Timberwolves majority owner Glen Taylor is disappointed and frustrated with his team’s performance so far this season. In a phone interview with Sports Headliners several days ago Taylor expressed discouragement and befuddlement with the club’s poor play, while expressing expectation there is enough time remaining in the season to qualify for the playoffs in April.
The Wolves record, after a sixth consecutive loss last night, is a distressful 16-21. Demoralizing was losing last evening at home to the lowly Pistons who are 10 and 29.
Last season Minnesota finished the regular season with a 46-36 record and lost its opening playoff series to the Grizzlies. Expectations by Taylor before the season was the Wolves would be improved and could secure home court advantage for the opening round of the postseason (they didn’t have it last spring).
“That’s my expectation (to get beyond the first round),” Taylor told Sports Headliners in October. “I think with the guys that we have, if other than injuries, they should deliver that. I am confident in our coaching. I think they’ll get the most out of these guys. That’ll make a difference.”
The Wolves will have to go 30-15 in their remaining games just to equal last season’s record. They could miss the playoffs, although that’s not the message from Taylor now. “I know they can do it. We have the manpower (talent and depth) to do it. …”
What’s gone wrong consists of a long list of issues including injuries that have sidelined multiple key players starting with All-Star forward Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf strain) who might not play again until late January or February. Reality, though, is the team struggled even with a healthy lineup and blew an opportunity to start the season fast against a succession of mediocre opposition.
The performance has been inconsistent and resulted in a record around .500 all season. Taylor talked about lack of focused play for four quarters and inability to get defensive stops toward the end of games. Rebounding, turnovers, lack of cohesive team play, and technical fouls have been problematic, too. “Little things we just shouldn’t have, and we lose those games to teams we can compete against,” Taylor said.
Chris Finch was hired as Wolves head coach in February of 2021 and has won praise in the past. Based on the team’s performance since October, is there a coaching issue now tied to the failed record?
“I am not sure what it is,” Taylor said. “I really like our coach. I think he’s got a good staff. I do mention that I don’t think we should be having technicals and I think somebody is responsible for that. I think you gotta get the respect of the players to say that they can’t be thinking of themselves individually. They gotta be thinking of what’s in the best interest of the team and if that requires keeping their mouths shut, then keep their mouth shut.”
Taylor’s frustration is evident, and the team’s record prompts the question of whether Finch’s job is safe? The coach and his staff are in a classic situation of being blamed for a team going in the wrong direction.
“Well, they certainly are (safe) now,” Taylor said. “We’re going into the (new) year and we certainly can turn it around. There’s time to do that. That’s my expectation when Kat gets back, and the (other) guys get back. That they still have every reason to think that they could get into the playoffs and that’s …our expectations.”
New president of basketball operations Tim Connelly made a mega deal last summer sending five draft choices, plus five Wolves players, to the Jazz in exchange for center and defensive titan Rudy Gobert. Only the most Polly Anna observer will describe the deal as a success so far.
The 7-foot-1, 30-year-old Frenchman has struggled to fit in with his new team, with contributions much more minimal than expected of a player who came at such a high trade price and commands a salary of over $35 million. Gobert hasn’t been the shot blocking force fans expected and offensively he is frequently an afterthought. The Wolves’ offense is inconsistent at including the 266-pound force who is difficult to stop near the basket.
Taylor doesn’t question Gobert’s dedication and believes the Wolves need to be more consistent in making use of his scoring potential, while also suggesting his center can do a better job with “put backs” near the basket. “He is big and strong and powerful,” Taylor said.
Asked when it’s fair to evaluate the trade that shook up not only the local basketball community but made national headlines, Taylor said he prefers to have the “basketball guys” answer that question.
Taylor is convinced the Wolves “have a very good team” but there are a lot of mistakes to correct while approaching a January schedule that will see them play some of the NBA’s better teams. Troublesome are downfalls both with execution and judgment by players. “I don’t think I am telling you anything (that) any good basketball fan can’t see,” Taylor said.
Meanwhile, the process of Taylor selling controlling interest in the Wolves and WNBA Lynx continues to move forward. Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, who are expected to take over the majority share of ownership in about 12 months, have added investment partners.
Taylor said there are three individuals joining Lore and Rodriguez. He is comfortable with the three but didn’t identify them. “…I know who they are. I know they would be acceptable to me and the league.”
Lore and Rodriguez are on an installment plan purchase and process that began about 18 months ago. There has been ongoing speculation whether the two have the money for the $1.5 billion purchase price. The additional investors seem to indicate the need for additional funding. Taylor said if more investors are to be added he needs to be made aware of that in the next few days.
Lore and Rodriguez had to exercise their option by the end of last month for their second payment but have the flexibility to push the transfer of money out a couple months. “They would still be within their rights to do that,” Taylor said.
While acknowledging the sale is proceeding, it’s not a certainty until it is. A final payment must be made and that’s expected around the end of 2023. Then, too, the NBA must eventually sign off on the deal that looks like it will result with Taylor owning a minority share of 20 percent.
“I don’t want to speak for the league, or anything like that,” Taylor said. “I have an agreement with these guys. So far, they’ve made the first payment. I anticipate they’ll do everything, and it will all work. But the league also at some point in time has to approve them.”Comments Welcome