Friday, March 31, 2006

KG Deserves Better

Kevin Garnett publicly says he’s frustrated with the Timberwolves and the losing is taking a toll. My only question is what took him so long? Garnett has done more for the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise than anyone else. The only thing he wants in return is a chance to win. Players have demanded trades for far less noble reasons. To Timberwolves management this should be treated as Code Red. The franchise player is unhappy and it is time make reasonable strides towards pleasing him. This is different than appeasement, or how the Lakers treat Kobe. So it is time for the Timberwolves to lay out and immediately implement a plan to remake the franchise.

Cut the Dead Wood
The first order of business is to show Kevin McHale the door. His terrible decisions and crippling effects have been discussed here plenty of times. It is time for Glen Taylor to separate business from friendship and make a sober judgment on McHale. Dispatch him to Indianapolis to scout the Final Four and then clean out his office and lock the door. When he returns on Tuesday have security escort him to Hibbing.

Stop Making Excuses
Taylor says it is difficult to acquire talent with KG’s big contract eating 37% of the payroll. This is a superstar player that took a paycut for this very reason. Every team with a superstar has similar problems, but most manage to have two stars or at least three consistent scorers. What did Taylor and sidekick Kevin McHale do with their remaining cap room? Sign Trenton Hassell, Mark Madsen, and Troy Hudson to long term deals, and trade Michael Olawokandi’s expiring contract for Mark Blount’s with four years left. These four players total 43% of the cap. While it is difficult to acquire supporting talent, it becomes nearly impossible when the owner and VP of Operations hand out long term contracts to players that average less than ten points per game.

Give Casey Another At Bat
One season is not a long enough evaluation period for any coach, but especially a rookie head coach. Taylor should allow Dwane Casey another year to create the team he wants. That process must start now. With the Wolves assured of missing the playoffs, Casey can devise his off-season plan instead of working on his resume.

Evaluate Young Talent Now
Before the team can formulate a summer plan, they need to inventory what is already here. Can Rashad McCants become a star, a consistent scorer or something closer to JR Rider? Trenton Hassell’s injury has allowed McCants to start and he’s scored in double figures in three of his four starts. Barring injury or ejection, McCants needs the maximum minutes he can handle. The same goes for Marcus Banks. Banks’ contract expires, which makes his evaluation more pivotal. Is he the team’s point guard of the future or too inconsistent to deserve a mid-level contract? Minnesota is already tethered to two cap-draining point guards, making it even more risky to lock up Banks.

The only other young prospect the Wolves have is Bracey Wright. He is currently in the NBDL leading the league in scoring. It is time for Wright to play for the Wolves and see if he can play point guard, shooting guard or neither. He is turnover prone, but can shoot from outside and his defense is also unknown. At this point it doesn’t matter, the Wolves need to see what they have and then decide if he is worth a contract for next year or not.

Define Everyone’s Role
The remainder of the roster is role players and dead weight. Let Casey decide which pieces can contribute and if anything else is attractive in a trade. The players in this category aren’t useless, but it’s important to realize what skills they have and slot them in appropriate roles. For example Madsen hustles, plays hard and is a popular teammate. There are plenty of 6-9 defensive minded bangers available meaning he wasn’t worth a six year deal.

Troy Hudson’s ankles suggest he is quickly declining and the best they can hope for is amnesty via retirement. Marko Jaric is not a point guard, but could serve well in a bench role. Ricky Davis is erratic and will get you 16-19 ppg, but he is not a number two option. Trenton Hassell is a good defender but is not a number three option. Anthony Carter and Marcus Dupree are journeymen, which are plentiful in the NBDL and Europe.

A lot of hard work will be done this summer in the lottery and free agency, but things need to start now. More importantly the team must convey a sense of urgency and unrest to Garnett. If there is no plan in place or it is status quo, Garnett’s frustration will only mount.