Bank Shots: Manna from heaven, conspiracies from hell

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Bank Shots

Stockpiling redundant, mismatched talent, bungling draft picks, overpaying never were veterans, and somewhere off in the distance rumors of a city landing a relocated professional sports franchise–but only if that team can tank enough to get out of its lease.

It would sound like the plot to a terrible sports movie if not for the fact that Major League was actually quite entertaining.

But here the Minnesota Timberwolves are, a collection of talent not unlike the rag tag fictional Cleveland Indians (in the sense that even the locals came into the season proclaiming “They’re [expletive deleted]”). Little of what general manager David Kahn has done with the Timberwolves has made any sense. Unless he’s secretly an evil genius.

Take into consideration the following from Article VII of the lease agreement between the Timberwolves and the city of Minnesota:

If, in Taylor Partnership fiscal years commencing after June 30, 2005, Extended Net Team Operating Losses have occurred, and the Taylor Partnerships desires to cease playing Team Games in the Arena, the Taylor Partnership may provide written notice thereof to MCDA.

Extended net operating losses in this case means over a course of two fiscal years. Which makes drafting a franchise player whose timetable for arrival is set at two years oddly convenient.

Then there was news over the summer that a group of investors in Las Vegas had a team under contract to be moved provided the right pieces fell into place (via Probasketballtalk.com):

Las Vegas might be home to more than the NBA Summer League soon.

International Development Management LLC, has a deal to buy an NBA team if they can get an arena built in the city, Chris Milam, CEO of the group, told the Las Vegas Sun.

“We have an NBA team under contract,” Milam said, declining to name the franchise. But the deal will take effect only if “other pieces of the puzzle fall into place: One of those pieces will be that a building (arena) is approved,” he said.

Previously, Kahn’s management experience included owning and operating several NBA Developmental League teams, including a Fort Worth Flyers team that folded and relocated, resulting in a lawsuit (from ESPN).

Kahn’s Southwest Basketball LLC owned the Fort Worth Flyers and three other NBDL franchises. When the Flyers moved to Nevada, they left a trail of unpaid bills that resulted in several lawsuits.

Local investor Gary Walker filed a breach of contract lawsuit seeking more than $80,000, while the city of Fort Worth said it was owed $25,000 in back rent.

Walker lost his initial case against Southwest Basketball LLC and is planning to file an appeal.

“Unpaid bills and unfulfilled promises,” Walker told The Associated Press. “It was kind of a bad deal.”

Like any good conspiracy theory, this is one that is started in jest and can likely be poked full of holes. In the film Major League, there are such plot holes. Such as, if the team started to succeed, why not just trade or cut players and send others to the minor leagues?

That plot hole was answered in a later released DVD, Major League: Wild Thing Edition, in which the intended original ending sheds a possible new light on Kahn, as reviewed and transcribed by the LA Times blog:

In a scene right before the big game at the end of the film that will determine if the Indians make the playoffs, team Manager Lou Brown (played beautifully by the late James Gammon) confronts Phelps. The team’s hapless General Manager, Charlie Donovan, had secretly gone to Brown earlier in the season to reveal Phelps’ plot to move the team, and Brown had used her plan to motivate the team to play even harder, and it had resulted in a sizable turnaround for the team (which was one game under .500 when Donovan told Brown of the plot). And now, with the last game of the season ready to be played, Brown turns in his notice for his resignation after the season ends.

Phelps responds that she WANTED Donovan to tell Brown, because she knew Brown would use that information to motivate the team. Brown incredulously asks, ” You tryin’ to make me believe you wanted us to win all along?” After she nods, she explains her plan:

We were broke. We couldn’t afford anything better. Donald [her late husband who she inherited the team from] left the team nearly bankrupt. If we’d had another losing season, I would have had to sell the team. I knew we couldn’t win with the team we had, so I decided to bring in new players and see how they’d do with the proper motivation. There was never any offer from Miami. I made it all up.When he doubts her, she points out the plot problem I mentioned earlier, if she wanted them to lose, why not just send the best players down to the minors? Phelps then basically reveals that she discovered “Moneyball” years before Billy Beane did, as she explains how she put the team together:

You think this was all an accident? I personally scouted every member of this team, except Hayes, of course [Willie Hayes, played by Wesley Snipes, was a walk on to the team]. He was a surprise. They all had flaws which concealed their real talent, or I wouldn’t have been able to get them. But I knew if anyone could straighten them out, you could. And if you tell them any of this, I will fire you.

Suddenly the recent brilliant play of Darko Milicic is starting to make sense, even if Kahn still doesn’t.