Wednesday, May 18, 2011

David Kahn hints at lottery malfeasance, remains very unlikable

In just two years as general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves, David Kahn has continually followed up some baffling personnel decisions by making weird comments better-suited for online message boards than for press conferences. He continues to claim that Ricky Rubio is coming to the NBA any day now even when no such hard evidence exists, he praised archetypal bust Darko Milicic as "manna from heaven," and he welcomed Michael Beasley to Minnesota by saying his problems in Miami stemmed from smoking too much weed. At this point in his GM career, Kahn is not just someone who makes mistakes with the press -- he's reckless and doesn't think about potential consequences before he speaks.

But Kahn is a perfectionist, so it should come as no surprise that he followed up Tuesday night's NBA Draft Lottery with perhaps the most foolish comments of his professional life.

In case you missed it, the Wolves entered the lottery with a 25 percent chance at either nabbing the top pick in the draft and came out of it with the second-overall pick. Given some previous cases of lottery bad luck -- like, say, last season's 12-win Nets ending up with the No. 3 pick -- the Wolves came out okay. The Cleveland Cavaliers, the team with the second-worst record in the league during the 2010-11 campaign, finished with the top pick, albeit by way of the pick they received in trade with the eighth-worst Los Angeles Clippers. It was a moment of great fortune for the Cavs and franchise representative Nick Gilbert, the 14-year-old son of owner Dan Gilbert who has had to deal with neurofibromatosis, a terrible nervous disorder that causes benign and malignant tumors to grow randomly in all parts of the body, for his entire life. It's a great story for a kid and franchise who can use some good luck.

Don't tell that to Kahn, though, because he hinted that he was the victim of underhanded dealings. From Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press:

"This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines," Kahn said. "Last year it was Abe Pollin's widow and this year it was a 14-year-old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told Kevin: 'We're toast.' This is not happening for us and I was right."

Yeah, widows and sick kids get all the luck.

To Kahn's credit, he gave another post-lottery interview in which he seemed to suggest that ill fortune is sometimes the way of the world. But those comments don't change the fact that he also issue the quote above, which reads more like the paranoid fantasy of a bratty child than what you'd expect from a high-profile NBA executive whose team earned a pick generally in line with what the lottery odds suggested they would. Plus, the Wolves didn't even have the league's worst record last year; that would be the aforementioned Nets. If Kahn cares so much about wronged parties, shouldn't he be going to bat for Mikhail Prokhorov instead of complaining about his own rotten deal?

Kahn didn't explicitly say that he's the victim of a conspiracy, but the "and I am just going to say habit" portion of his quote suggests that he's dealing in euphemism to avoid a fine. Lottery conspiracy theories are nothing new -- some people still believe that David Stern dipped an envelope in tartar sauce in 1985 to ensure that the Knicks would win the right to select Patrick Ewing. But general managers typically have the good sense to shut their mouths and not complain in public in a manner typically associated with annoying fans who hide behind a cloak of internet anonymity.

To make this story even sillier, Stern put in a good word with Wolves owner Glen Taylor to help his friend Kahn get the Wolves job in 2009. Why, exactly, would Stern change course and doom Kahn to the ignominy of picking second in the draft? Does he not want to make it appear like he plays favorites?

There are many bad general managers in the league, of which Kahn is arguably the worst on the merits, or lack thereof, of his personnel decisions. However, what makes him a truly odious figure is that he regularly acts with a level of arrogance that suggests he thinks he's entitled to success. Being an NBA general manager is a tough job that requires patience, hard work, and an ability to roll with several cases of bad luck. Sadly, after two years on the job, Kahn has proven that he doesn't have the temperament to succeed in the job. How much longer can Taylor and the Minnesota fanbase stand him?

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