June 24, 2009
Minnesota Timberwolves’ new GM David Kahn is doing his best to erase the Kevin McHale era in Minnesota–and he’s not wasting any time in doing so.
Nobody can blame the guy. McHale’s reign over the last 15 years ranks among the worst (and most inexplicably long) in professional sports history. Some changes in policy and ideology are unquestionably in order.
Just one week after dismissing Mr. McHale from his coaching duties in Minneapolis, Wednesday afternoon Mr. Kahn shipped out two of McHale’s more high-profile acquisitions. There was chatter on Tuesday night, but the move became official the next day as Minnesota consummated a five-player swap with the Washington Wizards that sent Randy Foye and Mike Miller to the nation’s capital for the services of Oleksiy Pecherov, Darius Songaila and Etan Thomas and the rights to the 5th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Of course, Wolves fans should have no qualms about moving on from the McHale era in all respects. However, there is some understandable trepidation involved in dismissing these two, especially Foye, for a handful of mediocre-to-meaningless role players and a draft pick.
I’ll admit to being slightly shocked, and momentarily disheartened, upon hearing the news. After all, Randy Foye was the 7th overall pick just three years ago, the same day he was traded for Brandon Roy. Between injuries, poor decisions and poor shooting he’s shown flashes of brilliance over the last three years and was considered one of the franchise’s more significant building blocks. Mike Miller is a former Rookie of the Year and, also formerly, one of the NBA’s elite perimeter shooters.
If Randy Foye isn’t going to develop into a star in Minnesota, what, exactly, was the point of the last two seasons?
There was none, other that developing and re-signing Al Jefferson. Let’s face facts: we have no reason to believe Randy Foye or Mike Miller are, or can be, winners. Sometimes when you’re too close to a situation, as I have been, it takes a fresh set of eyes like Mr. Kahn’s to see that kind of harsh truth. Especially with Foye, because if he’s just a third or fourth option then the fact that Minnesota gave up a talent like Brandon Roy to acquire him is almost too painful to bear.
Randy Foye Photo Credit: Icon SMI
I’ve certainly been guilty of being a Foye apologist over the years. For example, in January I was all too eager to respond to a winning stretch by the Wolves that was inspired by strong play by Foye. I declared that Randy was finally turning a corner. He wasn’t. The year before, after digging through the numbers I declared Foye to be closer to Roy than anybody gave him credit for, saying, “If you look at their per minute averages from last season, Foye posted nearly identical stats to ROY Brandon Roy (per 48 minutes: 21.3 points, 1.7 threes, 5.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 steals for Foye; 22.7 points, 1.3 threes, 5.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.6 steals for Roy).” Foye doesn’t deserve to be compared to Roy.
In every instance, I was seeing what I wanted to see. In the back of my mind, I knew I was the historian who only researches as far as he has an ax to grind. I was putting blinders on; being a fan.
No, Foye and Miller were both McHale players. They weren’t what we thought they could be, and they clearly didn’t fit into Kahn’s plans. It was time to move on. They were talented-yet-flawed, capable of being productive, but only in an ideal situation. A rebuilding franchise is not that situation, and it’s time to admit that Minnesota hasn’t made a lick of progress in their rebuilding efforts since trading Kevin Garnett out of town two summers ago. They’re still at square one. They have Al Jefferson, who can be a true cornerstone, and a roster of question marks.
I wanted Foye to be a building block just like every other Wolves fan, but wanting it doesn’t make it so. Facing an almost blank slate once again, especially after doing so for so many lean years, is a scary proposition. And a disheartening one. It’s not fun. But it had to be done.
The Wizards’ angle and the bottom line, after the jump…
Which segues nicely into the Washington angle on this trade. Few teams in the league have been as stubbornly delusional as the Wizards in convincing themselves that their fixed core is getting somewhere, that they’re making progress, that they may be a contender now – and if not now, then they’re this close.
The Wizards think that these roster tweaks and a healthy Gilbert Arenas make them a true contender out East. They think they have the firepower to compete with the big boys, with Cleveland, Orlando and Boston in 2009-10 (or, at least, that presenting themselves as such is the best strategy for selling tickets and regaining fans). They’re clearly wrong: this move doesn’t put them in that class. Not yet, anyway.
If I squint real hard, I can actually see them being close the following season. Gilbert and Caron should still be in their prime, ETB favorite JaVale McGee could develop into an impact player, Randy Foye will be a 26-year-old, four-year vet. Meanwhile, LeBron will be out of Cleveland, the Celtics will be breaking down and Orlando’s current has serious question marks. Then again, Gilbert Arenas will still be a loser, and that’s the exact kind of wishful thinking the Wizards have been all too guilty of peddling in the Gilbert Arenas era.
Heres the bottom line: The Wizards were able to feed their delusion of contention with their current core. Minnesota was able to shed some of the delusional decision making of its recent past. The Wolves were holding a bad hand, and they decided to throw their cards in. Shuffle up, deal ‘em again. The Wizards are going to play their hand, for better or worse.
The only way this becomes a franchise-altering move for either side is if the player Minnesota selects with the 5th overall pick turns into a true difference maker – nobody else involved is that. So the Wolves said shuffle ‘em up, maybe we’ll get pocket aces. It happens to everybody once in a while. I think anybody can identify with that line of thought during NBA Draft season.
Gilbert Arenas Photo Credit: Mark Goldman/Icon SMI