The Grizzlies have avenged last year’s first round defeat at the hands of the Clippers, and move on to the second round to face the Oklahoma City Thunder. Can they avenge a loss in the Western Conference semis from 2011? Can we call them The Avengers?
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It seems as if the David Kahn-era is over for the Minnesota Timberwolves, much to the delight of a fanbase (and to the dismay of Bill Simmons, who no longer has an easy, albeit lazy, target) who was not shy in blaming every slight problem on the controversial president.
His replacement is supposedly Flip Saunders, the former coach of the Wolves who was fired 8 years ago. (Saunders was also the right hand man to then-team president Kevin McHale, who Wolves fans also blamed for everything this side of 9/11.)
Personally, Kahn’s firing feels a lot like the first 20 minutes of 12 Angry Men. Wolves fans have been clamoring for Kahn’s removal since 2009. (That was the year the Wolves drafted Ricky Rubio—who Wolves fans hated—and Jonny Flynn over Steph Curry.) In haze of today, I can’t help but feel like Juror 8.
It’s easy to say David Kahn was a bad executive. As a Wolves fan, I’ve seen his work up close. It’s not pretty. He doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Sam Presti, Masai Ujiri, RC Buford, or Daryl Morey. And nobody is accusing him of being even good.
But Kahn has shown progress in the past year as a figurehead. Maybe it’s the influence of Rick Adelman and his request for more veteran players. If that’s the case, then good on Kahn for working with his coach to put a team together. If that’s not the case, then good on Kahn…well, good on Kahn for putting a good team together.
Let’s face it: before the season, the Wolves were a projected potential playoff team. But losing 341 games due to injury? Well, that hurts your playoff chances. Especially when your All-Star forward is down for the count.
Detractors will point out that Kahn should have been fired long ago. And I agree. If you were going to fire David Kahn, he should have been gone before the beginning of last season. Trading Al Jefferson for nothing and the missed draft picks of Jonny Flynn and Wes Johnson are the three strikes that I believe should have led to his firing. But since then, Kahn hasn’t been bad.
So why is he being fired?
Going back to 12 Angry Men, the Wolves probably succumbed to the pressure of society. Years of being ridiculed for keeping Kahn around has worn on owner Glen Taylor. It seems like a cop out to fire Kahn, using him as a scapegoat for the last four years, which weren’t good. But the last two were definitely better than anything the Wolves have put together post-Garnett.
Kahn is a controversial figure in the NBA. His beef with Chris Webber was embarrassing, yet blown out of proportion. (Webber was a complete bully in this situation, but because of the perception of Kahn, he’s celebrated.) Not giving Kevin Love a max contract certainly hurt, but I’m in the minority in thinking that Love didn’t actually deserve that max deal.
The question going forward now is whether Flip Saunders is an upgrade over David Kahn. Maybe. But probably not. Saunders employed an outdated offense as coach of the Wolves. The Wolves also never really had an opportunity to improve via the draft during the Saunders-McHale era due to salary cap violations. His ability as an evaluater is still to be determined. But most depressing is the fact that he’s a U of M guy from Glen Taylor’s “old-boy network”. That’s not how a franchise should be built.
Only time will tell where the Wolves go from here. It’s a big off-season. Resigning Nikola Pekovic is important, as is finding a competent shooting guard that complements Ricky Rubio. Staying healthy for next season is also a must, but that’s not in the hands of any executive.
As a Wolves fan, I’m cautious.
Look at THIS Duke fan.
This is also the reason the Shav Randolph-led Celtics are up 2-0 over the New York Knicks. Oh wait…
In honor of last night’s win.
My C’s in 7 prediction is still real. About as real as my chances of banging Emma Stone this week. But hey, weirder things have happened, right? (No? Shit.)
First, the East.
Heat in 4.
Celtics in 7.
Pacers in 5.
Nets in 6.
And in the West…
Thunder in 6
Lakers in 7
Nuggets in 5
Clippers in 6