Kurt Rambis: An endorsement amidst the carnage
Rambis ambled to the post-game mic Sunday after his team suffered what was a new low in a season replete with valleys. The Wolves had just been stomped by Sacramento, one of two NBA teams over which they had claimed more seasonal victories. Adding to the woe, All-Star Kevin Love had left the game in the first half after suffering a groin injury. Love would not return, and as the game grew more gruesome the arena held an undercurrent of distraction. On home televisions before inviting sofas across America--actual, exciting hoop was being played as March Madness whittled down to the Sweet 16.
Kurt Rambis was a part of eight Laker title teams, serving L.A. in various capacities as a player, coach, and suit. Prior to his NBA years, the guy was a psychology major in college. That winning acumen, the degree, and his time with the cerebral Phil Jackson all read like a weary vestige over Rambis's face as he loomed over the podium on Sunday. Rambis is an intelligent guy and there's no doubt that a host of inter-workings, lament, frustration, and exhaustion lie beneath the composed exterior of a man they used to call "Rambo" back in his rabid playing days.
In recent weeks, a host of reports have embraced the sketchy lexicon of our times, citing "unnamed sources" saying Rambis will be canned after the season, fired two years into the 4-year/$8 million contract he signed in 2009. Over the weekend past, the New York Post's Peter Vecsey (whom I haven't seen at Target Center this season; please correct me if I'm wrong) offered an "assurance" that Rambis and his staff will be done "as soon as the season is over."
The Timberwolves have had nine head coaches in their oft-depressing, 22-year history. Among the nine, only Flip Saunders has a winning tenure or a winning record in any full season and is the lone man to take the team to the playoffs. Of the nine, only Saunders and original Wolf Sid Lowe have received another opportunity to lead an NBA team (two in Saunders's case); Lowe had to wait six years before getting his next shot.
With an overall mark of 32-121 (.209), Rambis has the second-lowest coaching win clip in team history. Last year, his Wolves allowed the league's second-most points per game (107.8) and are suffering the most per outing (107.1) as this season comes to a close. In 2010, the Wolves committed the league's most turnovers per game (16.3) and are tracking to again lead the NBA in said sad category this year, turning the rock over at a crazy rate of 17.2 per contest.
There's no question that the Wolves have stunk under Rambis; when the season held more gravity he struggled to author strong plays under pressure and, all told, the numbers above leave no doubt that his teams make ample mistakes and play little defense.
But in a Timberwolves culture of constant re-birthing (aside from 1999-2004), allow me to lobby for some consistency with the bunch, and endorse this father for one more year.
The Wolves' future mirrors that of the NBA at present: Both are in a state of sensitive flux. A league lockout looms--and while a potential NBA work stoppage has received less pub than the NFL's current state of litigation, I'm of the opinion that the hoop situation is just as severe.
A foreman is only as strong as his tools and his crew, and we can count on one hand how
many living coaches could achieve a 30-plus win season with this current Wolves roster. Rambis has overseen the league's youngest team this season and has seen massive roster turnover in his two years at the helm. Aside from Kevin Love, he has been provided with nary a consistent, marquee talent, and his floor generals have been ranked "Flynn" and "Ridnour."
The Timberwolves do own some true talent, although much of it remains raw; really the wealth of these dudes would serve as no more than complementary pieces for a solid team that could offer them 15 minutes a game.
But there are indeed assets here with a small cache of future first-round draft picks and, of course, there's Ricky Rubio.
I don't believe Rubio will ever don a Wolves jersey. Rather, I see him as an exceptional trading chip at this stage, one that will hopefully bring Target Center some desperately needed veteran presences to complement Love and help this youthful cast mature toward a more composed, 40-win bunch.
We've seen what inconsistency brings to Target Center. To try something different would be to give Rambis another shot, and to at least allow him a chance to lose with a roster actually capable of some wins.
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