FanPost

Prowling the NBA: Late Edition - 1 in 4

Well. As you can see, this week's theme isn't particularly long. And is highly numeric.

Yes, I'm late. It's intentional. With the Wolves not playing again until Wednesday, I figured I'd use this update to help fill the time. Space. Whatever. Plus, it gives me the chance to include all the weekend's tournament madness. No Kentucky? No Ohio State? Yet Michigan State makes it in without Kalin Lucas. Only one of the top four seeds is still playing. Madness indeed.

The tournament is down to the Final Four. Only one of the four can win it all. And in that tournament, Kahn has scouted scouted four key players...

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...because we're all but guaranteed a top 4 pick. It's about the only thing Wolves fans have to look forward to right now.

Four teams in the east have clinched a playoff berth. Four teams in the west have clinched a playoff berth. We're obviously not one of them. Neither will be take one of the four remaining spots. We're not the worst team in the league by record. But may be by any other standard. A shame about the record too...if we were worse, we might have a one in four chance at one of the four.

So what do we have this week? Well, talk of the four prospects you see above. Updates on Ricky Rubio. More details on Kevin Pritchard's situation in Portland. And in a curtain call of what became a Prowling the NBA tradition, Gilbert Arenas.

Gilbert Arenas will not serve any prison time:

Earlier in the week, prosecutors came out firing with a plan to put Arenas behind bars for three to four months. But the judge wasn't buying it, sentencing Arenas instead to 30 days in a halfway house and what amounts to about two years of probation and community service.

Obviously the analysts in that video are lawyers, so they're of the opinion that Arenas got of light. And some sports analysts say that too, and I can see the argument.

But while I certainly don't approve of flippant firearm use, I agree with ESPN's JA Adande.....Arenas didn't go to jail because Arenas didn't need to go to jail. Prison would have been overkill for his actual crime. Yes, he had firearms in the lockerrom. But they weren't loaded....didn't even have ammunition anywhere in the building....and by the most accurate accounts, Arenas never threatened anyone with them. They were props for what he thought was comedy. It was immature and irresponsible, but not something that warrants jail time. The punishment he's received from both the NBA and the district attorney is plenty.

So what's next for Arenas? Well, one man in particular is now facing a very difficult decision...

It's up to new Wizards owner Ted Leonsis to decide what to do with Arenas:

Leonsis has finalized his agreement with the Pollin family to buy the Wizards, and thus will inherit....well, a big mess. Of which Arenas is the centerpiece.

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Voiding Arenas' contract is all but a lost cause now. No prison time will make it extremely difficult for the team to make the case that Arenas was far enough out of line to deserve termination. As I mentioned earlier in the year, the NBA actually did the Wizards a disservice when Commissioner Stern jumped the gun and suspended Arenas before the DA's office had finished their investigation; a finite punishment from the NBA not only removes the power for the Wizards to issue a team punishment, but it makes a contract termination case to a federal arbitrator a steep uphill battle. Wasn't the suspension enough? If the situation warranted tearing up Arenas' contract, why didn't the NBA do it right away? You can see the case Arenas' attorneys can make. It's pretty solid.

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Trading Arenas, likewise, is close to a lost cause. Does his off court problems weigh into it? Certainly. But overwhelmingly, the problem here is he's just owed a ton of money. Any team that trades for Agent Zero either needs a huge stockpile of unwanted assets, or be willing to deal two, maybe three, worthwhile players. Which would probably eliminate any gains Arenas the player would give them in the first place.

Wizards' President Ernie Grunfeld said this week he has no intention of voiding Arenas' contract, and expects Gil to be with the team next year. "We're not going to void his contract. As I've said all along, he's going to be with us," Grunfeld said Saturday night before a game against Utah. "Gilbert is a part of this organization, he's part of our team, and he will be back with us next year. I think people forget that he's still one of the best players in this league."

But again...new owner. Will Grunfeld be around to make that decision? Hmmm...

Also making waves in the owner/president sea...

The Golden State Warriors are officially up for sale:

It's been speculated for a long time that current owner Chris Cohan has been looking to sell, but this past week he made it official. And already a heavy favorite has emerged: Oracle Corp CEO and Oracle Arena owner Larry Ellison. In fact, Ellison has expressed interest in owning the Warriors for years, but said, "unfortunately you can't have a hostile takeover of a basketball team."

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Well, now he won't have to. Not only does Ellison have a fortune to spend and local connections to boost his profile, he's already very popular among the Warriors' fanbase, to the point some have been bringing "Larry Ellison, please buy the Warriors" signs to home games.

So what does this mean for the Warriors?

First, it means the clock is really ticking down on Don Nelson. Not that his time wasn't running short already...it's long been speculated he's only still coaching in the first place to break the all time wins record (of which he's only 3 wins shy of)...but his tenure has only remained really because of Cohan and his acceptance of Nelson's buddy Larry Riley as team GM. Nelson heavily weighed in on the power struggle between Riley and former Vice President Chris Mullin (who disagreed with Nelson on almost everything), which ultimately ended with the departure of Mullin's choice of GM, Rod Higgins, and then Mullin himself. With the team sporting a terrible track record under Nelson/Riley...and with Nelson halfway out the door as it is...one has to think both of them are lame ducks now.

And Warriors fans? They couldn't be more ecstatic.

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I mentioned that new ownership means new leadership on a couple of different forums, and got bombarded with comments from Warriors' fans that essentially summed up as "Dear God, I hope so".

The other thing this could mean? Well, possibly a talent firesale. New owners don't particularly like having big contracts on the books when they buy a team, meaning the status of Andris Beidrins, Monta Ellis, and Corey Maggette are thrown into question. Nor does it resolve the already questionable status' of Anthony Randolph or Brandan Wright. Nelson dislikes Randolph in particular...but what would a new coach think of him? If the new leadership of the team goes with a more traditional system (which seems like a given to happen), then Randolph suddenly goes from a fish out of water to one of the most promising young power forwards in the league.

In any case, whoever buys the Warriors will be facing a reclamation project on the same scale as our own Wolves. Expect a lot of movement....and phone calls from other teams....in Golden State this summer.

But if you're going to build a team, who better to hire than this man?

Rumor is Larry Ellison will ask Jerry West to run the Warriors if his bid is successful:

Yep. Mr. Clutch. The Logo.

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And why not? He built multiple dynasties as the boss man for the Lakers, and while the Grizzlies didn't exactly set the nets of fire while he was in Memphis, they did go from league laughingstock to 50 win seasons and playoff appearances. Would West be willing to try and work his magic again?

At the trade deadline, the answer seemed to be no. "I’m too old to come back to anything," was what he told ESPN's Mark Jones.

But sources have said West would strongly consider returning, even at the age of 71, if he felt the working conditions were right...full control of basketball operations, and possibly ownership stake (giving him some control over his own tenure). So if Ellison does indeed buy the Warriors, things could get interesting here.

For now, though, running a team is probably the last thing on Jerry's mind. I'm sure his focus is on his son Jonnie...

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...who plays for the West Virginia team that knocked off Kentucky over the weekend to make the Final Four (more on that later).

Anyway, moving on to maybe the most confounding team management story of the week...

Kevin Pritchard really is on thin ice with the Trailblazers:

And it's reportedly melting, at that. Last week, I wrote up in Prowling the NBA that Tom Penn's firing had kicked off rumors that Kevin Pritchard was being not-so-subtly show the door as well, or at least would be soon. Turns out those rumors have more truth than speculation.

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Here's the 101 as best I can discern it: Paul Allen and Vulcan Inc don't trust Pritchard. Why? The reports say:

1) He's complained about being paid less than head coach Nate McMillan, and holds something of a grudge against Mac because of it. One Yahoo report states:

Pritchard would go around the NBA, and surprise peers with questions that included, "How much do you make?" before launching into diatribes about how he couldn’t understand why he was so poorly compensated in Portland, especially in comparison to McMillan.

This possibly might have led to the somewhat questionable signing of Andre Miller, who doesn't fit the Blazers' plans on paper or their system in practice...an attempt by KP to assert his authority, and maybe derail McMillan's meticulous offense and reputation for running a happy, well-disciplined locker room.

2) He didn't hold the line when negotiating the contract extensions of LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy. This explains why both extensions took an inexplicably long time to complete, for two players who are the team's cornerstones. Some of you, I'm sure, remember that there was a lot of contention around the negotiations with Roy in particular. Reports say Pritchard nearly caved in to Roy's demands (keep in mind these types of negotiations are start extreme and meet in the middle), which forced team President Larry Miller to take over the negotiations.

So perhaps here we have the "philosophical differences" Vulcan Inc stated in their press release when Penn was fired. Last week I speculated that perhaps the board thought the basketball team wasn't spending enough to push the Blazers over the top. But it now looks like the problem is they wanted to spend too much, offering Roy and LMA money the ownership group said they couldn't offer.

3) Ownership feels Pritchard played them with Tom Penn. Did anyone know Pritchard wanted to interview for our GM position? I didn't. But Yahoo and ESPN both say he did:

Pritchard wanted to talk with them, a source close to him says, but Allen refused to grant permission. Pritchard and LeGarie hatched a plan to push Penn for the job, who never seriously considered taking it. After all, the control of basketball operations in Minnesota belongs to the owner’s son-in-law, Rob Moor, who acts as team president.

Once Penn leveraged Minnesota for an offer to take back to Portland, league sources say the three of them – LeGarie, Pritchard and Penn – exaggerated the package and control offered Penn as GM. Still, Portland gave Penn a raise and a new contract. For a brief time, this thrilled Pritchard. He believed this was a way to backdoor into a new deal for himself. If Vulcan had taken care of his assistant, they would feel compelled to take care of him.

Only, Vulcan told him to get lost. Portland ownership had already spoken with Minnesota’s team president and believed it had been duped into an excessive deal for Penn. This is business as usual with LeGarie. It wouldn’t be long until LeGarie became combative with Portland ownership, and all hell broke loose in the past week when the agent went public with columnist John Canzano of The Oregonian.

More on the Canzano article later...

Last week I wrote that there was speculation that Vulcan didn't believe we actually offered Penn a job, which, by all accounts, we did. But more recent reports, as you can see, say that it wasn't whether we offered the job....it was what we offered as part of it. If we said 4 years and you answer to Moor, but KP and Penn told Allen 5 years and Penn runs the whole show....well, there's a problem there.

4) He apparently has been more concerned with his image and power than with building a winning team. So there's an issue here with Pritchard perhaps getting the Blazers to where they are more for his own spotlight than the team's success, and feeling he isn't getting the credit he deserves. The core of this reportedly is, again, a feud with McMillan. Those who have paid close attention to the Blazers over the past two years probably have noted that McMillan refuses to sign an extension. A successful coach, in a market where getting a job is as much luck as talent, refusing to take obvious job security. Why? Could a pending extension for his boss, whom he doesn't get along with, have anything to do with it?

Now it appears that KP won't be getting that extension at all.

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They all look happy, don't they? But that was then and this is now.

As TrueHoop's Henry Abbot wrote, the Blazers did the logical thing this past week: called a press conference with Pritchard, Allen, and Miller in attendance. But then they did a very illogical thing: not once did anyone even hint that Pritchard might be around past this season.

And to the long list of questions everybody already had, a new one appeared: How on earth could the president, Miller, attend this press conference alongside Pritchard, and yet offer zip, zero, zilch as a promise that Pritchard would be around beyond the end of the season? It's almost like a code that, in sports, executives talk about their coaches and GMs in the most glowing terms at all times (at least until they fire them and usually beyond).

If the intent of the meeting was to calm the fears of Blazer fans, the effect was the exactly the opposite.

Further, it also appears that, although reports that KP's agent Warren LeGarie has been searching for a new job for Pritchard for a while now are true....and despite Pritchard's popularity among not just Blazer fans, but NBA fans in general....basketball executives and owners are siding with Paul Allen in this.

"Pritch has figured out that all those jobs that Warren promised him aren’t there," one GM said.

Pritchard's basketball track record seems so flawless as to be fixed. Yet no one is interested in hiring him. That tells me these concerns about his ego and accusations of double-dealing are probably true. If he's really been talking this much...and really is asking such absurd questions...then he probably has built up a reputation that's going to scare teams off, which reinforces the statement that....well, teams are being scared off. As one executive told ESPN:

"Kevin was in a constant battle to position himself to get credit away from Nate for whatever success they were eventually going to have there. Nate knows enough not to flap his gums and pound his chest – especially when your team hasn’t even won a playoff series yet. He’s secure in himself, in a way that Pritchard never knew how to be.

"If Kevin just kept his mouth shut, cut out all the arrogance and insecurity, I think he probably would’ve had his extension a long time ago."

Chimed in one Blazer office executive, "Painful to see a friend in that spot. But you know, I believe what you put out comes back around to you."

Now, as you can guess I'm sure...

Blazer fans don't quite see it that way...

Pritchard isn't just popular among the Blazer fanbase, but among NBA fans in general. He rescued the Blazers, maybe we can get him to rescue us too. Why, right here on Canis Hoopus, there was a 200+ comment debate about whether we should fire Kahn and hire Pritchard.

I said we would highlight the John Canzano interview/article, and so we shall. I have been assured by several Blazers fans that this article more or less speaks for the fanbase as a whole:

In Paul Allen, the Portland Trail Blazers have an owner unwilling to take ownership of his team. He has allowed general manager Kevin Pritchard's future to hang in the balance while he makes lukewarm endorsements publicly. The dealings and treatment of Pritchard have been dirty and Allen has turned a blind eye, waving off all questions.

Because Allen is 0 for 21 seasons when it comes to championships. And while I haven't agreed with everything Pritchard did as a GM, I very much believed that the organization was six to eight months from blossoming into what everyone envisioned it might be. And right now, with Pritchard dangling, and the owner scurrying away, I have reasonable doubts about the franchise.

It feels infected again.

No fault of president Larry Miller, who is simply taking orders. No fault of the other hardworking front-office staffers, who woke up this week in a cruel game of "Survivor, Paul Allen Island." The season-ticket holders are being sold "Stay United," and they're buying in. No fault of Brandon Roy, Andre Miller and the rest of the Blazers who are trying so badly to make the news about basketball again.

No matter what coach Nate McMillan does, no matter what Roy does, no matter how loud fans cheer, if Allen settles on just being an owner, and not a leader, the Blazers are never going to realize their potential.

It ends up a waste.

So there you have it.

Do I want Pritchard as my GM? Not really. Yes, I realize many of you would fire Kahn is a heartbeat if Pritchard would agree to sign on. I don't agree with that. Beyond that fact that Kahn hasn't even been on the job a single full year, things don't fall apart like this for no reason....and that throws up a ton of red flags in my mind. Something is wrong here...and the more I learn, the more I find myself thinking that the problems are overwhelmingly Pritchard's.

Well, enough about the desk jobs, let's talk about the players!

Jordan Hill says Mike D'Antoni intentionally buried him on the bench:

Which is par for the course with D'Antoni, but I can't help but question Mike's response...

"Where does that come from? Seriously. It's something that cracks me up. I don't play rookies? I don't like to play bad rookies."

Bad rookies? Jordan Hill isn't rookie Tim Duncan, but he's hardly bad. He's averaging 7.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in less than 20 minutes a game in March...including an 11 points, 7 rebound, 5 block outing against the Celtics...and is showing good awareness and energy on both ends of the court. Considering D'Antoni only played him 10 minutes a game (never once more than 20)...and that he performed well in those ten minutes (4 points, 2.5 rebounds...or 14 and 10 per 36 minutes) I think it's pretty unfair to say he's bad. The Knicks never gave him a shot.

Hill did get his chance to fire back....and on the court no less....as he put up 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in the Rockets' 116-112 win over the Knicks.

When told of D'Antoni's remarks after the game, Hill simply said, "What can I say? That's him. He's entitled to his own opinion. If that's the way he feels, that's how he feels. I'm entitled to my opinion, so I'm just going to go out there and say what I feel."

Things obviously are not going swimmingly for the Knicks this year. Their LeBron Plan is dust. The team isn't making the playoffs like Walsh had hoped they would. And their 2009 draft pick, which Walsh said the team "can't make a mistake" with, is now showing real promise with the team that leveraged the hell out of them in the TMac deal.

Your draft pick, whom you gave up on too soon, got you Tracy McGrady's contract, which still won't clear enough cap space for the LeBron Plan to work. Never mind the fact that the Cavs have all but guaranteed LeBron is staying in Ohio anyway. I'd say someone made a mistake.

And speaking of LeBron and the Cavaliers...

Zydrunas Ilgauskas has returned to the Cavaliers for the remainder of the season:

Short story, this one. Big Z made his intent to return to Cleavland crystal clear from day one of his mini-free agency stint. It was just a matter of whether he'd sign for the year, or for three.

He chose the former. He still plans to hit free agency this summer. And if the following comments are any indication, so does Amare...

Amare Stoudemire is now leaning towards free agency:

At the deadline, Amare said he was leaning towards staying in his contract. But that was when it appeared he was leaving Phoenix. The team didn't send him packing like he (and most of us) expected, so Stoudemire seems to have decided to do the walking himself.

"It's a great time to be a free agent. It's definitely a great time. The timing is perfect as far as being a free agent."

He had an interview this week with NBA.com's Howard Cooper, and he just kept repeating that over and over. "It's a great time to be a free agent."

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Stoudemire has been unstoppable this month. 29 points, 10 rebounds, nearly 60% shooting in March. The Wolves were treated to a first hand look of STAT just yesterday, as he dropped 30 points and 17 rebounds on our hapless defense. He had an incredible first quarter dunk where he brushed off Kevin Love like he was a high schooler, then murdered Ryan Hollins with the posterization.

Miami is still all in for a Stoudemire/Wade combo. New York has expressed interest. I'm sure several other teams will as well. When Amare is focused, he can't be stopped, and if someone could get him to focus all the time....

I have more to say about Amare in the Ricky Rubio portion of this update, which is....well, next.

Regal FC Barcelona has finally lost a home game:

First one in 30 games, by my count. They were beat 70-63 by arch rival Real Madrid (bad blood between those two in all sports...) in game 2 of their semifinals playoff series. It was not a good game for Ricky. 5 points on 1-7 shooting, 4 rebounds, no assists. What's worse for Barca was Juan Carlos Navarro was equally unhelpful...4 points on 1-9 shooting, 3 assists, one rebound.

Now before anyone gets in a tizzy....that's not normal. Navarro is an exceptional shooter (anyone remember his stint with the Grizzlies? Wish he had stayed..) and Rubio is one of the best facilitators on the planet. In game one, they combined for 18 points and 6 assists and led Barca to a 68-61 win.


The loss, of course, came one day after SLAMOnline printed an article asking if Barca would lose on their home floor ever again. The last time Barcelona lost a home game, it took 20 minutes of replay video and a week of Euroleague arbitration to make the loss official (there was a controversial call over whether or not Partizan interfered with the basket on the last play).

Game three is today. I'll post more about the series next week. In the meantime...

Count SLAM as one of Ricky's fans:

In that same article, SLAM writer Nick Gibson absolutely gushed about Rubio:

Oh, you’ve heard of him? Then I can skip all the hyperbole and tell you he’s playing extremely well keeps getting better. In his last ACB game against Caja Laboral he went 5/5 from downtown and he sits fifth in the EL in assists in only 20 minutes per game. One of the two times he played over 25 minutes in the EL, he wound up with Week 10 MVP honors based on this line:

14 points (2/5 FG, 9/10 FT), 3 rebounds, 10 assists, 4 steals, 1 turnover in 25:06

All in all he’s averaging 6 points, 4.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game and he’s hit a Calderon-ish 37/39 from the line (if I said ‘Nash-ish’ the sky would surely have come crashing down). He’s playing the most important position on Europe’s best team in the world’s second (Euroleague) and third (ACB) best leagues. He won Eurobasket gold for the world’s best LeBron-less team and will try to do the same this Summer in Turkey. Personally, I think he’ll be top five in NBA assists his rookie year and a staple in the top three for many years thereafter. So there it is. I know there are varying opinions on this kid and that’s fine. I’m not here to change your mind, just to let you know Señor Rubio impresses the hell out of me. That is all.

Raptors' guard Jose Calderon said this week that Rubio is NBA ready. "You know when guys are ready. I mean is John Wall ready for the NBA? You know, same thing. I don’t think he will score like Brandon Jennings, but I think he can do more stuff. They’re different. He knows how to pass the ball, how to play defense."

I don't know if I'd particularly call Jennings a scorer, with a 37% FG percentage, but you get the idea...

Before we get to my take on "the plan", I do have highlights of the Barcalona/Caja Laboral game (AKA Ricky Rubio versus Tiago Splitter)

Now, one thing I want to note in this is that, as you can see, in any given possession, Rubio doesn't particularly have the ball physically in his hands all that much. As I've said before, he's a Jason Kidd point guard. Watch him off the ball....he's either running a pattern to find a lane for a layup, or looking for an open spot to launch a three from. Pretty much exactly what Kidd does in Dallas. Personally, I don't think Rubio will have any problems playing in the triangle. If anything, he's built for it. Off the ball, with his scoring coming either from deep or right at the rim, and his assists coming in the flow of team ball movement. That's his game.

So with that in mind...

Here's three things I'd do to prepare the Wolves for Ricky Rubio:

1) Find an athletic big man. Yes, we have terrible wing play, and I'll get to that next. But I feel that, in the context of Rubio, this is equally important.

I was at the Wolves/Suns game Sunday night, and my dad made a comment to me that really stuck in my head.

"Why don't Al and Kevin just dunk it like that Stoudemire guy? I'd be so much easier."

I had to catch myself to keep from just laughing outright. We all know why they don't....they can't. Al and Love (Al especially)....well, they get their points the hard way: from a standstill. Dad is certainly right about that point. Amare does it the easy way...75% of the time he scores, he's already in motion when he catches the ball, and he doesn't try to finesse it around the defense. If he's got an open lane, he dunks it. If he doesn't, he dunks it anyway. Mostly because he can. Dunks are the highest percentage shots in the game, especially when you move without the ball to create an open lane and have a point guard that can find you in motion (the very essence of pick and roll)


It's not difficult to pass to a guy who isn't moving (although you couldn't tell it by this year's Wolves...). Nor is it difficult to defend a guy who isn't moving. For a player like Rubio, who's passing ability is at it's best when things are in motion, having a big man that will move without the ball and finish with authority is going to be a big deal. Having him out there with big men who do all their work after catching the ball really wastes a vast amount of his ability, and makes our offense exponentially easier to defend.

So yes, that's point one for me. I like that Kahn has directly scouted Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins. I think either one of them would be very ideal to play a Stoudemire-esque role. The Triangle doesn't impede this. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum move without the ball and get easy dunks all the time. There's really no reason not to take advantage of something that will make the game easy, especially with a talent like Rubio's where you can take the easy play and make a whole playbook out of it.

2) Make a concentrated run at Rudy Fernandez. I've been on this all year, and watching Barca this season has reinforced it.....Rubio is really good. Navarro is really good. Rubio and Navarro together are deadly. Their skillsets mesh perfectly. And by my eye, Fernandez is a bigger, stronger, springy-er Navarro.

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In the same sense that big men get their easiest shots moving to open areas without the ball, so too do guards. Some make entire careers out of it....Reggie Miller. Rip Hamilton.

When you have a point guard who can make pinpoint passes on the move, you need to compliment that guard with shooters who will get to the open spaces and knock down their shots. Miller and Mark Jackson were masters at it. Billups and Hamilton. Nash and Kidd and just about any shooting wing they every played with, including each other. Again, like the pick and roll, it's not a hard concept, and it's high percentage when executed correctly.

Do we have those players? Well.....Ellington is getting there. Brewer can do it in streaks. Love is pretty good at it when he can get the defense to focus somewhere else. But as a whole, there's an obvious problem that's dogged us all year: we're a terrible shooting team.

Well. We know Rudy and Ricky get along on and off the court. They played together with DKV. They are, by all accounts, best friends.

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Fernandez in a Timberwolves' uniform would be a major boost towards getting Rubio in a Timberwolves' uniform. And Fernandez alone fills a huge void for us, in that he's athletic and can shoot the lights out. And it certainly doesn't hurt that he's a classic Euro two guard who can practically run the point if asked to.

In a lot of ways, Fernandez reminds me of a young Manu Ginobili, when he first joined the Spurs (young being a relative term, since Manu was 26 his "rookie" year, and Fernandez is 24 right now). He can play on the ball, off the ball, shoot, rebound, pass, and defend. With all the upside acquiring Fernandez would have, I think this is an angle the Wolves should be actively pursuing every waking minute of the day.

3) Get someone who can specifically mentor Rubio. This is going to sound like wild exaggeration to most of you, but I firmly believe that one of the best decisions ever made in Timberwolves history was to bring Sam Mitchell back in 1995 to be Kevin Garnett's mentor. 

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Garnett was right out of high school, and had something of a troubled history. He wasn't a good student. He wasn't very disciplined. He was a teenager in a land of grown men, not just learning how to be an NBA player, but how to be an adult. There was every reason KG could have blown up and washed out as the proverbial "player who never got his head screwed on straight"....but he didn't. And I personally credit Mitchell a great deal in that. He showed Garnett not just how to be a pro basketball player, but how to be a man. 

Rubio's not a problem child. I haven't seen anything that indicates he's a poor student, or lacks discipline. But he will be just 20 years old, living in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language, abiding by foreign laws, and playing in a league that's much more athletic and physical than he's used to. I think it would go a long way to bring in a Sam Mitchell (well, I guess in this case, a Terry Porter) who can be a more personal mentor for him. It'll not only help him adjust faster and smoother, but will raise his comfort level with our team, which could be a big factor when it's his time to choose where he plays.

And again, Rudy Fernandez would be a big help in this.

4) Don't leave the door open to trade speculation. If there's any one thing I appreciate about David Kahn in contrast to Kevin McHale, it's that he immediately shoots down false speculation. Publicly and repeatedly.

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Rumors will always fly about Rubio going to...wherever...until the very moment he physically steps onto the court wearing a Wolves jersey and the clock starts ticking. And I think Kahn's response should be to repeat, over and over, that we aren't trading him. To the point we get sick of hearing it.

More than giving us, as fans, some peace of mind, it'll give Ricky and his family peace of mind. His parents in particular are already nervous enough as it is about him moving to America. It's like having a kid move away for college. In China. This next year is going to be a year of coming to terms for the Rubio family and preparing to make the leap, and I think it'll be very helpful for them to know where Ricky's going to land. He's an international sensation...even the slightest hint that Rubio might be available will set off a media firestorm, and what is his family supposed to make of that? I know if I was sending a kid to the other side of the world, I'd want as much certainty going into it as humanly possible.

For those of you unable to watch Rubio's games with Barca....

You're in luck. FIBA announced that the US will play an exhibition against Spain this August in Madrid.

Also, since I mentioned Ginobili....

Real Madrid intends to offer Ginobili $13.5 million next season:

Well, Ginobili's a free agent, and that's a lot of money. Certainly more than the Spurs will pay him. The Spurs don't even pay him that much now.

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Ginobli's been the key to all the Spurs' title runs post-Robinson, and is as entertaining to watch as any player when he's healthy. I'm not sure what the Spurs do about this. They can't and won't pay him that much. But neither can they really afford to lose him. Hmmm...

As a side note, Real Madrid is reportedly interested in signing Rudy Fernandez as well.

Ok. Onto the draft....

Draft Watch:

First thing to note is....well....the top prospects are all out of the tournament. As Chad Ford tweeted:

Best NBA prospects in Final 4? Hayward (Butler) Summers (M. State) Ebanks, Butler (WV) Plumlee, Singler, Scheyer, Smith (Duke)

Not the most awe-inspiring list....

So I'm going to weigh in this week on the four prospects Kahn has scouted: John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, and DeMarcus Cousins. But first, a couple quick notes:

Yes, Kentucky lost to West Virginia:

The somewhat positive news here is that, unlike Kansas against UNI, Kentucky didn't get caught napping and underachieve. They played well. WVU just played better.

I_medium

West Virginia had just enough margin from the free throw line and from three to out the Wildcats. About the only real chink in the Kentucky armor was turnovers....16, to just 10 assists. After the game, coach Cal admitted what a lot of us were thinking going in.....the team just was too young, didn't have the experience to carry it through the rough stretches (of which the Cats really hadn't ever actually faced until Saturday).

S-n-P hit a sound point in an earlier thread, pointing out that Cal runs a very NBA friendly system. He maximizes his recruits' flash and production, making him a great coach for the one-and-done players. But the flip side of that, of course, is his best players are always freshmen. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins this year. Next year, who knows? He's possibly going to lose his entire starting lineup to the draft. In terms of building up, the way the championship teams of Florida or North Carolina did, the one-and-done system is no good.

The other note is Michigan State IS going to the Final Four. But without their top player.

Kalin Lucas is out 4-6 months with a ruptured Achilles tendon:

So much for him being a late first round prospect for us.

Kalin-lucas_medium

 

The injury speaks for itself....not much to say about that. I will say though, that the Spartans did get lucky to make the Final Four again. A controversial offensive foul forced Tennessee's JP Prince to the bench, which turned a Vols run into a Spartan run. And even then, it took a last second foul call and free throw by Raymar Morgan to win the game.

Anyways, the draft prospects. I'll do more in depth stuff next week, but for now, I'll give my opinions on their strengths and weaknesses.

John Wall:

Strengths: He's fast. Really really fast. Sees the court well and can make the pass. Gets into the lanes at will and finishes strong at the rim. Has the potential to be an incredible defender. The comparisons to Gary Payton, in all aspects, I think are very warranted.

Weaknesses: Not always in control. The turnover problem never got better. WVU really exposed his trouble with the halfcourt offense...he looked like a point guard Corey Brewer at times, making silly mistakes just because he was so jittery and couldn't slow down.

Evan Turner:

Strengths: Can do everything. Literally. Score, rebound, pass, defend. He's a high IQ player, a strong defender, and ultra competitive. I mentioned this in a previous thread, that I feel a big reason the KG era teams were always solid despite underwhelming talent was because KG was there, competing against them in practice and pushing them in games. It's the iron sharpens iron thing...one of those intangibles that can't be stressed enough.

Weaknesses: Can he play off the ball? Hard to tell...Ohio State couldn't afford to make the attempt. He's not a great shooter from beyond 18 feet, and probably won't ever be more than average, no matter how hard he works at it in the NBA. Like Wall, he can be turnover prone, although some of that might be because he has to do so much. Not a great athlete.

Derrick Favors:

Strengths: Sky high athlete. Can score and rebound, and has the potential to be a great defender, especially from the weak side. I think he's better than what he generally appeared to be at Georgia Tech....they had to guard play, and kept turning to Gani Lawal for the important moments. In terms of potential, I'd say he and Wall are 1 and 1a.

Weaknesses: Slow motor. Sometimes he looks like KG, sometimes Stromile Swift. Not sure what the deal is....he doesn't lose focus like Stoudemire. He just gets passive sometimes. There's a question here I think about how much was his coasting a product of the coaches leaning on Lawal, and how much was his own doing.

DeMarcus Cousins:

Strengths: Big, strong, solidly athletic, very aggressive. Can rebound with anyone, and has great defensive potential. His scoring isn't polished, but can be with work. Very good at seeing what the defense leaves open and attacking it with force.

Weaknesses: Temper. Big time. He's a walking technical in the NBA. Not a great free throw shooter. Can get overly zealous at times, picking up bad fouls or getting into grudge matches with specific players that cause him to lose focus. Maturity is the big issue here.

So there you have it.

4s, and lots of them. 4 teams, 4 players, 4 points. And to finish it up, a 4 point play.

Remember that? It was that interactive game night thing where Glen Taylor had a live chat and David Kahn broadcasted the second half. I remember because he interrupted his own analysis with a disbelieving "Oh my goodness...." when Durant hit that shot.

Hopefully one of the four can be that good. Hopefully.

Until next week....

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