Kurt Rambis' future with Wolves remains uncertain as NBA draft looms
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With six weeks remaining until the NBA Draft, Kurt Rambis' future with the Minnesota Timberwolves remains in limbo.
Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn declined to give any indication of the team's plans when he addressed the media in April, just prior to the conclusion of yet another dismal season.
"This isn't the right time to make decisions," Kahn said. "It's a very emotional time. There is no timetable or pressure for us to have to do something right now. "
Apparently, the right time still hasn't arrived.
In the month since Kahn's long-winded and at times awkward press conference, the Wolves' front office has stayed mum in regards to the head-coaching situation. When asked this week for an update on Rambis' status, the Wolves responded there is nothing new to report.
Kahn and assistant general manager Tony Ronzone are in the midst of a trip to Spain to woo international star Ricky Rubio, who has been playing hard to get. Once the duo returns, the Wolves have close to a month-and-a-half to make a decision on Rambis, either way, before the draft on June 23.
It is hard to imagine Kahn would want to again be caught entering the draft with his team in a state of flux. The Wolves parted ways with former head coach Kevin McHale only a week before the 2009 draft and did not finish their coaching search until August.
Rambis has two years remaining on his original four-year, $8 million contract -- the length of which was a sticking point when he signed with the team in 2009.
"I didn't want to be the individual who put in the work, and put in the time, and then somebody else comes in and takes it to the next level," Rambis said at his introductory press conference. "I feel I am that coach to not only help this team develop and grow, but to take it to the next level where we are winning playoff games."
He could be out of luck. What has resulted in the last two years is far from the step forward Rambis promised.
After a 15-win campaign the year in 2009-10, the Wolves managed to better their record by only two games this season, finishing with a league-worst mark of 17-65. Rambis has grown increasingly disgruntled and standoffish, as inconsistent and subpar play has become the norm.
If Rambis' tenure with the Wolves is indeed over, the pool from which to find a successor is small.
Former NBA point guard Mark Jackson and Houston Rockets assistant coach Elston Turner are sure to enter the conversation again. Both were among the final three candidates in the Wolves' previous coaching search.
A source close to the situation told 1500 ESPN former Toronto Raptors head coach and current New Jersey Nets assistant Sam Mitchell would jump at the opening, although he'd be a long shot to get the job.
Like Rambis, Rubio has a cloudy future with the Wolves.
Selected with the fifth overall pick in 2009, Rubio has remained in Europe because of contractual issues with his Spanish League team. His situation has been locked in a stalemate as of late but could be moving forward in the wake of Kahn's latest trip.
Getting a definitive answer from Rubio and regaining stability at point guard was one of Rambis' main goals at the start of his tenure.
"We clearly have to get the Ricky Rubio situation addressed, one way or another," Rambis said in 2009. "Jonny Flynn is a tremendous point guard. I see huge potential in both of those players. ... They're really going to enhance our team and they're going to enhance the individuals around them."
Obviously, neither has panned out. Flynn's passable rookie year (13.5 points per game, 4.4 assists) gave way to disastrous 2010-11 season. Hampered by a hip injury, he played in only 53 games this season, averaging 5.3 points per game, and is likely on his way out. The Wolves tried to move Flynn to the Rockets prior to the trade deadline, but no deal could be reached.
The issues at point guard further highlight the Wolves' pressing need for substantial development from nearly every player on its roster if they hope to be competitive on a nightly basis.
The weeks ahead carry a sizeable burden in determining not only Rambis' fate, but the future of the franchise as well.
The Wolves' draft fortunes will be known after the NBA lottery on May 17. They have a 25% chance at the No. 1 pick as they are guaranteed to be one of the first four teams to make a selection. The No. 20 selection also belongs to the Wolves -- the pick they received from Utah as part of the Al Jefferson trade.
Dates to remember
May 8: NCAA deadline for early draft entries to withdraw before losing collegiate eligibility.
May 17: NBA Draft lottery
June 23: NBA Draft