"Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day." - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
"I think we should next year," he said. "I don't think we're that far
away, to be truthful. I think we can be a lot more competitive. ... I
do like our young guys, our core group moving forward. I think there's
really people here to build around." - Kevin McHale, on how the team should improve to .500 next year. (StarTribune)
Let's take a look at the Iron Ranger--and the Wolves front office--from another angle or perspective. It's not just about the bad draft choices, poor trades, and illegal or awful free agent signings. String those "pearls" together and you have a necklace only Hannibal Lecter can admire. The reality is however, every front office--even the great ones--makes mistakes. In the 2003 draft with Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade still available, Joe Dumars drafted Darko Milicic with the 2nd overall choice. Despite winning or contending for championships in the last few years, the Spurs have gone through Rasho, Nazr Mohammed, and Fabricio Oberto at center before somewhat settling on Kurt Thomas for the playoffs this season. Both the Spurs and Pistons were able to manage through those missteps and still be in the title mix, over multiple years. In developing and maintaining a successful organization, that tells me two things:
a) the ability to quickly "rebound" from a mistake is important.
b) the expectations created from a front office move must be well-managed.
Let's put those two dynamics to the test. When we traded for Marko Jaric, the immediate feeling on many fans part was one of relief, since we were getting rid of Sam Cassell, who along with Latrell Sprewell was viewed as destructive forces on the roster the previous year, and prevented them from getting back into the playoffs. However, when folks started taking a look at the fine print of the deal, we found that we also gave up a first round draft choice for Jaric, AND locked him up for six years. Those stipulations of the deal to this day makes it harder and costlier for the Wolves to make adjustments to move him, but just as important, created the expectation that this guy must be pretty special to give up that much, lock him away for that many years, and replace a player who was a superb fourth quarter finisher.
This move was made after the hiring of Dwayne Casey, where McHale stated in the press conference that all we needed on this club were a couple of "tweaks" to stay in the championship hunt. As we've seen, Marko has been a decent all-around player for the Wolves. However, given the circumstances and the expectations that were created around his acquisition, that move has been regarded as a rather abysmal failure.
Another example is the first Boston trade. We immediately heard from McHale that Marcus Banks was the key to the deal. We also heard unsparingly from Jim Petersen throughout that season and the next how Mark Blount was a superior center. The result? Banks was gone that off-season, and no players from the trade remain on the roster. The trade was so bad however, that it took a number of moves--including the trade of one Kevin Garnett--to try and get back to a position of relative stability. People--including myself--love the fact we got rid of Ricky Davis and Blount to Miami, but we're still on the hook for Antoine Walker, a player we didn't want and don't need. To put it in Dickens' language, we are suffering the thorns from a memorable move made one day over two years ago.
Where are we now? What expectations have been created in the last few days?
1. Glen Taylor says that we're not in the market for free agency this off-season.
2. A couple of folks currently on the club won't probably get resigned.
3. They will make an effort however to resign Gomes.
Not terribly surprising for off-season chatter, but here's the kicker:
4. Our man McHale again says we should be a .500 team next year.
Can we see the problem, and a pattern here? How exactly are the Wolves going to improve by 20 games next year? Significant internal improvement, a killer draft choice, or possibly--but not likely--a trade. That's it. Whatever progress does happen, it will now be judged against the expectation of a 20 win improvement, nothing less. Talking about shooting yourself in the foot.
And the Wolves wonder why fans are so negative in this market, or why a lot of us think McHale is woefully incompetent? Work with us here...we're not all idiots.