Wessel: David Kahn's wisest move was saving max deal for Ricky Rubio
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Reports and speculation will continue to pop up about the future of Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn as the season winds to a close, with only nine games left after Monday's 110-100 win over the Boston Celtics.
Kahn deserves to lose his job for a multitude of reasons not worth rehashing here. But owner Glen Taylor is a loyal guy (almost to a fault), and coach Rick Adelman is the one really calling the shots behind the scenes anyway, so there is a good chance Kahn is back next season.
Regardless of what his future holds and what the public perception of him is, Wolves fans owe Kahn a big thank you for saving the maximum contract for Ricky Rubio.
Almost everyone -- this scribe included -- blasted Kahn when he refused to give Kevin Love the maximum deal teams can only use once during the current collective bargaining agreement. But since Love signed his name on that deal that includes a player-option final year, perception of both Love and Rubio have gone on opposite directions.
The season has been an unmitigated disaster off the court for Love and hasn't been much prettier when he suited up for 18 games and couldn't make a shot. The front office was right to dig around the mysterious circumstances on how Love broke his hand in the first place. Love can whine about it all he wants, but the knuckle push-up story didn't pass the smell test.
The whole thing felt odd. It felt even more odd when Love disappeared to California after the injury for a few weeks right after breaking his hand, not offering explanation of the injury to fans or media while his teammates prepared for what was supposed to be a playoff season.
Then, Love sat down with Yahoo! Sports to once again complain about his perceived injustices of not getting the five-year, $80 million max deal while taking digs at Kahn and Taylor.
Speaking out against management is one thing. Where Love really went too far was complaining about the locker room turnover -- how each year there are "new guys everywhere."
While Love was airing the team's dirty laundry, those "new guys" were 9-9 and fighting to keep hope alive for the playoffs their leader so desperately wants to make.
That doesn't really sound like a guy you want to build a franchise around.
He later tried to soften the fallout from the Y! piece, saying the writer had taken advantage of him. But Love isn't some green rookie.
This was a 24-year-old Olympic gold medalist who played college basketball at UCLA. He knew the ramifications of having a shrimp cocktail and spilling his guts to a national writer.
Love's bizarre season took another turn when he elected to have surgery upon breaking the hand a second time, rather than going the non-surgical route that got him back on the court just five weeks after breaking his hand the first time.
It has now been 11 weeks, and Love has yet to even be cleared for contact. It is looking more and more like he'll just throw in the towel on a season that has spiraled beyond repair in his absence.
There were people inside the organization confused and upset by Love's decision to get surgery. Love himself said the second broken hand was just a freak accident -- it got caught in an opponent's jersey -- and not because he came back too soon or the bones hadn't healed properly.
Further, this time around he only fractured the third metacarpal after fracturing both the third and the fourth the first time. Why take a longer recovery route on a less significant injury?
But Love did things his way with his doctors because that is how Love does things -- his way. Once again, he spent weeks away from the team in New York while the season crumbled for the Wolves.
Meanwhile, while all this has been happening off the court for Love, Rubio has been doing everything he can to lead the team on it. After a long recovery from a torn up knee last March, Rubio has matched and even surpassed his play from last season.
While Love talks and talks about his desire to make the playoffs, it is almost like it consumes every fiber of Rubio's being. The Wolves have long been dead in the water, but Rubio still plays each game with the intensity and desire like it is a Game 7 -- and not just because he is chasing a double-double mark.
Love ripped former teammates for playing out the string as if they were ready for summer vacation, but Love was just as much to blame as them. The Wolves were 14-49 the last two seasons in April and March, and he rarely showed the passion or drive that had Rubio in tears after a 120-117 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers last week.
Rubio has the type of work ethic and attitude that can reform a franchise and change a culture that has suffered enough embarrassments and failures to fill a book. The early concerns Rubio would never develop into a scorer are slowly subsiding as he gains more confidence and gets more games under his belt.
Remember, Rubio played just 41 games last year and is still just scratching the surface of his potential as a player in this league.
They are little things -- such as sitting on the bench during games when injured -- but they are the little things necessary to be one of the rare guys in this league that commands a max contract.
Rubio has taken big strides towards being a leader this season. Love hasn't.
This isn't to say the Wolves don't need Love (they do) or that they should trade him (they shouldn't). Love is a huge talent and even better when paired with Rubio. The Wolves can still offer Love more money than any other team when his contract is up, and he'd likely happily accept if the Wolves start winning like they should. The two have the opportunity to absolutely flourish here in Minnesota and they'd be fools not to realize that.
But Rubio is the type of rare talent that doesn't come around very often. His game and his personality are absolutely infectious, and ensuring he plays his whole career in Minnesota was something that the Wolves need to do everything possible to ensure.
Whether Kahn is here or next year or not, his legacy will live on in Wolves folklore mostly in the form of punch lines and awful memories. But for all his faults and blunders, fans should thank Kahn for having the foresight to make sure their maximum contract was saved for Rubio.