Rambis: Blame him, president for Wolves season

Judging strictly on wins and losses, these Minnesota

Timberwolves rank among the worst for a franchise with a long

history of losing.

The Timberwolves dropped their season finale against the Pistons

on Wednesday night to finish 15-67, which tied the franchise record

for fewest victories in a season. It’s a dubious distinction that

coach Kurt Rambis attributed not to the players but rather the

long-term vision he and new president David Kahn have for the

team.

“The blame falls right here with David and myself,” Rambis

said after the team’s final shootaround. “It’s not the players’

fault. It’s our fault. But we are going to move forward. In my

mind, this is our launching point.”

Kahn and Rambis took over the basketball operations last summer.

The Wolves haven’t made the playoffs since 2004, and their win

total has steadily decreased from 58 in 2003-04 to just 46 total in

the two years before this one.

Kahn reshaped the roster, with many moves geared toward freeing

up salary cap space for the team to make a run this summer at what

is expected to be a bumper free agent crop.

All those personnel moves left the Timberwolves with one of the

league’s youngest rosters. The lack of a true veteran leader plus

new systems on both ends of the court “put the players in an

extremely difficult environment to win ballgames,” Rambis

said.

The Timberwolves have won just two games since Feb. 6 – not the

kind of improvement that fans wanted to see. The team finished with

three more wins than the league-worst New Jersey Nets.

“Just not knowing each other and playing out there together,

it’s tough,” forward Kevin Love said. “It’s great when you have a

bunch of veteran guys out there who have played together for a

while that can bring along the rookies and second, third-year guys.

It seems like all of our guys are second, third, fourth-year guys.

That was the toughest part.”

Even so, the team has avoided the locker-room volatility and

infighting that often plagues losing teams, which Kahn credited to

Rambis’ leadership.

“He handled it beautifully,” Kahn said. “He couldn’t have

handled it better. He and the coaches deserve the credit for

creating that kind of safe environment so the players could feel

they could come back on a daily basis, apply themselves and work so

that nobody was moaning about them or criticizing them.”

Kahn said work on next season begins Thursday. The Wolves will

have three picks in the first round of the June draft and more than

$12 million in cap space to use on the free agent market or in

trades.

“We had to do what we did in order to launch ourselves with the

capability of moving forward,” Rambis said.