Timberwolves president David Kahn says his comments about the NBA draft lottery were intended as a joke, simply a tongue-in-cheek resignation that fate gave Cleveland the first pick ahead of luck-lacking Minnesota.
After the Cavaliers beat out the Wolves for the top spot Tuesday, Kahn said with a smirk to a group of reporters, ”This league has a habit – and I am just going to say habit – of producing some pretty incredible story lines.”
Kahn pointed to Washington sending the widow of longtime owner Abe Pollin last year and getting the first pick. Cleveland had owner Dan Gilbert’s 14-year-old son, who has battled disease since birth, on hand for good luck this time. The Cavaliers got exactly that in the annual pingpong ball pop-up.
”He beat me tonight. He took all of us down,” Kahn said of Nick Gilbert.
Minnesota has never secured the first pick in 14 entries in the lottery. Not only that, but this was the first time the Wolves moved up a spot in the order. They had the third pick twice, in 2008 (O.J. Mayo, traded to Memphis for Kevin Love) and 1992 (Christian Laettner).
The Wolves went a league-worst 17-65 last season. The Cavaliers were 19-63.
Kahn, in a statement sent Wednesday by the Wolves to The Associated Press, said he wasn’t suggesting a conspiracy of any kind.
”I don’t believe in jinxes, curses (or) hocus pocus, and I certainly don’t think we were wronged,” Kahn said. ”But I do believe in the power of story, and I joked last night that it’s a heck (of a) better story for a 14-year-old kid to beat out a couple of middle-aged executives standing together on a stage on national TV – and that our league seems to always have its own share of luck in being a part of these stories.”
Kahn added: ”That was the entire meaning of what I said last night in a joking fashion and what I believe was received in such fashion.”
Gilbert said Wednesday he was aware of Kahn’s comments, but hadn’t yet had a chance to review them.
There was no immediate word from the NBA on Wednesday about whether Kahn will be reprimanded or punished, despite his joking intent. Kahn was fined $50,000 last summer for remarking on the radio that Wolves forward Michael Beasley was ”a very young and immature kid who smoked too much marijuana” while he was playing in Miami.
The Wolves had a 25 percent chance of getting the first pick and a 21.51 percent chance of choosing second this year. In 18 years of the NBA’s current system, only twice has the team with the best odds kept the first pick – Cleveland in 2003 and Orlando in 2004.
The Wolves also have the 20th pick in the first round this year, thanks to a previous trade with Utah.
”I don’t think we need to make some huge fundamental changes. I think we need to continue to be patient and let the young players develop like the Oklahoma City and Memphis franchises have done the last couple of years,” Kahn said after the lottery, ”but I think that it’s important for us to re-evaluate everything and make certain we can put this group together.”
Point guard Kyrie Irving of Duke and Arizona forward Derrick Williams are widely considered the top two prospects this year. Kahn said he’s still planning for point guard Ricky Rubio to join the team from Spain. Rubio was the fifth pick in the 2009 draft.
”We took Ricky two years ago with the understanding that he wouldn’t be able to come right away but he would be able to come someday,” Kahn said, adding: ”We anticipate him being on the team in the future, just as we did all of the other players on our roster. So certainly, it’s part of the mindset, yes.”