted a .500 finish and a postseason berth as their goals this season and fell short of both; they posted a 40-42 record and missed the playoffs for the 10th consecutive spring.

“It’s time. It’s time for me to step aside,” Adelman said at a news conference, accompanied by Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders. “I think when we came here, we really tried to see if we couldn’t turn things around. I think we made some strides … not as much as we would like.

“It’s time for someone else to come in.”

Adelman’s departure as coach — he will take on a consultant’s role with the organization  – had been the subject of speculation for weeks, after it became apparent the Wolves would miss what would have been their first playoff berth since 2004. His wife Mary Kay‘s health issues — she began fighting a series of seizures last season, causing him to miss 11 games in 2012-13  – are ongoing, though the veteran coach said they did not lead to this decision.

“If anything, my wife is the one who pushed me. She said, ‘You need to continue doing this,’ ” Adelman said. “Certainly it had an impact but the whole organization has been so great.”

In his three seasons with the Wolves, they went 97-133 and failed to reach .500 all three years. It was the least successful stretch of his 23-year NBA coaching career, during which his teams in Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, Houston and Minnesota compiled a record of 1,042-749 (.582) with 16 postseason appearances. He ranks eighth all-time in NBA coaching victories, and with two trips to The Finals with the Blazers in 1990 and 1992, likely will be enshrined soon in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

While Adelman heads off to his home in Portland without a championship ring, no one should think he didn’t put the work and the urgency into chasing one in Minnesota. Saunders spoke of the coach’s competitiveness.

“He comes across as very even-natured and you might not think he gets excited. But he’s got a burning passion to win,” Saunders said. “Being with him on a daily basis, you could see when we didn’t perform well that it really ate at him.”

Said Adelman: “It’s not that far away [in Minnesota]. Sometimes you want it to happen in a year, sometimes in two years. Sometimes it takes longer than that.

“I wish I could have done more, but I really enjoyed my time. … There’s some sadness but I also think, some relief.”

Saunders said he and owner Glen Taylor have “no timeline” for naming Adelman’s successor. Because this departure isn’t a complete surprise, names of possible replacements have been floated; Iowa State (and former Wolves guard) Fred Hoiberg; Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, a Saunders friend; current Washington assistant coach Sam Cassell, another former Minnesota player; oft-coveted Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, based on alleged friction with the Bulls front office; and Saunders himself.

Prior to his return this season to Minnesota, Saunders had been the winningest coach in Wolves history — 411-326 from 1995-2005 — and later coached in Detroit and Washington, bumping his career mark to 638-526 (.548), with 11 playoff appearances.

The next Wolves coach, whoever it is, will face a top priority of featuring — and courting — All-Star forward Kevin Love, the team’s best player. Love, an MVP-caliber performer (25.9 points, 12.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists per game in 2013-14), can opt out of his contract after next season to become a free agent.

Silver open to tweaks of draft, playoff structure, ‘virtually everything’

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: Adam Silver explains the talking points at the Board of Governors meeting

NEW YORK – With a new NBA commissioner flexing his distinctly collaborative style, working without crises at a “peace time” Board of Governors meeting, the league’s leadership took no significant votes and made no major decisions this week during their two-day Manhattan conclave.

But they sure did a lot of brainstorming and spitballing.

Talk of tweaks carried the day when Adam Silver, not quite three months into the job that David Stern held for three decades, shared Friday with reporters some of the topics in play at this BOG. In committee reports and in general discussion of the full board, they ranged from the pros and cons of a proposed 20-and-under eligibility rule (two years of college, in other words) to new ways of seeding, re-seeding or otherwise modifying the playoffs bracket.

The owners talked about further transparency, both in officiating itself and in the process that oversees the league’s referees. They kicked around ideas great and small related to the draft and the lottery – the “wheel” concept that would have each team picking at each spot in the first round over a 30-year period, as well as a play-in tournament for the No. 1 pick – without pushing toward any conclusion.

Overall, as described by Silver, the tone seemed to be: Things are good. Anyone have any ideas on how we can make them better?

“The league is doing so well right now, I just want to be very deliberate and cautious any major changes,” Silver said, both directly and in various guise underlying a half dozen other comments. If Stern’s effectiveness as commissioner often boiled down to persuasion, arm-twisting and – when all that failed – swift, autocratic management, Silver publicly so far has come across as a facilitator and delegator, seeking out others’ expertise and respecting the work of the BOG’s committees on matters of competition, finance and other league business.

Oh, there were a few clear developments Friday. The NBA entered into a partnership with USA Basketball and the U.S. Department of Defense to support soldiers and their families “through basketball,” with an emphasis on transitioning the armed forces members back to civilian life.

Also, there was a change at the top: San Antonio owner Peter Holt stepped down as chairman of the Board of Governors after 18 months, because of personal commitments. Minnesota’s Glen Taylor, who held that post from 2008 to 2012, takes over again on an interim basis, with a vote for Holt’s successor to be held by the board’s October meeting.

No vote was taken on the Milwaukee Bucks’ pending sale for a whopping $550 million to New York hedge-fund billionaires Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens – the league’s vetting process is underway. But current Bucks owner Herb Kohl introduced the two prospective owners to the board Thursday. Silver said he knows Lasry personally – Lasry owns a small share of the Brooklyn Nets, from which he’d have to divest – and added: “I don’t anticipate there will be any issues, but we’re not there in the process yet.” The sale could be approved without a formal owners meeting, as quickly as in a month or so.

Silver is diligent about process, and why not? The league sets up committees to study its various issues and make recommendations, so there’s value in their findings. The new commissioner also has tapped into leaders from related fields as resources. This time, NCAA president Mark Emmert and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with the owners.

Dempsey’s presence pertained to the “Hoops for Troops” partnership, obviously. But Emmert was there to discuss the NBA’s age-limit for draft prospects and its impact on college basketball and the players.

Silver, at All-Star weekend and in interviews, has talked repeatedly about his preference for raising the eligibility age – he said Friday “a majority” of the owners share that view. He and the league, for practical purposes, have gotten out in front of the NBA players’ union on the topic. After all, it would have to be collectively bargained – written into the existing CBA as an addendum if an agreement were reached, Silver said – and much of the NBPA’s business is on hold while its search for a new executive director grinds on.

But Silver introduced a third party into the coming discussions. “What Dr. Emmert and I agree on is that the NCAA needs to have a seat at the table,” the commissioner said. “If we are going to be successful in raising the age from 19 to 20, part and parcel of those negotiations go to the treatment of those players on college campuses [and] closing the gap between what their scholarships cover and their other incidental expenses.”

Silver didn’t get into any specific incentives, financial or otherwise, that might affect the issue. But he didn’t rule anything out – kind of the theme of the afternoon. Blow through the conference divide to have 10 West playoff teams vs. six East? Open up the instant-replay process to give referees discretion to rule not just on an out-of-bounds possessions but also an unseen foul?

Silver wasn’t ruling anything out.

“This seems like a good time,” he said at one point in Friday’s news conference, “when you have a transition in leadership to take a fresh look at virtually everything.”

Here are some further details on the above:

  • The partnership supporting armed forces members will include exhibition games, clinic, speaking engagements and game tickets, though its primary focus will be the “thousands of service members returning from overseas duty.” Why the NBA? Dempsey, Silver said, ” told us was that basketball is the most popular sport among his troops, and it’s also a highly popular sport among the families of the troops.”
  • Silver had high praise for the league’s competition committee, which is studying playoff structure and other areas of the game with more than the hit-and-run approach of the past. It has moved “towards what I would call an NFL‑style format, where it’s a multi‑day meeting, focused attention from a cross‑section of coaches, general managers [and] owners,” Silver said. “We have a player representative there, as well, and these are the kind of issues where the last thing we wanted to do is make them based on one meeting, owners hearing arguments for the first time.”
  • While not tipping his hand on any tweaks that might blow across traditional conference lines, Silver did mention a factor cited in reverting The Finals this year to a 2-2-1-1-1 format. “You have a system that was designed before all teams traveled by charter,” he said, “and as travel becomes easier, it opens up more windows of opportunity for change.”
  • It is the competitiveness of NBA general managers that underlies the one-and-done scenarios and issues, Silver said. “It doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “If these great young players are available, our teams will draft them. Whether they’ll ultimately turn out to be wise draft picks is a whole separate issue.” Requiring two years after high school – in NCAA hoops, in the D League, in Europe, wherever – would get NBA scouts out of high school gyms, boost the college game, deliver to NBA teams more developed rookies and put players in a pro environment when they might be a little better equipped to thrive. But the NBPA still has to weigh in.
  • Silver wasn’t asked directly about “tanking” or, er, rebuilding teams whose seasons now are done. But he did take a question about playoff teams in the final days of the schedule manipulating their rotations in what appeared to be playoff-positioning. “I’d just begin by saying it’s the last area I think the league should be legislating, and that is minutes players play,” he responded. “I mean, we have some of the greatest coaches in the world in this league and highly sophisticated teams, and so it’s part of managing player time.”
  • Who’s to say that rest and recuperation aren’t the driving forces in the final week, Silver suggested. “We have a long playoffs,” he said. “It’s part of the drama over a seven‑game series. It’s the match‑ups, it’s the reactions. Again, it’s the pairings of particular players against each other. It’s sort of the chess playing among our coaches, and I think resting players becomes all part of that.”
  • Silver said that Milwaukee’s Kohl – who has owned the Bucks since 1985, has included in the sales agreement that the team remain in town, and has pledged that he and the new owners each will contribute $100 million to a new arena – was lauded by the board. “The owners were amazed at the personal contribution [former U.S. Senator] Kohl announced to the city of Milwaukee,” Silver said. “It’s unprecedented for an owner to make a $100 million contribution to his community.”

The round of applause Kohl received in the room reflected that, the commissioner said. Establishing a price of $550 million for what historically has been the NBA’s least valuable franchise might have had a little to do with the clapping, too.

McHale, Saunders Face Off In Role Reversal

A hot Houston Rockets team will play the banged up-and-sputtering Timberwolves on a cold Monday night in Minnesota (8 ET, NBA TV). Three of the Western Conference’s 12 All-Stars will be on hand – Dwight Howard and James Harden for the Rockets, Kevin Love for the Wolves if he’s able to play through the thigh bruise that sidelined him Saturday. And the visitors who have won five in a row will challenge the hosts who have lost five of their last six.

Pretty straightforward stuff – except there will be a subplot in play, too, one that seems bounced off a funhouse mirror to those familiar with the history:

Kevin McHale, NBA coach vs. Flip Saunders, CBO (chief basketball officer).

“I don’t think anyone anticipated, 37 years out of college, that’s how it would be,” Saunders said.

Clear early path for duo

Minnesota Timberwolves

Ex-Wolves GM Kevin McHale (left) and ex-coach Flip Saunders led Minnesota to new heights of success in the 2000s.

For a decade – from 1995 to 2005 – the two were partners in the best stretch in Wolves franchise history, stringing together eight playoff appearances and advancing to the Western Conference finals in 2004. They traveled together to Kevin Garnett‘s first audition/workout in Chicago and walked out of the gym mapping their draft strategy.

McHale and Saunders pulled long hours on Draft nights, at least when they had their full set of picks – the Joe Smith salary-cap scandal in 2000 happened on their watch, costing the team three first-rounders as part of the penalties. And the pair, despite some differences in temperament and style, generally presented a unified front.

Always, though, it was McHale sitting upstairs, Saunders working the sideline.

McHale never had wanted to coach. Saunders never seemed to want to do anything but. The former, upon retiring in 1993 after his 13-season Hall of Fame career in Boston, served as color man on Wolves broadcasts until new owner Glen Taylor hired him as VP of basketball operations in 1995. McHale had done the day-to-day grind of NBA life. He had a family to raise, a lake home in Minnesota and an NBA team to run but at something less than a frenetic pace.

Saunders aspired to be a coach from the start, taking the job at Golden Valley Lutheran College right out of school – he was McHale’s point guard for a year (1976-77) at the University of Minnesota – rather than hold a clipboard on some other coach’s staff. He did spend a chunk of the 1980s as an assistant at Minnesota and the University of Tulsa but was in the CBA from 1988-95 in Rapid City (S.D.), La Crosse (Wis.) and Sioux Falls (S.D.). Saunders won two championships, two Coach of the Year awards and 253 games in seven seasons.

His hiring by McHale in 1995 was a foregone conclusion and the realization of a dream that flickered on about the time Minnesota got its expansion franchise. You get the VP job, I’ll come in as coach. Or I’ll hire you to coach when I take get my shot in the front office.

Either way, it was the the natural, logical order of things.

Until the Wolves slipped badly from their 2003-04 peak. On Feb. 12, 2005, at 25-26 after a lifeless loss at Utah the night before, McHale fired Saunders and took over as interim coach.

The move was a stunner but triggered a 19-12 finish and a narrow miss of the playoffs that Minnesota hasn’t had since. McHale went back upstairs for four years before doing the interim thing again in December 2008. This time – with less talent provided by architect McHale but an intriguing rookie named Love – the Wolves went 20-43.

When Taylor turned to David Kahn in spring 2009 to run the basketball operation – an odd hire that got worse from there – McHale was out.

Duo enjoys new life in new roles


VIDEO: Flip Saunders is introduced as the Wolves new GM

Saunders during all this time had kept landing on his feet, his thick offensive playbook accompanying him to Detroit and Washington. The Pistons won 176 games in three seasons for him, reaching the East finals each time before president Joe Dumars canned him. The Washington gig changed beneath him when Gilbert Arenas went outlaw in the locker room, and the Wizards’ plan of contending got turned by a swift purge of knuckleads into a rebuild.

That led to two more stunning moves: McHale returning to coaching and Saunders returning to the Wolves.

Both had strong elements of righting wrongs.

McHale’s wit and personality were serving him well as an analyst for TNT and NBA TV, but all the jokes and chatter felt like riding the team bus without any real games. Larry Bird came back this season with a competitive itch and that’s what his old Celtics teammate is scratching these days too.

“I think the years out of it, he missed the fight,” said Rockets assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who also was on McHale’s Minnesota staff in 2008-09. “He missed the competition. I think that pushed him. You sit in meetings with him, you hear the stories about what it was like competing for championships. And you can see it in him every day.”

Howard appreciates the Top 50 big man who tutored Love and Al Jefferson. “He’s been through the battles,” Howard said. “He understands the grind of an NBA season. So when we have those games where we’re not making shots, he doesn’t come in and off on us. He says what we need to do.”


VIDEO: Kevin McHale talks with GameTime about the challenges of coaching

Said McHale: “It’s more taxing but it’s more fun. You live and die it when you’re a GM, too, really. Now you’ve got more control. I really enjoy it. We’re having a great time in Texas. I really enjoy the guys.”

In Minnesota, Saunders’ return in essentially McHale’s old job – with a sliver of minority ownership – came through his skill in never burning bridges and, frankly, Taylor’s desperation to bring in someone he knew after the Kahn debacle. The Wolves owner was on the brink of selling before Saunders convinced him they should recommit together.

This job isn’t what he loves most about basketball – Saunders often has said of coaching, “There are no highs that are as high and no lows that are as low” – but it’s one that suits him now. And it has way better job security, as Dumars continues to demonstrate in Detroit.

“What makes this more frustrating is that you really don’t have control,” Saunders said, offering the, er, flip side of McHale’s comment. “The coach is the one who watches the film and decides, ‘What do we have to do to get better?’ People ask if I miss it. What’s happened is, we’ve had so many things since I took over to change our vision.”

Friendship frays over the years

Saunders inherited a Hall of Fame-worthy coach, Rick Adelman, with his own proven system and a team still relying on three McHale acquisitions: Love, Nikola Pekovic and Corey Brewer, the 2007 draft pick back for a second stint. Saunders’ own first draft went sideways when the players he eyed at No. 9 were off the board; in an audible, he picked and shipped Trey Burke to Utah for what became Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, neither of whom have shown much in limited roles.

Injuries (Love, Pekovic, key free-agent addition Kevin Martin) are a problem lately, and at 24-27 in the West, the goal of a postseason berth looks lofty, even as Love’s 2015 opt-out makes it urgent.

Saunders’ and McHale’s paths crossed a few times when they were in their previous positions – McHale upstairs, Saunders in Detroit or Washington – and once with both on the sidelines. The Rockets beat the Wizards at the Verizon Center, 114-106, a week before Saunders’ got fired and turned to an ESPN TV job for a spell.

At Target Center Monday, besides the role reversals, there will be another big change: the loss of their friendship. Maybe it’s as simple as what can happen when one pal becomes another pal’s boss, but little or no niceties pass between them anymore.

“We talk,” Saunder said earlier this season. “When I got the job, he reached out and congratulated me. [The friendship] is not the same, more than anything else, because of where we’re both at. It’s an awkward istuation for someone in my position to be calling and talking to another team’s coach. Even though I talk a lot to Doc [Rivers].”

Asked about it over the weekend in Milwaukee, McHale shrugged.

Two friends who came a long way together have grown quite a ways apart, doing what they love in the other man’s role.

Pek Gets Five, Love Got Four, So Do The Timberwolves Get Some Angst?

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Helicopters presumably are hovering over Kevin Love at this moment, “Goodfellas”-style, anticipating some sort of cut-and-run, Bronco-chase reaction to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ re-signing Wednesday of center Nikola Pekovic.

Pekovic, you should know, reportedly received a deal worth $60 million over five years. Which, rather famously, is one more year than the extension to which the Wolves signed Love in January 2012. Since-fired exec David Kahn was adamant in not using the designated-player mechanism available to a player coming off his rookie deal to bump Love’s deal (four years, $61 million) to five years. The All-Star power forward took that as a slight, on top of a pure business setback.

Instantly, the opt-out that Love did get built into the extension after the 2014-15 season was seen throughout the NBA as his escape hatch from an unhappy work situation. It’s a perception that continued right through the spring after Love made some comments in a Yahoo! story suggesting he was less than a happy Wolves camper.

So when Flip Saunders, Kahn’s replacement, talked with reporters Wednesday about the Pekovic signing, he was asked about the potential that Love might feel neglected anew, what with the big man next to him – who trails Love in All-Star selections, 2-0, and in Olympic gold, 1-0 – getting a guarantee until the summer of 2018.

“We talked about a lot of things,” Saunders said of his recent conversations with Love. “What I’ve been impressed about Kevin Love, more than anything, Kevin wants to win. As we talked about Pek, he just said, ‘You have to do what you have to do.’

“I think he really understands and he believes that I don’t have a certain way I’m going to do things. I don’t know what’s been done in the past – I really don’t care. So as he said, we’re just moving forward, both on the basketball court and every other thing.”

The Wolves do have that to explain any inconsistency in negotiating tactics. Kahn was Kahn, with whom Love did not click for a variety of reasons, and he’s gone now. As a restricted free agent, Pekovic didn’t have much leverage but then, coming off his rookie deal, neither did Love.

Also, there’s nothing to prevent Love and the Wolves locking the double-double machine in for five seasons with his next extension. Nothing either now, frankly, from the Wolves — with owner Glen Taylor’s needed blessing, of course — using the designated-player slot on Ricky Rubio so that all their main guys are together for the long term.

It might also help sell Love that his agent, Jeff Schwartz, happens to be Pekovic’s guy too. It wouldn’t be cool if Schwartz, in a couple of years, were to turn around and point to the Pekovic deal as a reason for Love’s opt-out exit.

“This signing of Pek,” Saunders said, “will in no way hinder anything having to do with Ricky down the road or with Kevin Love. … This league has proven you have to have, quote-unquote, three star-type players. Three players at their respective positions who are going to be considered probably in the top five in the league.”

As for Love, who is expected to return with a vengeance this fall to delete bad mojo of his 2012-13 lost to a twice-broken hand, Saunders said his inside-outside threat is hitting the offseason hard.

“He’s looking to come in at about the same weight as he did when he had his big breakout year,” Saunders said, saying Love is at 242 now. “He’s doing a lot of cross training. Yoga every day. Some other training, weights. … Shooting. I don’t think he’s over-wearing one part of his body out. He’s got a great attitude, he’s been very involved with both me in conversation and with our organization. I feel extremely confident that he’s showing some leadership.”

If he’s not, there’s always the helicopters. Or easier yet, Twitter.

Saunders Likely Back In Minny, Kahn Out

Flip Saunders is expected to take over for David Kahn in Minnesota. (by Ned Dishman/NBAE)

Flip Saunders is expected to take over for David Kahn in Minnesota. (by Ned Dishman/NBAE)

Former NBA head coach Flip Saunders is expected to return to the Minnesota Timberwolves as the team’s next president of basketball operations, NBA.com has learned.

Saunders, 58, has been negotiating a contract that, with option years, could run through the 2017-18 season and could be worth more than $9 million over the full five years, according to league sources who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the hiring.

The move, which could become official as soon as next week, would end David Kahn‘s controversial tenure after four seasons and an 89-223 record during which the Timberwolves’ failure to reach the playoffs stretched to nine consecutive seasons. Kahn’s contract includes a team option for 2013-14 that will not be exercised.

Minnesota owner Glen Taylor and Saunders had been meeting in recent weeks, with Taylor confirming a report in March that Saunders was representing a group of prospective buyers interested in purchasing the franchise. Taylor, who turned 72 last week, has been seeking a minority investor or investors who eventually could take over majority control of the club.

Saunders, contacted Thursday evening in Bristol, Conn., where he was working as an NBA studio analyst for ESPN, neither confirmed nor denied his return to the Wolves.

“That’s the same speculation that was out there last month,” he said.

Taylor did not return phone messages seeking comment. He has told associates he would not discuss the matter with the media.

Saunders is the most successful coach in Minnesota franchise history, posting a 411-326 record in 9 1/2 seasons and steering the team to eight consecutive playoff berths. His time with the Wolves coincided with forward Kevin Garnett‘s ascendancy from high school draftee to perennial All-Star, NBA Most Valuable Player in 2004 and shoo-in Hall of Famer.

The 2003-04 team reached the Western Conference finals before falling to the Lakers’ last Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant team. But the expectations that success fueled led to Saunders’ firing in February 2005 after stumbling to a 25-26 mark.

He later coached the Detroit Pistons, going 176-70 from 2005-2008 near the end of the Pistons’ dominant Eastern Conference run, and the Washington Wizards, where the Gilbert Arenas gun situation blew up a potential playoff team. The Wizards went 51-130 with Saunders before he was fired in January 2012. Last spring, Saunders served as a consultant to the Boston Celtics at the invitation of coach Doc Rivers. He joined ESPN’s NBA coverage crew this season.

A native of Cleveland and a point guard at the University of Minnesota, Saunders coached in college and then for seven seasons in the Continental Basketball Association. He was brought to the Wolves in May 1995 by former Gophers teammate Kevin McHale as Minnesota’s general manager, then added head coaching duties when Bill Blair was fired seven months later, in December of Garnett’s rookie season.

Saunders shed the GM title in the wake of Minnesota’s salary-cap violations uncovered in 2000 in its signing forward Joe Smith. A series of illegal contracts, including future seasons after Smith played for what was considered to be less than market value for two years, ultimately cost the franchise three No. 1 draft picks and a $3.5 million fine, still the largest in NBA history. Taylor was suspended for one year and McHale, the Wolves’ VP of basketball operations at the time, agreed to take a leave of absence for the 2000-01 season.

Sources close to Saunders say that, since exiting the Wizards job, he is comfortable with the prospect of a front-office job rather than a future coaching position. Despite his firing in Minnesota in 2005, Saunders and Taylor have maintained a good relationship.

David Kahn (by David Sherman/NBAE)

David Kahn (by David Sherman/NBAE)

Kahn, hired in May 2009, took over a team that had missed the playoffs for five seasons and had posted losing records in the most recent four. He began an aggressive overhaul of the roster – more than one, eventually – and drew immediate criticism for drafting point guards with both the Nos. 5 and 6 picks that spring. Ricky Rubio, a heavily scouted prospect who fell to Minnesota after a poor workout with Sacramento, spent two more years in Spain before coming to the NBA and becoming one of the league’s bright young stars. Syracuse product Jonny Flynn, however, was a disappointment from the start and most recently played in an Australian pro league.

Wesley Johnson, the No. 4 pick in 2010, and Derrick Williams, the highest pick in Wolves history at No. 2 in 2011, also have been underwhelming in their young NBA careers. Other trades have helped rival clubs more than they have Minnesota (Al Jefferson and Corey Brewer). And after four years under Kahn, two of the Wolves’ three best players – All-Star power forward Kevin Love and center Nikola Pekovic – were scouted and drafted by McHale.

Kahn — a former sportswriter who got a law degree, worked in the Indiana Pacers’ front office and served as an executive in the NBA Development League — also made a pair of dubious, expensive signings. In July 2010, he signed failed big man-turned-NBA punchline Darko Milicic to a four-year, $20 million contract (though not fully guaranteed). The Timberwolves used the amnesty clause to rid themselves of Milicic in July 2012.

Also last summer, the Wolves lured Portland guard Brandon Roy out of injury-driven retirement with a two-year, $10 million deal; Roy lasted only five games this season before knee problems shelved him again. Kahn did sign Andrei Kirilenko back into the NBA after the former Utah forward’s one-year hiatus in Europe and added backcourt help via Alexey Shved of the Russian national team.

Kahn’s first hire as head coach, Kurt Rambis, went 32-132 in two seasons before being fired. His replacement, Rick Adelman, got the Wolves to 26-40 in the post-lockout 2011-12 season, then provided roster input that led to the acquisition of players such as Chase Budinger and Dante Cunningham and the departures of Milicic, Johnson and Michael Beasley, among others.

A rash of injuries this season – from Rubio’s remaining rehab of his March 2012 knee surgery to Love’s twice-broken hand, with significant games also lost by Budinger, Roy, Kirilenko and more – thwarted what Taylor, Kahn, Adelman and Minnesota fans felt would be the pursuit of a playoff berth. Taylor said in March that the injuries made it difficult to fully assess the team’s or Kahn’s performance. But sources said Taylor also planned to evaluate Kahn’s rapport with people inside the organization and in the NBA.

Adelman’s status for 2013-14 remains uncertain while his wife Mary Kay‘s health issues continue to be addressed. The veteran coach missed 11 games while doctors in Minnesota worked to determine the cause of her seizures.

Adelman, who will turn 67 in June, returned to pick up the 1,000th victory of his coaching career and has talked optimistically about the current roster’s potential. He and Saunders reportedly have a good relationship after years of competing on NBA sidelines, and the Wolves are hopeful that Adelman decides to return.

How Not To Treat — Or Act Like — A Superstar, Northwoods Edition



Give Kevin Love credit for this much: he didn’t say that he didn’t say what he supposedly and, as it turns out, most definitely said.

Yeah, those comments offered up to Yahoo! Sports  were all his, the Minnesota All-Star power forward acknowledged to reporters after the team’s practice Wednesday. His critical, grumpy, even petulant-sounding remarks about the Timberwolves, his bosses and his less-than-desired contract experience were accurate. But he also said he did not like the tone of the story and that he talked about other, more upbeat topics about the Wolves that apparently got left on the cutting-room floor. Like his tendency to use perceived slights for motivation.

Here is some of the offending quotage as told to Yahoo! NBA guy Adrian Wojnarowski in a piece largely focused on the decision by Wolves management to offer and sign Love to an extension for four years rather than five:

“I don’t know who labels people stars, but even [T'wolves owner] Glen Taylor said: I don’t think Kevin Love is a star, because he hasn’t led us to the playoffs,” Love told Yahoo! Sports. “I mean, it’s not like I had much support out there.

“That’s a tough pill to swallow.”

No, Kevin Love isn’t over Taylor and GM David Kahn refusing him what he had earned. He isn’t over Kahn marching into the trainer’s room after a loss and thrusting a contract offer sheet into his hands. Where else does it work that way in the NBA? “I’m not the one to always follow professional protocol – but I do know what it is, even at 24 years old,” Love says.

Love also is quoted talking about the broken hand he suffered in training camp and speculation within the franchise that maybe he had hurt it in some way besides the “knuckle push-ups” he claimed. He questions Kahn’s performance and vision, and Wojnarowski provides context (Minnesota had the sixth, fourth and second overall draft picks from 2009 to 2011 and came away with disappointments Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson and Derrick Williams). That has led to a crazy-quilt of roster building. “You walk into the locker room every year, and it’s completely turned over,” Love said. “You start to wonder: Is there really a plan here? Is there really any kind of a … plan?”

But most of the piece dwells on Love’s disenchantment with the franchise and the prospect that he could leave via an opt-out clause in 2015.

Love will never get over how badly he wanted the designation as the Wolves’ franchise player, how deeply he believed it had been deserved and how Kahn was so smugly defiant in refusing to recognize it. When the Wolves should’ve been throwing a parade that Love wanted a five-year maximum contract designation a year ago, the franchise could forever regret the consequences of telling a superstar player he wasn’t worth that commitment.

For as foolish as it was to tell a first-team All-NBA forward, an Olympian, that that the Wolves would be saving the super max deal for someone else, Taylor and Kahn somehow gave into Love’s insistence of an opt-out after the third year of the four-year deal. Privately, Kahn has told people that he isn’t worried, that the Wolves can pay Love the most money on the market and that he doesn’t believe he’ll leave for less.

It’s a terrible miscalculation.

The story, obviously, went viral in Minnesota, dividing the Twin Cities like Moses’ staff, only not along traditional Minneapolis vs. St. Paul allegiances. No, this split is between those who blame the Wolves for messing with the team’s first superstar since Kevin Garnett in a star-dependent league and those irritated by what sounds like ego and lack of appreciation from a 24-year-old grumbling that he had to settle for $62 million rather than $80 million.

It’s not that simple, of course. Love know he is set financially for life, not just off his current deal but whatever he lands after that, whenever and wherever. But it was the statement Kahn and Taylor made by holding back that fifth year compared to, say, the way Chicago embraced Derrick Rose, not just with five years but without even offering or being asked for an out clause.

Are the Wolves holding that five-year deal (the CBA permits a club to extend only one player that long) for Ricky Rubio? Does it have anything to do with Rubio being a Kahn draft pick – he fell into the Wolves’ laps at No. 5 in 2009, right before Kahn grabbed the point guard he liked – and Love being a leftover from Kevin McHale‘s regime?

As for the team’s prospects as a perennial contender, coach Rick Adelman – a longtime Love pal from their days in the Portland area, where the Wolves star hooped with an Adelman son – has organized the basketball operation on and off the court. He even has increased his personnel input. But Adelman is 66, Andrei Kirilenko and Luke Ridnour will both turn 32 this season and, well, Kahn’s track record remains as spotty as ever.

From the Wolves’ side, there was the issue of Taylor, a central figure in the 2011 lockout as chairman of the NBA’s Board of Governors, almost immediately handing out a contract of maximum length and cost so soon after a claimed fiscal crisis. And the truth is, Love – two-time All-Star, U.S. gold medal-winner, rare inside-outside threat as a top rebounder and 3-point – hadn’t put Minnesota on his back to a playoff berth the way, oh, Rose (with way more help) had.

Missing the start of the season with the broken hand surely didn’t help Love’s mood. His push-back from basketball after the London Olympics had him returning in less than his stellar shape last season. He resumed life as a double-double machine, but his accuracy has been way off – 38.2 FG percent, 21.6 from the arc and 67.4 from the line thanks to the bum hand – and the Wolves are only 4-5 since he’s been back. Team insiders have caught him arguing calls with refs rather than getting back on defense, or holding his 3-point form rather than crashing the boards when he misses.

Soon, maybe even this week, there’s the prospect of Rubio coming back and igniting the 9-9 team again the way he did as a rookie. If that happens, maybe the charismatic point guard would be more deserving of the five-year deal.

He’d have to want to stay in Minnesota, mind you, despite the prospect of Love leaving.

League Mourns Loss Of Sasha McHale

The Houston Rockets and the NBA family are mourning the loss of Alexandra “Sasha” McHale, daughter of Rockets coach Kevin McHale. Sasha McHale was just 23-years-old when she passed away Saturday afternoon in Minnesota.

From the Houston Chronicle

McHale has been on a leave of absence to be with his daughter and his family in Minneapolis since Nov. 10. His daughter has long battled lupus, an auto-immune disease, and was hospitalized with a related condition.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander released a statement Sunday morning

“I extend my deepest condolences to Kevin and Lynn for the loss of their beautiful daughter, Sasha, on Saturday afternoon. Kevin and Lynn are loving and dedicated parents who will need our continued support throughout this very difficult time. Our entire organization is mourning the McHale family’s loss and we ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”

Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, for whom McHale worked for 15 years, issued a statement as well..

“On behalf of the entire Minnesota Timberwolves organization, we are extremely saddened to learn about the passing of Sasha. While Kevin was with our organization, we all watched Sasha grow up, and become an outstanding young woman. She will be sorely missed by her family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kevin, Lynn and the entire McHale family.”

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Rubio’s knee, not timetable, matters

 

They waited two years for him after spending the No. 5 pick in the 2009 draft on a worth-the-gamble move. What’s the big deal if the Minnesota Timberwolves have to wait another three months? Or even four?

Ricky Rubio wants to be ready when he’s ready.

Only days shy of a training camp he’ll experience mostly as a bystander, Rubio continued his rehabilitation from knee surgery at the team’s practice facility. He is one of several NBA guards (Derrick Rose, Eric Maynor, Iman Schumpert) fighting back from torn ligaments, each on a timetable dictated less by the date of his injury than his body’s reaction to the repair.

Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune caught up with Rubio Thursday:

Back running on his surgically repaired knee for the third week now, … Rubio stopped long enough Thursday at Target Center to show off three scars that stripe his left leg and said he could play his next NBA game by December, nine months after he tore two ligaments there.

“I don’t know, they say December, but it could be January,” he said. “I don’t want to say a time because I don’t want to rush it. I want to be ready when I am ready.” (more…)

Love Liking Wolves’ Summer Moves

 

Not so long ago, Kevin Love didn’t seem like the happiest of campers regarding his whereabouts, present or future, with the Timberwolves of Minnesota.

Nothing against the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but Love was weary of playing for the Franchise of 10,000 Mistakes

In his five NBA seasons, Minnesota had lost nearly 74 percent of its games (104-290). He was the only member of Team USA this summer (newbie Anthony Davis excepted) who never has tasted the playoffs. The Wolves roster last season still looked like a halfway house for players of doomed potential. And Love wasn’t thrilled when owner Glen Taylor and basketball president David Kahn played hardball and held fast to a four- rather than five-year contract extension. That early-out after three years started looking good almost immediately.

But Love’s spirits clearly seemed buoyed Tuesday by his experiences at the London Olympics and some time away from the Wolves’ 2011-12 grind. He met with some Twin Cities media types sporting a fancy bauble around his neck and some sincere optimism for a team that largely has been made over. Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote:

On Tuesday, he showed off his Olympic gold medal at a summer-ending Target Center news conference and declared himself pleased with management’s moves that included adding veteran Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Lou Amundson as well as Greg Stiemsma and Alexey Shved while letting Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Darko Milicic and others go.

“There’s definitely a different feel going into the locker room, definitely a different feel just being down there playing with those guys,” said Love, who arrived back in the Twin Cities from Southern California late last week. “I’m really excited, I’m really excited about this team. … I think we’ve definitely added value to this team. I think the locker room is going to be great. I think the players we have on this team can make an immediate impact.”

(more…)

Rubio’s Return Ahead Of Schedule?

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – While the Chicago Bulls proceed with caution in regard to Derrick Rose‘s recovery, the Minnesota Timberwolves are optimistic about the eventual return of Ricky Rubio.

Rubio tore his ACL on March 9, 50 days before Rose. The Bulls see Rose coming back after the All-Star break, while Wolves owner Glen Taylor believes that Rubio could be a little ahead of that relative timeline, as Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press writes

Taylor said he could only guess when Rubio will be healthy enough to play after coming off March knee surgery. The Wolves will open the season Nov. 2.

“The doctors said he was progressing faster than normal, and normal was supposed to be in January,” Taylor said Tuesday, Aug. 14, a day before heading to China on a two-week charity mission. “Faster than normal would be December. He’s going to start running and stuff in a few weeks.”

That’s good news for Wolves fans, because their team was not the same without Rubio last season, going 5-20 after his injury. You’d think that they would have fallen off offensively, but a look at the numbers reveals that Rubio’s absence was felt much more on the other end of the floor.

Wolves efficiency before and after Rubio injury

Timeframe W L Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
Before injury 21 20 95.7 101.6 100.7 +0.9
After injury 5 20 96.3 101.3 108.3 -7.1

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
(more…)