Wolves Owner to Find Answers Soon
Glen Taylor will get some answers this week in a series of meetings with his basketball staff headed by president and coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden. The Timberwolves owner told Sports Headliners last Friday these will be the first face-to-face meetings for evaluating the team’s 31-51 season that ended April 12 without reaching the playoffs for a 13th consecutive year.
“We just thought we should just leave it go for a few weeks,” Taylor said about waiting until now to meet. “We have times set up to kind of talk about in-depth (on) our team, and our draft (NBA Draft June 22).”
Taylor has written input already from Thibodeau about last season, including evaluation of players and off-season expectations for them. Despite a talented corps of young players led by 21-year-old center Karl-Anthony Towns who averaged 25.1 points per game, the Wolves won only two more games than the previous season. Thibodeau, in his first season coaching the Wolves, had the first losing record of his six-year NBA career.
Taylor formed his own thoughts by following the team all season and from the written evaluations from the basketball staff, but he has no final determinations yet why his club was a major disappointment. “No, I don’t think I came to a conclusion yet. Otherwise, I would tell you,” said Taylor who wasn’t happy with the 31-51 record and was surprised by it.
Taylor remains confident in his franchise’s basketball leadership. Although Taylor wants to win and break the playoff drought, he isn’t encouraging rash thinking or panic. He doesn’t want to make the wrong off-season moves such as a very risky trade, or highly questionable transaction at next month’s NBA Draft where the Wolves have the No. 7 first round pick.
“You can always say we gotta get a better player, but who?” Taylor asked. “And do they fit in with the long range plan? So I am going to reserve that a little bit (change).
“I am not against if we need to make some changes…but gosh, I mean we got some good guys with some potential. I don’t want to just give up on them too early.”
Taylor compares his team with others in the NBA and likes what he sees for the future, including hopes for several years of success. “Even though we only won two more games, there were so many games that we were in and close to. There was even a time toward the end of the season that looked like we could get into the playoffs, the eighth position. So I don’t think it’s that far of a distance to get there.
“I don’t see why…we shouldn’t be able to be one of the teams that gets into the playoffs (next season). I think we have the potential. I think we have the players to do that. There were so many games this year that we could have won, that it isn’t that far away. Where the year before… I don’t think there was so much of an opportunity to win.
“You know the games I am talking about, the games where we were ahead by 20 points, or the games we played for three quarters that we were the better team, and then we just sort of folded in the fourth quarter when they (other teams) put the pressure on.”
The Wolves lost 22 of 46 games in which they built 10 point leads or more. That was more than any other team in the NBA. The club also lost 13 of its final 16 games.
“For whatever reasons we had lapses during games that are hard for me to understand,” Taylor said.
When asked about positives to the season, Taylor spoke about Towns and point guard Ricky Rubio. Towns, in his second NBA season, broke the franchise single season scoring record with 2,061 points, and deserved All-NBA recognition in the opinion of some observers. Rubio, the six-year point guard long criticized for his shooting, stepped up his scoring in the second half of the season and averaged career highs in points per game at 11.1 and field goal percentage making .402 of his shots. He had 25 double-doubles, with 23 of them coming in the final 45 games.
“…If he can build upon that, boy, that makes a huge difference to us and how we can play offensively,” Taylor said.
New Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck is in a suburban Minneapolis house just a few doors away from Minnesota basketball coach Richard Pitino.
Maybe Vikings coach Mike Zimmer can get the best possible birthday present on June 5. He turns 61 that day, and isn’t coaching right now while recovering from his eighth eye surgery. A healthy prognosis from doctors in early June would be celebration news.
As the Vikings go through practices between now and the end of next month, it will be interesting to track the progress of several long shots to make the team. Among the most intriguing is Moritz Bohringer who the Vikings drafted in the sixth round in 2016. A gifted athlete who has only been playing American football since 2013, the wide receiver came to the Vikings directly from his native Germany. Bohringer was on the practice team last year and still faces a steep learning curve.
The 28th annual Bruce Smith Golf Classic will be June 19 at Faribault Golf Club. The fundraising event benefits Faribault schools and honors Bruce Smith, the Faribault native who won the 1941 Heisman Trophy playing for the Gophers. More information is available by calling Bruce Krinke at 507 384-7968.
Challenges and solutions to making youth football a better experience, including the enhancement of safety, will be discussed at a free event starting at 9 a.m. June 24 at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Minnesota Youth Football Summit will include a panel of high school coaches and keynote speakers Joe Ehrmann and Dr. Uza Samadani.
Ehrmann is a former NFL defensive lineman known for his lessons from athletics. Dr. Samadani is the leader of the nation’s largest youth concussion study. More information, including online registration, is available at myas.org/football.
Bryant Pfeiffer, who for 10 years was with the MLS league office, has joined Minnesota United FC as senior vice president, sales & strategy. Prior to working with the MLS, Pfeiffer was employed by the Lynx and Timberwolves.