Notebook: Timberwolves facing a potentially tumultuous week
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Good feelings, even a little optimism, permeated the Minnesota Timberwolves' franchise last week, following the introductions of widely heralded guard Ricky Rubio and No. 2 pick Derrick Williams.
"I think, at least from the business people's standpoint they tell me there's a little bounce in their step," president of basketball operations David Kahn said.
But, as Kahn admitted, that positive vibe may be squashed quickly.
"I'm hopeful there will be more good weeks to come, " Kahn said. "But as we all know too there could be. ... We'll wait and see what happens next week. I'm hopeful that no matter what, the momentum that we've built, whenever it picks up if it has to be delayed a bit, will pick up in earnest."
It doesn't take much to deduce what Kahn's alluding to. With the NBA hurtling toward a possible league-wide lockout on July 1, the dysfunctional relationship between Kahn and coach Kurt Rambis also appears to be reaching an unceremonious conclusion.
However, following the draft, Kahn refuted the report and said the process of determining Rambis' fate was still ongoing. To further muddy the situation, Kahn threw up another apparent smokescreen in an interview on Friday with ESPN's Bill Simmons, saying he was having continuing discussions with Rambis and Rambis' agent, Warren LeGarie.
Kahn's denials are only perpetuating what at this point looks to be a foregone conclusion. The two months of feet-dragging that has gone on is considerably harming the stability of this young Wolves team. Any further delay prolongs the transition period if a new coach was put in place.
When he arrived in Minneapolis on Friday, Williams told reporters it felt strange coming into a situation without a head coach firmly established.
"It's pretty weird," Williams said. "I hope (Rambis) is the coach and I want him to be the coach. ... Nobody wants to have a new coach. Everybody is a rookie if there is a new coach, and it's going to be a disadvantage to everybody if that happens."
Rambis has two years remaining on his original four-year deal, forcing the Wolves to pay him the estimated $4 million if he is fired. It's also possible a negotiated buyout could be reached.
As part of their five draft night deals, the Wolves received cash from four teams. One theory is that the money will be put toward the buyout, although Kahn has feverishly objected, calling the idea "preposterous" in his interview with Simmons.
Forward Michael Beasley has spent the offseason training with former NBA star Norm Nixon on a daily basis.
Known for his brilliant passing and ball-handling, Nixon won two NBA titles during his 12 years in the league, both with the Lakers (1980, 1982), and racked up 6,386 assists, placing him 24th on the all-time list. After retiring in 1989, Nixon went on to become a sports agent and trainer.
Nixon's work is something Kahn is familiar with. The pair formed a relationship while Kahn was working for the Indiana Pacers in the late 1990s. Nixon represented and trained Jalen Rose, who transformed from an off-the-bench role player into a breakout star in his five seasons with the Pacers.
"He really did a fabulous job with Jalen and really help Jalen's game and help him in many ways," Kahn said.
Nixon is trying to do the same for Beasley. The three-year forward averaged 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in his first season with the Wolves last year, but struggled to maintain consistency from game-to-game.
"They are working on everything -- basketball and I think he's helping with even some things off the court," Kahn said.
Love goes under the knife
All-star forward Kevin Love recently underwent a procedure to repair a problem with his bite. The process included having his jaw surgically broken in order for it to move back into its proper position.
Although Love had resumed basketball-related activities only a week before the visit, Kahn said he's not worried the time away from the gym will hamper the Wolves' star.
"Kevin, as he demonstrated last summer, is so diligent and disciplined," Kahn said. "He knows what he's doing. I have total trust and faith in him."
Busy week for Williams
The Wolves' top draft pick is adjusting quickly to his new life in the NBA.
Despite a flurry of meetings and media appearances, Wiliams isn't straying from his workout regimen. With several of his new teammates in town (Love, Beasley, Johnson, Rubio and Martell Webster), Williams has taken the opportunity to get in several group workouts, getting his first glimpse of Rubio's pass-first style.
"All the stuff you see on YouTube where he's throwing it between his legs and behind his back, he does all of that and it works," Wiliams said on 1500 ESPN's Sunday Morning SportsTalk. "He's a great player and he's going to be a great fit for this team."
Depending on how the impending lockout shakes out, Williams plans to return to Los Angeles in the next week to ramp up his off-season training.
"He knows if he's going to go from being a great player to an elite player in the league it's really about how he takes care of his body," Williams' agent, Rob Pelinka, said. "If he wants to play some three in the league he's gotta continue to get stronger, faster. He's about probably about 240, 245 right now and may get to 235 so he can get quicker and more explosive."