FanPost

Baby, Were We Born to Run?

Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune passed along a letter that David Kahn wrote to the fans today. It's on the Strib website, and I think somebody else posted it on this site also. In the letter, Kahn reveals his three "threshold" criteria in looking for a coach, that any candidate had to agree to before being considered.

A) the Timberwolves will be a player-development program, which I assume means there will be no big moves for star veterans any time soon, but rather the drafting and teaching of young talent for the next few years. Fine by me. 

B) The young talent will see significant playing time and be given some freedom to learn and make mistakes. Also fine by me, except Rambis may have tied his own noose two or three years down the road by agreeing to that.

C) The Timberwolves will be a running team. The new coach must install an up-tempo system. This is the one criteria I see a problem with. More below the fold.

Ever since being hired, David Kahn has said that he wants the Timberwolves to be a "running team." What he's never said was why. And I don't really see his logic. It is concerning to me that he has decided this so firmly and non-negotiably, without consulting anyone with a basketball background and seemingly without looking at the Wolves' roster. 

The Wolves' two best players are fairly un-athletic, but highly skilled, power forwards. Kevin Love is a good outlet passer (although he didn't really show it in the NBA last year. Maybe that skill doesn't translate to the pro game?), but other than that one skill, neither player is really suited to play an up-tempo game. Al Jefferson is at his best when you feed him the ball, get out of his way, and let him work his low-post magic. Love is at his best when he's getting putbacks, freeing up space down low by stepping out for a mid-range jumper, and running the pick-and-roll. Unless Kahn is planning to deal Jefferson next offseason, which I think would be a mistake, I don't see the logic. Why insist on a "running identity" when the two cornerstones of your franchise can't really get up and down the floor?

It would be different if, after interviewing all these candidates and deciding Rambis was the best choice, the two of them sat down and determined that a running style would be the best option, and they have (or can assemble) a roster to play that style. But the fact that any candidate had to agree with an up-tempo offense to even be CONSIDERED is not a good thing. Kahn seems like a pretty smart guy, and a pretty good administrator. But he doesn't have a background, or a reputation, as a great basketball mind. I don't like that he alone decides the playing identity of this team, rather than someone who has been playing and coaching the game for years, like Rambis.

Up-tempo basketball is exciting to watch. It would make for a more fan-friendly game. And I'll admit, if given a choice -- in a vacuum -- of cheering for a fast-paced team or a half-court one, I'd choose the former. But more than I want to watch a high-flying team, I want to watch the talents of my team's best players maximized and exploited. Winning puts butts in the seats a lot faster than pace of play. Does anybody think that fans of the Lakers, Spurs, or Celtics think "Man, it's nice to have a good team, but I'd go to a lot more games if they just ran a damn fast break every now and then!" No, because when executed well, half-court basketball is plenty fun to watch. I just hope Kahn isn't insisting on molding a "running team" because he thinks the fans will appreciate it. Us fans, David, we appreciate playoff (and someday, hopefully, championship) caliber basketball. Playing to your strengths is the best way get there.

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