Thursday, May 21, 2009

Taylor Cries Wolves, Hires New GM- No Really

According to Jerry Zgoda's excellent T-Wolves blog at the Strib, the Wolves five month search for a new GM will finally end tomorrow- and thankfully, it's not going to be Fred Hoiberg, Jim Stack, or Kevin McHale. I know what you're thinking- YEAH RIGHT!! Former Indiana Pacers GM David Kahn is apparently the man for the job, and according to Zgoda, he is NOT obligated to keep McHale, Hoiberg, or Stack. Again, YEAH RIGHT!

For the three people that have been following this saga, the Wolves were all set to announce Blazers assistant GM Tim Penn as their new head man last week- until he pulled out, claiming the Blazers made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Penn was the third candidate to politely pull his name from the search, but this time, owner Glen Taylor is saying he really, truly, honestly, no doubt about it has his man- hopefully Kahn doesn't have second thoughts before tomorrow's press conference.

So is it a bad sign that the Wolves had to take their fourth choice? Sure, you could argue that "hey at least they didn't hire Hoiberg, Stack or McHale!", except that I don't believe for a second that any or all of those three aren't going to keep their jobs or stay with the organization in some capacity. Yep, Taylor claims that he's told Kahn, and all the other candidates who interviewed, that they would have full control of who they put on their staff, but to me, he's just crying wolf yet again about how he wants to make changes, but other than the coach, nothing ever changes.

Kahn has apparently been told he does not have to keep any of the former 600 First Avenue Country Club members if he doesn't want to, although he WILL keep that group together through the draft, since it'd be pretty tough to put a new staff together AND prep for the draft in the next five weeks. But there's every reason to believe that's not true at all. I mean, look at the Wolves GM position: ok so living through Minnesota winters probably isn't the most intriguing thing for an outsider, but this is still a really promising job with a lot of potential. You've got some excellent building blocks/trade chips in Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Randy Foye, and Mike Miller, as well as a slew of upcoming draft picks AND a ton of cap space opening up in the next couple of years. There is a LOT to like about this opportunity.

So why then, if Taylor is saying he's giving the new GM free reign, would three people who are currently NOT NBA GM's pass up this opportunity? Why? I don't care how good things are for Tom Penn in Portland, former Miami GM Randy Pfund, or Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey, none of those guys have a job as good as President of Basketball Operations for an NBA team. So unless they've got inside info and a shot at a better, more promising GM job down the road, WHY would four very smart, very qualified candidates pass up what looks to be a very good NBA job that is better than what they currently have?

Unless the job really isn't that good. Unless contrary to what Glen Taylor is telling the public, he's telling the candidates that they have to keep McHale if they want to come back, and that he's a big fan of Freddy Hoiberg and wants him to stay in the organization too. And while they're at, in these tough economic times, he also needs to find jobs for his good buddies Jim Stack and Rob Babcock.

Honestly, no other reason would make sense for three of these guys to back out unless they weren't be given the total control of the team Taylor says he's giving them.

So that's why I'm really skeptical that Kahn is going to clean house- not because he doesn't want to, but because he can't. McHale has turned out to be a pretty good coach, but his legacy here and the damage he's done and the shadow he casts would- or at least SHOULD- make anybody who takes the GM job kick McHale to the curb. Hoiberg doesn't have the horrible track record McHale does, but I'm sorry- I don't care how nice the guy is or how smart, if all he's learned has been with a Wolves organization that has proven over and over and over that they have no idea what they're doing, how can you expect Hoiberg to be different? If all you've learned and all you know is the wrong way to do things, why on God's green earth would you suddenly expect Hoiberg to start making smart basketball decisions?

Honestly, if you were starting a car company and you were going to hire an executive to run it, would you try to hire somebody from GM or Chrysler, or would you go with somebody from Toyota, Honda, or Mercedes Benz? Unless you're an idiot (or you know you're going to get billions of tax payer dollars no matter how badly you run your business), you're going to hire somebody from one of the successful foreign car companies. Sports is, and should be, the same way. Crappy teams need to hire people from successful franchises: in football I'd be after folks from the Patriots, Colts or Steelers, in hockey it'd be the Detroit Red Wings, and in baseball there's plenty of well-run teams like the Rays or Red Sox. In the NBA, you go after folks from the Spurs, Blazers, and Celtics, and to Taylor's credit, that's what he tried to do. But the fact he didn't just fire his entire staff and then be bold and go out and get the best person for the job tells me all I need to about how Taylor really conducted his search and what he's told his candidates. Because he's let his entire staff stay on (...and on...and on...and on...) and it took him SO long to find a new GM that the staff now has to stay until after the draft...well you do the math.

I hope I'm wrong, as since the Sonics were stolen from the good people of Seattle I'm looking for a team to cheer for. But Taylor has cried "Wolves!" too many times for me to trust that he's going to finally clean house and give his franchise the fresh start it deserves. I'll believe it when I see it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Monday Musings

...The Favre stuff just won't die, will it? As excited as I would be to have Favre in Purple this fall, I'm sick of the hourly updates on whether he's decided to play or not. My two cents, and this is the only thing I'm going to say about it until he signs with the team sometime next month or in July (and he will):
Without Favre, the Vikings WILL play TJack at quarterback. They will. I don't care what Brad Childress says about a competition with Sage Rosenfels, he WILL start TJack regardless. If Childress wanted real competition for Jackson, he would have gone after Jeff Garcia, or made a run at Jay Cutler in trade. But he did neither. So without Favre, we get TJack, and with TJack as the starter in not only a much improved NFC North, but a much improved NFC as a whole, the Vikings are not a playoff team.

So if the best case scenario WITHOUT Favre is not going to the playoffs, what's there to lose by signing him? Exactly, nothing. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. First and foremost, this is being driven by owner Ziggy Wilf, who has had trouble not only drumming support for a new stadium, but just to sell out games on a weekly basis. Hell, Jer and I got playoff tickets the week of the game, which pre-Chilly/TJack never would have happened. So the surest way for Ziggy to sell tickets this year is for Favre to be a Viking. Tickets would suddenly be impossible to get, and he'd be selling #4 Favre jerseys like lemonade on a hot day. Furthermore, IF Favre's shoulder gets fixed and he gets some semblance of his fastball back, he's a legit QB and the Vikes are a SUper Bowl contender. And if they're a Super Bowl contender, fans/voters/tax payers and fans/legislature have a much better chance of doing a 180 on getting a publicly funded stadium off the ground when the VIkes are winning.

On KFAN here locally, Sludge (who is acting like a four year old in saying he doesn't want Favre here because he plays for the Vikes arch rival) said there's no proof that if the Vikings make a Super Bowl run with Favrey that state lawmakers will suddenly jump on board with a publicly-funded stadium. Au contraire, mon fraire. Seattle has done this not once, but twice- as a Ken Griffey Jr. led post-season run saved the Mariners and got Safeco field built, and around the same time, a Gary Payton/Shawn Kemp combo saved the Sonics (for another 10 years anyway) by getting Key Arena renovated and up to NBA code. It can and could possibly happen, and you'd better believe Ziggy Wilf is banking on it. If not Purple Fans, Ziggy will take this team to LA in two years. So there's yet another reason to want Favre. Until he signs, I'm done talking about it.

...Wow are the Lakers ever soft. How can a team that was THAT dominate all year long get pushed around and forced to 7 games by such an undermaned Rockets team? Pathetic. Kobe and Phil Jackson should be taking the brunt of this. Jordan never, ever would have let an opponent as wounded as Houston hang around for seven games. Hell, Lebron James never would have either. And how does Phil Jackson, who is supposed to be the greatest coach ever, allow a depleted Houston squad take his superiorly talented Lakers to 7 games? Phil won 6 titles with the Bulls because Jordan willed them to it, and won three more with the Lakers because he had (at the time) the two best players on the planet in Shaq and Kobe. His genius is in getting players to buy-in and coexist that otherwise would not, but if he doesn't have superior talent, he's a baby sitter just like every other NBA coach (other than Jerry Sloan and Greg Popovich. Those two are good coaches, although I'd be interested to see what Popovich would do with a normal NBA team of malcontents and prima donas instead of the first-class citizens he's had his whole time there in San Antonio).

...On the other hand, the Rockets should be commended for playing that well with their two best players on the shelf. Still, the future of the Rockets is up in the air now because I don't trust said two best players who were on the shelf. T-Mac has never won a playoff series and can't stay healthy and Yao Ming- as talented and hardworking and likeable as he is- also has never won a playoff series and cannot stay healthy. This is the fifth straight year Yao has a pretty serious injury, which to me means a trend. One or two years, hey maybe that's a fluke, but five in a row now? Houston will get out from under McGrady's contract by next summer, but it'll be interesting to see what GM whiz Dork-Elvis does with Yao: what do you do if you can't trust your highest paid player to be healthy?

...I was wrong about the Iverson/Chauncey Billups deal. When it was made, I loved it for Detroit, and thought it was nothing more than a lateral move for the Nuggets. Whoops. I still love this deal for the Pistons because they peaked two years ago with that core, and they weren't getting past the second round of the playoffs (and maybe not even the first) if they kept Billups. Instead, they got AI's massive expiring contract to go with Ra-weed's expiring deal, setting them up to be major players this summer when few, if any, teams will have money to spend. Joe Dumars made the right move in dumping Billups while he still had value, but he still has a LOT of work ahead of him.

As for the Nuggets, I didn't count on Billups not only being this good, but making his teammates this good. It's a totally different Denver squad than before they got him, and it looks like everybody is playing up to potential. The other thing I didn't count on were the Lakers playing and acting like a bunch of Euros. If the Lakers played up to their abilities we'd have the Lakers/Cavs Final I guaranteed a few months ago. Instead, we could actually have a series here. Personally, I'd rather see Nuggets/Cavs (Melo vs. Bronbron) than Lakers/Cavs.

...I'd love to tell you how great the hockey playoffs have been this last month, but I don't get Versus so I can't. Yet another arrogant, ignorant, and stupid move by Gary Bettman to put them there instead of swallowing his pride and keeping the NHL on ESPN, even though they'd be getting next to nothing to do so. Would you rather get paid nothing up front by ESPN but actually have fans be able to see your games, or make pennies from Versus and have nobody watch it?

...If you DVR'd Will Ferrell hosting the season finale of SNL and haven't watched it yet, I'm going to ruin it for you. Why? Because I don't want you to waste a good hour of your time. It was a truly disappointing effort all around. It was like the writers just took the week off and said "hey we can just recycle his old skits and make up jokes the night before. It's Will Ferrell! Everybody will laugh!" Um no. I don't even blame Ferrell for this, because he's only as good as his writing- and the skits Saturday night stunk. Jeopardy was pretty good, but still not even up to par with the old ones, and the others were forgetable. Even his Harry Caray routine during Weekend Update- I mean, how do you screw that up? And yet they did.