Timberwolves holding on to core players
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves remain focused on evaluation and determination of the core players they'll commit to beyond this rebuilding season and the approaching NBA trade deadline doesn't factor in to that process, president of basketball operations David Kahn said Monday.
So don't expect the Timberwolves to make any more than a minor move before the Feb. 18 cutoff for making deals, until the swapping and signing of players can begin again in July.
"I know that we won't do something dramatic," Kahn said, adding: "Firm as firm can be. Absolutely. We will not move one of the big people in the next 10 days. It would be a mistake of epic proportions."
That means point guards Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions, perimeter players Corey Brewer and Ryan Gomes and power forwards Al Jefferson and Kevin Love have the rest of the season to prove their worth and their fit with coach Kurt Rambis's triangle scheme. First-round draft pick Ricky Rubio is part of that process too, a world away in Spain, but Kahn again ruled out a trade this year.
"We've gotten calls on him, of course, but there's no way I would do anything with him now. Absolutely none," Kahn said. "He's still young, and I still think he can be one of the better point guards to play in the game."
After a season-high four straight wins, the Wolves still are last in the Western Conference at 13-38. In a question-and-answer session with reporters at Target Center on Monday, Kahn said he sees the team as two years away from playoff contention.
"In three or four years I hope we'll be among the best teams in this league," Kahn said.
One major question to be answered is whether Jefferson, the leading scorer and centerpiece of the franchise-altering Kevin Garnett trade of three years ago, will be part of the progress.
"We have not had one discussion that we initiated involving Al Jefferson," Kahn said. "Not one. And yet it hasn't stopped people from saying that he has been talked about in trades. Not true."
Kahn said he took a call from another team about that very subject Monday morning.
"Al understands: That's part of my job," Kahn said. "You have to listen, but that's a big difference than initiating or showing interest."
That doesn't mean the Wolves won't be open to it or even aggressive about it this summer, when they'll have around $13 million or $14 million in salary cap space. They need to add a true center, among other players, to go with Jefferson and/or Love.
"I think any of us could be gone, to tell you the truth, this summer," Love said after Monday's practice, adding: "We'll just have to wait and see."
Jefferson and Love essentially play the same position, though that also doesn't guarantee either one of them will be traded. The Wolves likely will have a top-five draft pick and possibly two later first-rounders from other teams, too.
"You certainly can make an argument with your whole team, but especially your big people that it might be nice to have an embarrassment of riches at those positions," Kahn said.
On other subjects:
• Nikola Pekovic, a second-round draft pick from Europe in 2008 for whom the Wolves hold rights, will be considered as an option for the frontcourt next season. He's only 6-foot-9, but he plays a more muscular game than Jefferson and Love. "The guy is like an Adonis," Kahn said.
• Kahn said he thought Sessions would play more than he has after signing a four-year, $16 million contract. "Kurt likes the idea of having Ramon behind Jonny as a way to influence behavior," Kahn said.
• Finishing strong in the last 31 games will be a selling point for free agents, Kahn said, as well as ownership, front office and coaching staff stability. "We have to make sure it feels hopeful as opposed to hopeless," he said.
• Kahn credited Rambis and his staff for their work with this team. "They have done a magnificent job of keeping the spirits up in a very difficult environment," he said.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press