Rambis to find winning won't be the only thing with Timberwolves
To review: L.A. got the Lakers from Minneapolis, along with
As tilted transactions go, this ranks somewhere between
Much later, most likely. Rambis -- who was to be introduced formally to Twin Cities media and fans Tuesday afternoon -- might want to go back to the sports-safety spectacles for a spell, given how blue-collar his new job is and how much heavy lifting will be involved. From the NBA's heights to its briny depths, from a spot next to
This is a franchise whose ambition at the moment is to lead the NBA in "player development," which is like a blind date determined to lead the league in personality. It's a modest goal, maybe even a reachable goal, dispatching assistant coaches and trainers hither and yon through the offseason to put players through their workout paces. But it stirs neither the adrenaline nor the imagination and, with training camp for 2009-10 barely seven weeks away, suggests a lot more squish than sizzle.
"I have this idea in my head that I hope that a year from now we can become recognized around the league as the leaders in player development," Wolves president
At least the Wolves want to excel at something besides cornering the expiring-contracts market or padding the all-time NBA, single-franchise record for fines and penalties (Minnesota got whacked by the league last week for prematurely releasing its schedule, along with Houston and Cleveland, but still holds a sizable lead in penalties thanks to the
"There are a lot of teams that do it well, but I don't know if anybody can be considered the league leader," Kahn said. "I think it's something that we should strive for. It would be a good thing for us to have a reputation as at least among the league leaders."
Player development was one of the three "thresholds" Kahn used in finalizing his search for a coach to replace McHale. The other two were the ability and willingness to coach a running, up-tempo style, and "player-management issues, meaning playing time." In other words, sticking with an on-the-job training program until it hurts, absorbing losses for the potential greater good of gaining experience. Said Kahn: "We're just not in the position where it's important where you play just the veteran guys to try and squeak out a couple more wins."
Presumably, based on the 22 and 24 victories Minnesota has amassed the past two seasons, that third threshold has been in place for a while.
All three of Kahn's finalists for the position are said to have agreed to the thresholds. That suggests that
"I did have a final call with Kurt, one final call, to cover these areas because they were so important to me," Kahn said. "I did want to make myself absolutely sure. Then we talked about these things [during a meeting with team owner
Kahn invoked some of the buzzwords of Rambis' hoops past, but was careful to attach an asterisk to each lest Minnesota fans get carried away. As in, every Showtime*, Kareem* and running-game* reference was qualified with a "Now I'm not saying that we ... '' comment about the Wolves' transition game or use of
"I told him, while we wouldn't banish the word, the goal here is not to become a triangle team," Kahn said. "The triangle has proven itself and then some [under Phil Jackson with the Bulls and Lakers]. But I feel with our personnel ... we want to be known as a fast-breaking team that can also flow into some half court."
Good thing, since the box in which the Wolves currently find themselves has six sides, not just three. They have miles to go in achievement on the court, in respect around the league and in fan support, so the faster they break toward that, the quicker they might get there.
The hiring of Rambis was an initial hit, at least, generating 87.7 percent favorable responses in a quickie Twin Cities newspaper poll. That probably has much to do with his familiarity compared to the strangers and unknowns who have made most Wolves news lately. Kahn was out of the league for nearly a decade before having the franchise's keys flipped to him this spring.
Rambis, by comparison, is a known quantity even with a meager 24-13 mark as Lakers fill-in coach in 1999. He's the guy with the glasses. Hard-nosed. Took that McHale licking and kept on ticking, finally getting a little payback now for the takedown.