Surely there has to be a word that describes what is going on with the Wolves right now. It's somewhere in between boredom and apathy, frustration and anger, regret and hope, and all sorts of other polar and not-so-polar dichotomies.
After the worst stampling (another combo word deserving of this team) of the year I can't quite find the right word to describe how I feel about this club right now. On one hand we were told from the get-go that this was going to be a rebuilding year. The team's front office has been very open about this fact and they have engaged in what they call an "aggressive fan development program" to win back the casual viewing sports public in this town.
On the other hand, there are those of us who have been following the team for a long, long time; those of us who have been season ticket holders and jersey/hat/whatever buyers since the Bill Musselman days, or even since KG was doing his pre-anything-is-possible routine to the tune of a Western Conference Final. What rebuilding iteration is this group of fans currently having to endure? 3.0? 4.6? Who knows?
What we do sort of know, and can place our fingers on, is that this year's over-matched squad apparently has begun an early off-season development plan of their own; maybe the good weather has given them a pre-spring golf jones and they simply cannot wait to hit the links.
For all of the good things we have said about Kevin Love over his time with the franchise, it appears that he has checked out for the season and there is no good way of dressing this up. For all of the nice things we really would like to say about the point guard prospects of Jonny Flynn (and we really would; after all, he's a lotto pick), he's showing very little signs of being the player David Kahn said he would be.
It's that last part of the Flynn take that is really starting to take hold with the group of fans who don't need to be reeled in with 1/2 price lower-bowl season ticket offers. There is a striking disconnect between what we were told would be and what is. For each and every fan development season ticket purchase, there's a guy or gal paying close to full price for this year's action and it's pretty hard to dress up any feeling of disappointment that I'm sure they all feel about that fact.
One of the things that I think David Kahn gets a fairly large pass on is the large gap between what could have been this year's status quo and this year's reality. Let's imagine for a moment that the Washington deal never happened and that Kahn used the 6th pick in the draft on a young scoring point guard who really did have a long college record of doing all the things he said his pick was going to do. Let's imagine a starting lineup of Stephen Curry, Mike Miller, Ryan Gomes, Kevin Love, and Al Jefferson with Corey Brewer and Randy Foye coming off the bench. Would it have been that hard to move smaller deals like Sebastian Telfair and Craig Smith to open up additional 2010 cap space? Would the expiring deals of Miller, Foye, and Brian Cardinal have provided a significant amount of usable cap space above and beyond what the team will use during this off-season? Just how much more is all of Kahn's wheeling-and-dealing really worth beyond two main assets: Ricky Rubio and the security of this year's top draft choice?
Here's the kicker: If this year has shown us anything, it is that Kahn is all-in on Rubio, and, to a lesser extent, the team's top choice in the 2010 draft. Go back and look at what Kevin McHale was attempting to do with this roster before Kahn came in. They were headed in the right direction in terms of cap space and roster flexibility. How much more usable space has Kahn really opened up? Will it be used? Can it be used? Is $14-18 mil over the cap worth much more to the Wolves than $6-8? If it is, then the team will have an additional bullet point to put in its fan development talking points cache. If not, then this season was all about waiting for Rubio and securing the team's #1 pick (which, it should be noted, is a fairly worthy cause in the long run) from the awful Clips/Jaric trade.
Wrapping this thing up, I'm not writing this post in order to complain about what could have been. I suppose there is a little bit of that in there (especially with the Curry pick) ; rather, it's more of a frustration post about yet another wasted season for those of us who have been watching this team for a long, long time. Yes, I'm excited about Ricky Rubio. Yes, I'm very glad and excited that the Wolves will be near the top of the draft. Of course it is nice to have as much cap space as possible. I'm also kind of bummed that the team is virtually unwatchable right now and that I have to wonder, yet again, if this team's front office can truly maximize its considerable assets.
Die-hard Wolves fans have been on the wrong side of too-close chances for the better part of 5 years now. They've been lucky to find themselves in position to draft quality players. They've been astute enough to maneuver their roster in a way that will provide cap space and flexibility. Can they follow through or will we get yet another Blueprint 2.0 Fan Development ticket pitch? At some point the vision of the marketing department has to match up with the viewpoint of Section 136. At some point I hope that game wraps can be only about the on-court action and less about Korean recipes and the broad direction of the franchise.