The Timberwolves open the regular season Wednesday night in Toronto against the Raptors and Sports Headliners recently interviewed Minnesota owner Glen Taylor about multiple topics including team leadership, expectations, and progress on selling majority control of the franchise.
Does the longtime owner agree with public perception that 22-year-old guard Anthony Edwards, about to start his fourth NBA season, is now the team leader? “The answer is yes to your question,” said the Mankato-based businessman who purchased the franchise in 1994.
Edwards, one of the most athletic and gifted players in the NBA, is on track to supplant forward-center Karl-Anthony Towns as the face of the franchise. In the last three seasons Edwards has increased his basketball wisdom while improving season scoring averages from 19.3 to 21.3 to 24.6. Presumably he will be asked to make the biggest of plays late in games to decide outcomes, while also excelling at playmaking and defense.
The maturation of Edwards was evident this summer when he played for the U.S. Men’s FIBA World’s team. He led the U.S. in scoring at 18.9 points per game and minutes (25.9) as the Americans placed fourth in the tournament. He also averaged 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals.
The lead role is expected to fall on Edwards, despite the greater experience of Towns, entering his ninth NBA season, and center Rudy Gobert, starting his 11th. Both veterans earn roughly four times the salary of Edwards at $9.2 million, per ESPN.com.
Taylor’s expectations are for his players to excel this season, including the team’s two other starters, forward Jaden McDaniels and guard Mike Conley, Jr. “We should be one of the elite teams,” Taylor said after being told The Athletic predicts the Wolves will finish in a tie for third in the Western Conference.
“We have the guys (the talent),” Taylor said. “The other thing is it just appears watching them play the five preseason games that we are different this year. That the guys are more in tune. They’re playing really competitive ball right from the very beginning.
“Where in the previous years in the preseason we were always a little sloppy. We looked like we weren’t quite ready and stuff like that. And if we can just kind of keep playing…like we played in the preseason, we’ll get off to a good start. There’s no reason we can’t keep going, and then it gets down to injuries (determining wins and losses).”
Taylor is told that as a group the team came to training camp in better shape physically and with conditioning, and more prepared mentally. It appears, too, there is motivation to perform better after last season’s disappointing 42-40 record and eighth place finish in the Western Conference that was impacted by injuries.
Taylor decided in 2021 to sell the Wolves and Lynx franchises for $1.5 billion by the end of 2023, eventually giving majority control to Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez. Two payments have been made so far and it’s been an unusual installment plan for buying a professional sports franchise.
Lore and Rodriguez have apparently been financially challenged to raise the capital needed for majority ownership (Taylor will retain a minority interest). The final payment is due in December but apparently will be stretched out further, with Taylor’s approval. “I cannot see them getting it done at the end of December,” Taylor said.
Taylor hasn’t been in touch with Lore and Rodrguez for some time. “I am assuming the guys will get it done, but I have no knowledge. They don’t share anything with me so I can only assume they’ll get it done. I don’t know anything more than (when) we talked about a month ago or something like that.”
Danielle Hunter Trade Looking Less Likely by Vikings
An NFL insider thinks it’s possible the Vikings could trade sack master Danielle Hunter prior to the league trade deadline October 31 but questions the wisdom of such a move. A deal with a team like the Jaguars might fetch a first-round draft choice for the Vikings who could then have two picks in the 2024 NFL Draft and leverage their draft capital to select a coveted quarterback.
The former executive with NFL teams said a few days ago that perhaps making it more likely Minnesota hangs on to its talented pass rusher would be if the then 2-4 Vikings split their next two games. Well, the Vikings took care of the 49ers Monday night with a 22-17 win, moving their record to 3-4. Next up are the 2-4 Packers, October 29 in Green Bay.
A 3-5 record, or 4-4, with a friendly schedule ahead could well have Vikings management thinking of competing for a place in the playoffs. At 2-6 the outlook would have been more discouraging for sure and conducive to strategizing for the future.
When healthy, Hunter has been a proven talent during his eight-year career as a defensive end and outside linebacker. “I don’t think they will trade Hunter,” the source said while speaking anonymously. “Why would you do that? He leads the league in sacks (nine). He’s only 28 years old. …He’s proven he can stay healthy the last couple years. Without him their pass rush is nothing—as far as the front people, without a blitz. He’s their best player on defense. Those pass rushers don’t come easily.
“I think it’s just been ridiculous speculation that they would trade him. Now if they lose to San Francisco and Green Bay, they’re sitting at 2-6, then they might reconsider if they could get a first-round pick. But I don’t think they’re going to do it without a first-round pick. …”
Hunter, who turns 29 on October 29, is on a one-year deal in 2023 and likely will be looking for $20 million per season or more on his next contract. That could give a potential trade partner pause if that franchise has serious salary cap issues.
Before signing his one-year deal Hunter wasn’t happy with his contractual situation and appeared willing to leave Minnesota. His new contract reportedly can pay him up to $20 million. Perhaps adding to Hunter’s happiness barometer is that he’s experienced how effective he can be in the new defensive system of first-year coordinator Brian Flores.
“…I don’t think he’s anxious to get out of here,” the authority said.
Gophers Football Notes
After the Gophers’ win over the Hawkeyes Saturday the team bused home and later coach P.J. Fleck and wife Heather toasted Minnesota’s first win in Iowa City since 1999 by having a “teeny bit” of bourbon from a bottle the coach had been saving for a first victory over Iowa, having lost six straight since he became Gopher coach.
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Devon Williams has been improving dramatically and caused an Iowa fumble in the upset win Saturday. Fleck described Williams’ performance as one of the best by a linebacker he’s seen since taking over at Minnesota in 2017.
Top running backs Darius Taylor and Zach Evans didn’t finish the Iowa game because of apparent injuries. Fleck said he hopes to have one of them “in the mix” for Saturday’s home game with Michigan State.
Starting linebacker Cody Lindenberg has yet to play in seven games because of a leg injury. Fleck said it’s possible Lindenberg could play in four games and receive a redshirt season as allowed by NCAA rules.Comments Welcome