After weeks of dithering on this decision and telling countless sources that he had not decided to fire Kurt Rambis, David Kahn fired Kurt Rambis.Â The rumors that Rambis was being considered for a front-office job were preposterous.Why would an organization promote a coach who’s compiled a 32-132 record during his tenure with the team?Â Instead of simply letting Rambis go and move on accordingly, Kahn and the Timberwolves management found another way to make themselves the league’s laughing stock.
As I noted in an earlier post, firing Rambis is ultimately the right decision.Â The triangle offense does not work without superstars and this Wolve’s team is devoid of superstars.Â That said, this team does have gifted offensive players in Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Kevin Love and Martell Webster.Â Even oft-ridiculed center Darko Milicic has his own redeeming qualities on the offensive end.Â Darko will never drop 20-10 on a nightly basis, but he passes well and doesn’t struggle with catching the ball in traffic.Â What the Wolves now need is a coach capable exerting the most out of this squad, and fortunately for Kahn et. al, there are some very good prospects still out on the market.
Here’s a list of the top-5 candidates I’d recommend to replace Rambis:
- Jay Triano: His Toronto teams were too depleted of talent for him to have any chance of success.Â The TWolves are far more talented that the Raptors were these past two years and they have players who fit Triano’s uptempo style.Â His experience in Europe is also a plus for a team preparing to anchor itself around one of the NBA’s most promising European imports, Ricky Rubio.
- Lawrence Frank: Frank is a winner and he knows how to work with point guards.Â And if there’s one thing that Minnesota isn’t short on it’s point guards.Â Frank should be able to create a system that will allow Rubio time to develop, while not retarding the progress of Minnesota’s other young players.
- Bill Laimbeer: He’d much rather the Detroit job and his presence on Rambis’ coaching staff will likely not endear him to the front office.Â However, Laimbeer is not Rambis and he is deserving of a chance to show what he can accomplish with this squad.
- Sam Cassell: Cassell has been a phenomenal mentor to John Wall and while he’s not touted for this as much as Avery Johnson, Cassell was one of the best player coaches of his generation. Players listen to Sam.I.Am. and he could be a very good model for Rubio of the type of cajones one will need to be a successful small point guard in the NBA.Â He will also likely be a good influence on Beasley, who he should have no trouble reigning in.
- Scottie Pippen.Â I really mean to type Rick Adelman, but since the consensus is that Adelman wouldn’t take on a project like this at this stage in his career, I will go ahead and recommend Pippen just for kicks.Â Pippen was one of the smartest basketball players of his generation and one-half of his generation’s most dominant duo.Â If he is willing to forgo the triangle, Pippen would be a very interesting choice.Â His 6-championships would command the respect of his players.Â He brings name recognition to the sidelines, and thus would reinvigorate the franchise with a level of excitement unseen since Kevin Garnett’s prime.
Phil Jackson won 11 championships, but he didn’t win any when his team didn’t have at least three all-star caliber players.Â The Jordan era Bulls had Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, all three of whom were among the best at their positions.Â In his first go-round with the Lakers Jackson’s teams were armed with Shaq, Kobe, and a younger Derek Fisher.Â His most recent Lakers teams had the Kobe, Gasol and Odom trio.Â None of the other teams headed by Jackson proteges that have employed the triangle had a level of talent that even comes close to matching Jackson’s championship squads.Â The closest might’ve been Jim Cleamons’ Mavericks team of the mid-90s that had Jason Kidd, Jimmy Jackson and Jamal Mashburn, but not only were those players too young, the triangle offense didn’t play to their strengths.
Minnesota’s attempt at running the triangle was doomed to fail because if Kevin Love or Darko Milicic hunkered down in the post then it forced Michael Beasley out to the perimeter where he is less effective.Â The TWolves also lacked dependable outside shooting, thus if Beasley was hot in the post, then a team wouldn’t get burned if they doubled him.Â Similarly, if he was cold, there was no one on the perimeter who could consistently nail down shots from outside to open it up so Beasley or Love can work on the inside.
What makes the triangle effective is that it turns a 5on5 game into a 3on3 contest and as anyone who’s ever played pickup at the park can attest, it’s much easier to win at 3on3 with talented players than it is 5on5.Â Simply put, since there are fewer people it’s easier to share shots.Â Therefore in order for the triangle to be effective in the NBA the three best players must not only be good, but they have to be dominant.Â They have to be strong enough to set themselves aside from the other players on their team, and the coach has to be skillful enough to convince the other players that they’ll get the leftovers of whatever the big three don’t eat.Â Since Minnesota was so dependent on riding the hot hand to succeed the team had no chance of instituting the kind of pecking order that is needed for the triangle to work.Â Thus, while Rambis didn’t have the best talent to work with in Minnesota, he should’ve also realized that the social dynamics on his team were not conducive to running the triangle.
Interestingly enough, the one team best suited to run the triangle is the team that’s least likely to ever run it.Â If Miami ever decides to adopt the system, there’s a good chance that like LeBron, the Larry O’Brien trophy will be making its home in South Beach for the foreseeable future.
As if drafting two point guards in the same draft wasn’t bad enough, Minnesota GM David Kahn has descended into another level of ineptitude.Â On the eve of the NBA draft, a draft in which his team holds the #2 overall selection, Kahn has decided it’s time to fire head coach Kurt Rambis. The firing isn’t official yet, a fact that only makes matters worse because instead of talking about the team’s bright future, Kahn will now be relegated to answering questions about this untimely firing.
Had Minnesota fired Rambis at the end of the season the team could’ve headed into the offseason with a clean slate.Â Instead by waiting so late not only will they be starting a coaching search when other teams are starting to gear up for next season, it means that the new additions to the franchise have no idea who they’re leader is going to be.Â I know some people think that coaches are overrated in the NBA, but Kahn’s actions suggest that they’re irrelevant.
To his credit though, questionable choices by the other franchises with openings this year means that Kahn did not lose out on anyone.Â Dwayne Casey and Kevin McHale have already done stints with the TWolves so they were automatically ruled out, and Mark Jackson is a wild card, so it’s not as if Kahn lost out on that hire either.Â Given that a gifted coach like Lawrence Frank is still available means that although this firing was poorly timed, Kahn still has a chance to save face.
Still, one has to wonder what kind of operation is running.Â With a bevy of lottery picks on board Kahn has to start making some more prudent decisions or else he risks losing his top talent to better teams.
Minnesota already has three players, four if you count Anthony Tolliver, who are similar to Williams.Â Martell Webster, Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson and the aforementioned Tolliver are all 6’8″ forwards with varying degrees of talent and flaws.Â Excluding Tolliver, they were all lottery picks and each are gifted on the offensive end.Â And again, save for Tolliver, I’d be hard pressed to make an argument that Williams is an infinitely better basketball player than any of the other three.Â Does he have the potential to be, sure, but he could also pan out to be worst than them as well.Â And Minnesota fans surely can’t feel at ease by the similarities between Williams and Beasley, which stretch down to the fact that both were drafted behind all-american point guards.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, no one in this year’s lottery makes much sense for them.Â They can’t draft a point guard like Brandon Knight because they already have half a dozen including their recently arrived franchise guard Ricky Rubio.Â A power forward like Enes Kanter is also out of the question because of the presence of Kevin Love.Â And as of now, they can’t seem to find a killer trade option for the pick.
Seriously, has there ever been a team so hamstrung by a lottery pick in the draft’s history?Â Even the Nets had a legitimate need for a power forward when they drafted him in the otherwise underwhelming 2000 draft.
The best case scenario for Minnesota is that they take Williams and he morphs into some variation of Paul Pierce or David West.Â In the idea world, Williams will come in and will be the iso complement to the Rubio/Love pick and pop duo, similar to how Pierce functions in Boston.Â And in late game situations, he’ll go down on the block a la West, and give Minnesota baskets and stability in the low post as they try closing out games, something they were atrocious at this past season.