Although GM David Kahn was absent from Media Day in observance of Yom Kippur, his influence was easily felt in the new coaching staff, new players and attitudes of the returners. Kahn's oft-repeated timeline for the team doesn't reach roster firmness for another year and doesn't even mention playoffs for at least another 18 months. That means no one's got illusions about the time it takes a young team with new chemistry to develop. But it doesn't mean that anyone on the team is interested in coasting through this season.
Kurt Rambis was very open about pushing the team to run more and take on a defensive identity, both things that would distinguish this team from last year's. He was equally open in stating that they didn't have all the pieces of the team he and Kahn envision. It's obvious that the roster is a work in progress, but when Rambis says he would like a rotation of 8, 9 or 10 guys (which doesn't specifically tell us what he wants) the reflex is to start counting heads of who's in and who's out a year from now.
The players, though, are much less interested in talking about next year and the year after. Ryan Gomes was well aware that Kahn is looking for him to prove he's worth the $14 million that would be guaranteed to him should he be on the roster July 1 (as opposed to the $2.5 million he's guaranteed if the Wolves cut him before the deadline). That he's willing to say that he knows his contract structure means he'll have to prove his worth this year speaks volumes about Gomes' character. His workouts this summer focused on taking defenders off the dribble and finishing at the hole, but his 3-point shooting may be more important to this perimeter deficient offense.
Al Jefferson and Kevin Love both know their status on the team is safe, but they share Gomes' sense of urgency this year. Neither seems impatient with Kahn and Rambis's restructuring of the team (Al specifically mentioned his transition from confusion to understanding after some conversations with the front office), but both are itching to prove their team won't be a league doormat anymore. Regardless of how much time their on-court chemistry needs to mature, it's easy to see that Love and Jefferson get along very well off the court. Yesterday they joke around while interrupting each others interviews and walking from shoot to shoot with ones arms around the others' shoulder.
Oddly enough, Gomes, Jefferson and Love all lost weight this summer, but Al beat the single-digit slimming of the others with his 30-pound dip.
Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions may be new to the team but appear to be comfortable filling any role the team asks of them, at least for now. Jefferson gushed about Flynn at multiple points in the day, even venturing to raise the Chris Paul murmurs. When told of the comparison, Flynn couldn't hold back an ear to ear grin, but immediately returned the compliment by flatly stating this is Al's team. Sessions is a man of few words but with his first long-term contract locked up he seems ready to play whichever role Rambis asks him to.
The optimism is genuine, but the real test of the players' mentality and the coaching staffs ability will come if the losses start piling up or another major injury derails the rebuilding. The shared optimism early on, though, will need to jump start the chemistry development of a team with 2/3 new players if Big Al's speculation that sneaking into the playoffs this year isn't completely beyond this year's Wolves.