The Minnesota Timberwolves made plenty of moves this summer in an effort to end their playoff drought, though injuries to their best two players (Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio) have derailed that buzz some as they get ready to start the season against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
But a more notable story has surfaced over the last few days, as a couple of Twin Cities-area civil rights leaders have suggested the franchise is adding white players as a ploy to sell the team to predominantly white local fan base. One even likened the roster’s current makeup to the 1955 Minneapolis Lakers in an attempt to reinforce his point.
Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn has called the allegations, if that’s even the right word, “patently false” and the fact he even has to defend himself is flat pathetic in my opinion.
Yes Minnesota’s current roster only has five non-white players out of 15, and only one (Brandon Roy) is currently projected as a starter. But a closer look shows the Timberwolves have a fairly diverse team, with players from Spain, Russia, Montenegro and Puerto Rico. So leaving skin color aside, Kahn has assembled what looks to be one of the more internationally diverse rosters in the NBA.
It is purely a coincidence that two of the most notable players that were let go by the Timberwolves this summer, Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson, are black. Surely if they had been better and more consistent players they would still be in Minnesota, in particular Johnson since he was drafted fourth overall in 2010. Two white players, Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger, have essentially replaced Beasley and Johnson on the roster and clearly look like the type of players head coach Rick Adelman covets. It’s also fair to mention that Roy himself is a new addition, for what that’s worth.
So the overall talent on the Timberwolves’ roster looks to be upgraded heading into the season, with no regard for the color of a player’s skin. It should be mentioned they showed interest in two notable free agents, Nicolas Batum and Jordan Hill, that are black. Another team simply outbid them in the case of Hill or his current team matched Minnesota’s offer sheet in Batum’s situation. So it was not for a lack of effort by Kahn that a black player was not added this summer outside of Roy.
I commend the Minneapolis Star Tribune for reporting the story, knowing it would stir some controversy and spur talk about any perceived issue of diversity. But the opinions of the two civil rights leaders quoted in the story seems uninformed at best and a pure publicity grab that got each guy’s name in the paper at worst. Surely Timberwolves’ followers and fans are willing to pay attention to a team that is exciting and competitive, much like they were in 2011-2012 for most of the season, with no regard to the racial makeup of the roster.