The clichés are always the same; “Wait till next year,” “We are building for the future,” “Be patient, we can become a winner.” Ever since that magical 2004 season and the Garnett era, regime after regime have given empty promises and hope to Timberwolves fans. Specifically, David Kahn has been rightly criticized since he took over as President of Basketball Operations by making bad move after bad move, most notably, taking Johnny Flynn over Stephen Curry and trading explosive point guard Ty Lawson. He has been blasted by sportswriters for his head scratching moves, commonly referred to as “The Kahn Man,” by Espn Page 2 Columnist and Basketball enthusiast Bill Simmons. While these criticisms are warranted, it seems that maybe, finally David Kahn is being vindicated for past failures and has put together a Timberwolves team that Minnesotans can look forward to for years to come.
The 2012 Season could become a major turning point for the Wolves franchise. While I don’t expect a playoff season this year (due to the West being so deep and the Wolves so young) there is finally hope that we can produce a consistent winner. Kahn made a brilliant move by hiring respected NBA legend Rick Adelman to coach this young team. So far he has taught the Wolves to become more aggressive on Defense (they have shaved off 10 points per game allowed from a season ago) and has implemented a wide open, pass friendly system on Offense to take advantage of our speed and youth.
Perhaps the biggest success of Kahn’s tenure was going against type and taking a huge risk on picking Ricky Rubio in the 2009 NBA Draft. No one could have predicted that once he came to the NBA (which Wolves fans had to wait two long years for) he would completely transform this woebegone franchise into a potential contender and at the very least, a competitive team from night to night. Now, twenty games into this lockout shortened season, he is being talked about as a possible Rookie of the Year candidate. With his highlight-reel passing, court awareness, and uncanny court vision, Rubio is making the Wolves a team to watch on a nightly basis.
What can’t be overlooked about this young season, is Kahn’s ability to get franchise player Kevin Love to sign an extension. Since Love has been here, all he has relentlessly talked about is his desire to win. Personal statistics, getting on Sportscenter and his contract seem to be secondary to his desire to be on a winner. Obviously, Love feels that the team is finally headed in the right direction and wants to be here to ride this out. This is one of the most important contract extensions in Minnesota sports history as Love is becoming a Minnesota Sports Icon and darling. Due to our cold weather and small market, traditionally it has become almost impossible to lure big time free agents here. Being a California kid, I’m sure Love would prefer to be in a bigger market but Kahn has done a great job of surrounding him with the type of talent he needs to succeed.
It remains to be seen whether the Wolves can continue this uphill climb. Being a 500 ball club twenty games into the season must be deemed a success. With signature wins over such teams as the NBA Champion Mavs, Clippers and Spurs, the Wolves are showing that they are here to stay. There is still much work to be done, most importantly, finding a consistent shooting guard and getting bigger at the Center position but Kahn seems to have finally turned the corner and figured out how to build this team into a winner. No one at this time last year could have predicted that it would be the Wolves that have become the most must see and potentially dangerous professional team in Minnesota professional sports. With the Wild completely collapsing after a fast start, the Vikings coming off a disastrous 3-13 season, and the Twins having Morneau and Mauer hurt, it could be time to fill the bandwagon for the Wolves. So let’s not wait till next year. We ARE building for the future. We CAN become a winner. Suddenly, all those same clichés sound pretty good.