The Kurt Rambis experiment begins...what do we expect?
Today it was finally, finally announced that it would be Lakers Assistant Kurt Rambis that takes over as the Minnesota Timberwolves Head Coach.
David Kahn, the new GM, has made enough splashes already, with his confusing draft picks. Rambis is not a crazy choice by any stretch of the imagination, but he is still a risk, as any new coach is. Not that Rambis is technically a new Head Coach. He did have the gig once before, in the lockout-shortened season on '99. He coached 37 games for the Lakers back then, and went 24-13, good for a .649 winning percentage.
Definitely a respectable record...but things are also very different this time.
The Timberwolves have been rebuilding, and need action now. The fans don't want to wait any more. Rambis has been given a young team with potential that he is now responsible for nurturing. There's no Shaq this time round. No Kobe Bryant. No team loaded with veterans.
In a year's time (well probably a bit less) we'll know how successful the Rambis experiment has turned out. Yes, he is expected to sign a four-year deal, but as I mentioned, results are needed now. And if the Timberwolves don't show considerable improvement...well I wouldn't be surprised if Kahn pulled the trigger early on. So, what is the best and worst we can expect from Rambis?
(Obviously, this is taken with a pinch of salt. The best case scenario would be an NBA championship. The worst case scenario would be losing 82 games. But neither of these are reasonable, so you get what I'm asking. What is the best and worst we can expect from Rambis that could actually happen.)
Best Case Scenario: The Wolves at least contend for a playoff berth.
Yes the East has definitely improved over the summer, but that doesn't mean the West has gotten any weaker. It is still incredibly hard for any team to gain a spot in the postseason. And its no different for the Timberwolves.
But Rambis has talent to work with. Al Jefferson was having an amazing, possibly All-Star type season last year before he went down with injury. With his return, the Wolves are infinitely more dangerous. He is the pillar of the team, a great scorer and rebounder who averaged 23 and 11 last season, he's improved every season he's been in the league. Corey Brewer, a huge part of the back-to-back NCAA championship-winning teams for the Florida Gators, will also be returning from injury after missing most of last season. He is versatile and athletic, while he won't be a star in the same way as Jefferson will; he can be a glue guy and can definitely help the team. Wayne Ellington and Jonny Flynn are the rookies that will definitely be joining the team. The situation surrounding Ricky Rubio would take a whole other article to explain, but the Wolves still improve with these rookies. Flynn showed great promise during summer league, and Ellington was a major piece on the Tar Heels championship team. Kevin Love is a very able returning player who gives the Wolves a lot. He can rebound with the best of them and has a good basketball I.Q
> Pro Basketball Fans and partner sites feature discount NBA merchandise, Basketball Fathead wall stickers & more for fans of all ages.
So Rambis has a chance to help this team come together. Though they still have a weak bench, aswell as other weaknesses, they could make a push for that 8th spot. Obviously, they need health. If Jefferson goes down again you can pretty much kiss the dream goodbye. The young guys need as much time playing together as they can get, so as to develop chemistry. If the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns can't get themselves together, the Wolves can take advantage and become a dangerous team. It'll be close and they'll need a bit of luck, and they might not get there, but if they get close, it will be a success for Rambis's first year.
Worst Case Scenario: They stay the same.
I don't know if they could get much worse from last year (24 wins). But if they end up with 20 something wins again, it's going to be a disaster.
Kahn will be criticized for his draft choices (no matter how well they play) and his decision to hire Rambis (doesn't matter how well he coaches, they still need wins in the column). The fans will become even more annoyed and restless, and perhaps some kind of desperate trade will be made?
This can easily happen. Rambis is used to big ego's on his teams, but can he handle a lot of restless young guys? If things go badly for the first half of the season and chemistry doesn't become obvious, they could easily start tuning Rambis out, and things can go from bad to worse if guys start playing for themselves rather than the team.
The Wolves aren't going to win a championship. It's unlikely that they'll even get into the playoffs. No-one really expects that.
But they do expect improvement. A sign that this rebuilding mode is working, that they are moving back towards relevance again. If they stay still, expect heads to start rolling. Rambis is a good choice for a coach. And Rambis himself has clearly wanted the head gig for years, so it makes sense for him to want a chance to prove himself, but its almost an 'All-in' situation.
If he can get the T-Wolves in the playoffs within the next 2/3 years, he'll be a hero. If not, he'll go the same way as Dwane Casey, Randy Wittman, and Mr. Mchale.
By Joe Buckley
Pro-Basketball Fans staff-writer
> Read all of the pro basketball articles online from ProBasketball-fans.com.