Glen Taylor Should Rethink Wolves Sale
I called Glen Taylor Monday but haven’t heard back from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx owner. If I talk to him soon I will tell him not to sell his teams. Full disclosure here: I consider him a friend.
In early April came news Taylor was negotiating a sale to billionaire entrepreneur Marc Lore and baseball legend turned businessman Alex Rodriguez. Part of the story was a 30-day negotiating period would ensue to finalize details. The exact start date of the period isn’t known but it probably ends soon, if it hasn’t already expired. The best guess is the deal is still alive with NBA authorities meticulously looking at the potential new owners.
I hope the deal falls through because my opinion is that will benefit both the public and Taylor. It’s best that the NBA Timberwolves and WNBA Lynx have local ownership. Plus, Taylor might be positioned to have the pleasure of watching an exciting young Wolves team on the rise. He has experienced great success with the Lynx and that team continues to be an important part of the Minnesota sports menu.
The Mankato-based Taylor saved the Wolves franchise for Minnesota more than 25 years ago after the original owners more than flirted with relocation. Taylor is a lifelong Minnesotan who knows the importance of his franchises to the state’s culture and well being. Sorry, Lore and Rodriguez are outsiders whose long-term loyalties aren’t known.
Taylor has assured that Lore and Rodriguez won’t move the Wolves to another city. Is language saying the franchise can’t be relocated ironclad? In the world of litigation, is there such thing? If new owners eventually make a case that financially the franchise is unsustainable in this market, a judge might rule the team can be relocated—despite language to the contrary.
Taylor celebrated his 80th birthday last month. It’s understandable he would want to sell his teams. Without success his representatives have pursued local buyers for the teams, but with more time that could change. Future Minnesota ownership minimizes the likelihood of whispers or nightmares about the Wolves and Lynx relocating.
The improved on-court performance of late by the Wolves creates the possibility of a more attractive sales price in the near future. Lore and Rodriguez are rumored to be willing to pay $1.5 billion for the franchises. The Wolves were all but unwatchable earlier this season, losing most of their games and experiencing seven and nine-game losing streaks. With player disinterest in defense and a “me-first” approach on offense, the Wolves were an embarrassment.
From December 27 through March 3 Minnesota won a total of five games.
But the Wolves, with a 22-47 record this season, are 8-5 in their last 13 games and worth watching. There is developing talent on the roster, even star power in center Karl-Anthony Towns and rookie guard Anthony Edwards. This team has the look of a group coming together and teases followers that a failed franchise on the court for much of its existence could become a consistent playoff team within a year or two.
If that happens, ticket sales, merchandising, sponsorship and other revenue streams jump. This is a basketball market that neither the Timberwolves nor University of Minnesota have come close to pushing toward its potential in fan following and money making. Better days on the court for the Wolves will mean more cash flow for the owner and higher appreciation of the franchise value.
Taylor has witnessed so much miserable basketball with the Timberwolves, he deserves a run of at least a few seasons in the playoffs. He might have in place the best general manager and coach that have ever worked for him. The conclusive results aren’t in yet on Gersson Rosas and Chris Finch but there’s reason for optimism.
Rosas was hired two years ago and since then has acquired much more personnel that rates a thumbs up, not a scowl. Edwards, Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels, Naz Reid, D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt are young talents who are here because of Rosas. Veteran Ricky Rubio is another Rosas acquisition that has benefitted Minnesota.
Rosas fired coach Ryan Saunders earlier in the season and hired Finch who had worked as an assistant for Nick Nurse, Toronto’s talented head coach. Taking over during the season, without an offseason and training camp, is less than ideal but Finch has impressed. He has stepped into a losing culture, working for the first time with a core of young players and at least a couple of challenging egos, and shown them the X’s and O’s, built confidence and developed a willingness (at least sometimes) to play for each other.
At 51 and as a basketball lifer, Finch just might be the right combination of experience, smarts and disposition to get the most out of his roster for years to come. Certainly he is motivated to prove himself after many career stops and now having his first NBA head coaching job.
For me the NBA in Minneapolis is personal. I was on the Governor’s NBA Task Force in the 1980s that created interest in bringing a team to town. At that time I was also a promoter of successful NBA exhibition games at Met Center including with the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. Those games encouraged Minneapolis businessmen Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner to buy an NBA expansion team, paying $32.5 million to create the Timberwolves.
The NBA deserted the city after the 1959-1960 season when the Minneapolis Lakers relocated to Los Angeles. The Lakers won five world championships here. In three decades the Wolves have never played for an NBA championship and have missed the playoffs way more times than they qualified.
Maybe starting next year Minnesota can start a five-year run of postseason trips. NBA playoff basketball is appointment viewing—compelling entertainment on the court, with emotions pouring out from every corner of the arena. Glen, you deserve to see that as the Timberwolves owner. Put the sale off for awhile.