A Northwest Division team has appeared in the Western Conference Finals four of the last six seasons, but with the top-seeded Thunder on early summer vacation after their loss to the Grizzlies, that trend has come to an end. The focus now shifts to offseason movement, and we've got the latest on a pair of Northwest teams here:
In the wake of David Kahn's dismissal as the Timberwolves' head of basketball operations, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune sat down with Kahn for an extensive interview about his time running the team. The entire piece is very much worth your time, particularly if you're a fan of the T-Wolves, as Kahn goes into detail on the club's decision not to give Kevin Love a five-year deal, the hirings of Kurt Rambis and Rick Adelman, how missing Kenneth Faried inspired a scouting overhaul, and plenty more. Here are a few of the more notable quotes from Kahn in the four-part feature:
On how well positioned he has left the Wolves:
"Highly well positioned. I think it’s a team that’s a force to be reckoned with the next seven to 10 years. Very few teams, when you think about it, have the star power contained in Ricky [Rubio] and Kevin. [Nikola] Pekovic is becoming a significant player at his position in the league. You have [Andrei] Kirilenko, [Alexey] Shved, [J.J.] Barea, [Chase] Budinger, there’s a lot and I’m leaving people out. There’s just a lot of talent on the roster and it’s mostly young talent, mid-20s and under. I think the team is very well positioned to make a serious run these next several years. The organization is better positioned than it was and the facilities are better. We made major strides and upgrades in almost every area of the franchise because frankly, when I arrived here, this was a very distressed situation."
On the decision to draft Jonny Flynn sixth overall in 2009:
"I’m hired on May 22nd, 2009. There are four GMs or assistant GMs who have been scouting the entire year and one of their complaints to me was that despite all their scouting work in the past, in the end nobody would listen to them and my predecessor would take who he wanted to take.... We needed a point guard on the team, we knew Ricky couldn’t come.... And so the scouts had Flynn as the No. 1 point guard. And I had just emerged from several meetings where all they were saying to me was nobody ever listens to us and I like Jonny too, so please don’t mistake that. I could see a lot of the appeal and so to that extent, that’s the reason that pick was made."
On signing Darko Milicic to a four-year, $20MM contract:
"Kurt Rambis and Dave Wohl both were big proponents of making the trade. And once we obtained Darko, I could see what they were talking about. Darko has enormous skills. Both Kurt and Bill Laimbeer played the big-man position in the league and they felt if it ever worked out for him psychologically, he could be one of the top three or four centers in the league. And again the risk point was quite low when we made the trade and even the contract we gave him that many people talked about was really no more than what a backup center gets in our league this days, about $4MM a year. We didn’t pay him as a starting center even though we had him ticketed as our starting center. So I think there were some reasons to do it and I recognize those reasons even today."
On rumors that Kahn was willing to trade Love for Anthony Randolph in 2010:
"Not true. I never have ever wanted to trade Kevin, ever. And there was no way as I sat in the chair that I would have recommended to the owner that we do so. That’s a fact."
On whether the cap relief gained by trading Al Jefferson made the deal worthwhile:
"Absolutely. First of all, there’s no way Kevin would have had a breakout if Al had still been here. Too many people focus all the time on the offensive end of the court and not enough on the defensive end. The issue isn’t can Al and Kevin co-exist offensively. The issue is the strain it puts on a team defensively because we’re short and we don’t change ends very well and it already was becoming a huge issue for our team. And so the trick was to have the kind of financial flexibility for that season and beyond. Al’s number was going to suck up a lot of room and would make a lot of moves almost to make. We needed that kind of relief to let Kevin breathe on the court and to let the roster breathe financially so we could make some other changes. Having not to take back salaries that added up to him was critically important because usually when you do that you’re just perpetuating the same kind of bottleneck. We needed to eliminate the bottleneck."
On whether Kahn wants to stay in the league:
"I don’t know yet. When all the speculation the last couple weeks started to incur, I had a call from inside basketball and from outside basketball. So I don’t know yet. I’ll stay here and attend to some affairs for now. There’s a lot to do."
3:38pm: The Wolves have officially announced their decision to decline Kahn's '13/14 option (Twitter link).
2:53pm: The Timberwolves have parted ways with general manager David Kahn, electing not to pick up his 2013/14 option, reports Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press (via Twitter). The news comes on the heels of an NBA.com report that indicated the Wolves were expected to hire Flip Saunders to replace Kahn's as the team's head of basketball operations. According to Krawczynski, Saunders' deal should be made official by Friday (Twitter link).
Although Kahn made a handful of solid moves running the T-Wolves over the past four seasons, including drafting Ricky Rubio and hiring Rick Adelman, he had his fair share of missteps as well. Passing on Stephen Curry to draft Jonny Flynn in 2009, overpaying Darko Milicic to a long-term deal, and electing not to sign Kevin Love to the five-year extension Love had been seeking are a few of Kahn's lowlights.
As for Saunders, he had been representing a group interested in buying the T-Wolves from Taylor, with Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link) hearing from a source last week that perhaps Saunders' hiring means Taylor is closer to selling the franchise. Wolfson adds today (via Twitter) that Saunders has been asked about making a financial investment in the franchise in addition to assuming the team's presidency.
According to Steve Aschburner of NBA.com, Saunders has been negotiating a contract that could run through the 2017/18 season and be worth more than $9MM, if option years are exercised. Details of that contract are being finalized, says Krawczynski.
8:22pm: Sources tell Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press that Taylor has yet to decide who'll run the team's basketball operations next season. Saunders told KFXN-FM in Minneapolis that he has not yet been formally offered a job with the Wolves.
6:24pm: Kahn responded to the report in a text message to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, saying that he and Taylor have held conversations about the team's offseason plans, including free agency. Kahn's understanding is that he and Taylor will meet regarding his job status once coach Rick Adelman makes his decision about whether to return for next season.
10:19am: Flip Saunders is expected to return to the Timberwolves as the team's president of basketball operations, according to Steve Aschburner of NBA.com, who reports that the move could become official as soon as next week. Saunders would replace David Kahn as the team's head of basketball operations, with Kahn's 2013/14 option not being exercised, says Aschburner.
The move would come as a bit of a surprise, since last month a report suggested Kahn's option for '13/14 would be picked up by the Wolves. Rumors have been swirling for several weeks that Saunders was being considered for a front office role with the Wolves, but owner Glen Taylor indicated earlier in April that he and Saunders hadn't discussed that.
Saunders had been representing a group interested in buying the T-Wolves from Taylor, though there didn't appear to be any serious progress on that front. However, one source who spoke to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link) speculates that if Saunders does replace Kahn, it could mean that Taylor is closer to selling the franchise, perhaps to the group Saunders represents.
If Kahn doesn't return to Minnesota for '13/14, it would be the end of an up-and-down tenure for the Wolves GM. Although he has added plenty of talent during the team's rebuild, he has also been panned for a handful of moves, including drafting Jonny Flynn and not signing Kevin Love to the five-year extension Love had been seeking.
According to Aschburner, Saunders has been negotiating a contract that could run through the 2017/18 season and be worth more than $9MM, if option years are exercised.
The Northwest was one of only two NBA divisions to send just two teams to the postseason, which means the Northwest's other three teams are looking ahead to the offseason. As the Nuggets and Thunder prepare to get their playoff series underway this weekend, here's the latest on the division's lottery teams:
Blazers owner Paul Allen spoke to reporters this evening about the offseason for his team, which begins tomorrow, and it seems one decision will have to be made fairly quickly. Jared Jeffries is under contract for the next two seasons, but neither is guaranteed. Next season would become guaranteed if he's not waived by the fifth day following Portland's final game this season, according to Mark Deeks of ShamSports. Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com believes it's likely that Jeffries won't be back, judging by the 31-year-old's lack of playing time this season, so it appears the Blazers could be cutting him loose soon. Jeffries wants to remain in the NBA next season, however, and tells Haynes that he'll be looking for more playing time wherever he winds up.
As we wait to learn the fate of Jeffries and others as the offseason begins for nearly half the league, there's plenty more NBA news:
Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune believes that several topics of discussion surrounding the Timberwolves are tied to whether or not Rick Adelman decides to return as head coach next season, namely Andrei Kirilenko's $10MM player option as well as the impending free agencies of Nikola Pekovic and Chase Budinger. Another question mark is tied to future of GM David Kahn, as majority team owner Glen Taylor maintains that he is undecided on Kahn's future and has no timetable on a decision. Zgoda has more things to discuss about the team, and you can find the highlights below:
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor identifies the uncertainty surrouding the future of coach Rick Adelman as his top offseason concern, but his comments to Ray Richardson of St. Paul Pioneer Press seemed to dispel this week's report that Adelman is likely to retire. Taylor plans on Adelman coming back, and doesn't have a contingency in place if Adelman steps down. The owner said he isn't sure if assistant Terry Porter, who filled for Adelman during his absence, would be the choice. "If Rick were to leave, I would want to think about all options we have available to us. My thought process right now would be to not look at just one person," Taylor said.
Richardson's Q&A with Taylor is worth a read in its entirety, but we'll hit the highlights here:
On the future of GM David Kahn:
I haven't come to the time to make a decision on that. Let's finish the season first. I want to find out about my coach first. I don't have a time frame to address David's situation. He and I have been talking about the draft and other things as we go into the offseason. At some point, I know I need to make a decision.
On his relationship with Flip Saunders:
First of all, Flip was just trying to help a friend who had an outside group, but that group never submitted a bid. I have a coach and I have a GM. Me and Flip have not talked about those things. What we talk about mostly is his work at ESPN and what's going on in the league. I have maintained a friendship with Flip. We kept in touch when he was at Washington and Detroit.
On a potential sale of the team:
I haven't come up with anybody who meets all the needs. One of my problems is that I haven't found anybody who lives in Minnesota or has a Minnesota background. The interest has come from people outside the state. I'm interested in a local person buying the team on a limited partner basis. Right now, I don't have a strong feeling that I want to get rid of the team. I still enjoy it. I was thinking of a long run to try to find a successor, but I might keep things the way they are.
On Nikola Pekovic's restricted free agency this summer:
I want him to stay, and he has told me he wants to stay. It's to our advantage to try and work something out with him. We know and he knows he's able to test the market. When he tells me he wants to stay, I take him for his word, but agents play a big role in all of this.
On the notion that the team's signing of Brandon Roy was a mistake:
It's fair criticism ... for me and David. We did take a risk, and it was proven to be a wrong risk. There were other players out there with some experience who we could have gotten, who would have helped us at a position (shooting guard) where we needed help. We're out of the money this year ($5.1MM), but based on the contract we have, we don't have to pay him next year if he doesn't play.
Jodie Meeks has been a critical role player for the Lakers this season under coach Mike D'Antoni after sitting on the pine for much of Mike Brown's tenure. The Lakers hold a team option on Meeks and he believes that it will be exericsed. “Yeah, I think so,” Meeks told Shams Charania of RealGM when asked if he believes he will be part of the Lakers next year. “You can’t really worry about that right now, just finish out this year. I’ll do that and see whatever happens.” Here's more from around the Association..
David Kahn's position as General Manager of the Timberwolves is secure and the the one-year option on his contract will be exercised shortly, if it has not been exercised already, sources tell Ric Bucher of 95.7 The Game (Sulia link). That presumably means that Flip Saunders won't return to the organization, as the club had interest in him as a possible replacement for Kahn.
Owner Glen Taylor insisted earlier this month that Kahn could return for 2013/14, despite a great deal of outside criticism for the exec. The Timberwolves have had the misfortune of being bit by the injury bug this season with Ricky Rubio missing the early part of the season and Kevin Love missing much of the second half. However, Kahn's personnel decisions during his time in Minnesota have led the club to a 58-172 record over the last three seasons.