In mid-September, Twin Cities Business Magazine printed my piece about how Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor reinvigorated the local basketball franchise.
Just three years ago, the Wolves finished in last place in the Western Conference and lost an estimated $25 million. This year, fans are optimistic the Wolves could be a playoff team, and Taylor is confident that he can transfer ownership of the franchise on his own terms, keeping the team in Minnesota and retaining control until his prospective partner gradually acquires a majority stake.
Taylor fielded a number of suitors and expects to announce this partner before the beginning of the season in early November.
In the course of researching and reporting this story, I unearthed a lot of gossipy information about the personnel on and off the court that didn’t fit the parameters of the piece, but is likely of keen interest to Wolves’ fans.
Almost all of this information came from typically candid interviews with Taylor himself, who has always likened owning the Wolves to his tenure in the state Legislature, in the sense that he believes forthright public relations is the best policy.
As the Wolves begin training camp, here’s an intriguing inside glimpse into their front office.
Taylor on David Kahn, president of basketball operations:
The graph in italics appeared in the magazine story.
“A lot of things that people say about David I know are not true because I am with David a lot of the times when he is on the phone talking with people. And everybody answers when he calls and talks to him. When we were out at the summer league [in Las Vegas] he’d be walking along and everyone would say hi to him and it was clear that they know he is a respected and responsible guy.”
“I don’t think David has built the basketball rapport that the other GMs have. He is not like [Kevin] McHale, with a lot of funny stories. David is sort of like, ‘This is the way I am, and you’re going to have to adjust.’ So to a lot of people, he might come off like he thinks he’s too smart or that he is right all the time.
“But David hired a good staff and he works them hard. And he works hard. This is his life. When things were getting tense last year, I said to him, ‘David, go out to Portland [his hometown] and take some days off. The team isn’t playing well and you’re going to get beat up, I’m going to get beat up. Just get away for a while.’ He would never think of that.”
According to Taylor, among the new Wolves’ player acquisitions, coach Rick Adelman pushed hard for Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger, and Kahn pushed hard for Brandon Roy:
“The coach wanted a guy who could defend more than one position, and David found the best person who fit that description in [Nicholas] Batum. We overpaid to try and get him but we lost him. So then we went after Kirilenko.
“The coach says, ‘This is the guy I want. He never talks about scoring, he talks about passing and he talks about defense. I need that player in my system to be successful.’ So that one was clearly the coach.
“And Chase Budinger, that’s the coach. Rick knows him. He says, ‘I can put him in the game, he’s going to be smart; he’s not going to be the greatest defensive player but he can do it. He isn’t going to make mistakes.’
“Brandon Roy, you might think that is the coach, but that is more David. I think it is David saying, ‘Let give this player to Rick and get the backup in place in case it doesn’t work out.’ Because Rick keeps saying to me, ‘I don’t know if he can play!’ And I tell him, ‘Rick, I don’t know if he can play either!’ So the Brandon Roy thing is a risk.”
What Adelman really thinks of departed Timberwolves Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph:
Re: Taylor: “What Rick said about Michael was, ‘Yes, Michael has been good. I get along with him. But I don’t think we’ll be a championship team with him. If I put Michael in, Michael can score, but he doesn’t play any defense and he forgets the other offensive players, and I just can’t tolerate that under my system because the other players are just standing around.’ … The coach would have put up with Randolph if we had gotten rid of Beasley. He said Randolph isn’t really a problem, he just can’t remember things. When [Adelman] was going down his list and got to Randolph, he said, ‘I think he should be off the team. But if these things were taken care of and I had to deal with it, I can deal with a kid like him because he is more of an introvert, he’s not a nasty kid.’ ”
Free agent Nicholas Batum was interested in signing with the Wolves primarily because of Adelman, point guard Ricky Rubio and power forward Kevin Love:
According to Taylor, “Batum recruited us about as much as we recruited him. He was one of a number of guys who said they are interested in coming to us because of Ricky. He said, ‘I like your coach and I like Ricky and Kevin [Love]. I think I can fit in. I don’t need to score a lot; that isn’t what drives me. I like being on the court with players who share the ball.’ There were three teams he was interested in — New Orleans and Toronto were the other ones — but he said they weren’t as far along as we were and that we were his preference right now.”
What the Wolves actually offered Portland for Batum in a possible sign-and-trade.
Taylor: “We went to them [Portland] and said, ‘OK, what is it you need?’ And they were never really clear on what it would take. So then it got to the point where it was like, ‘Well, I guess you’ll do anything.’ No, we wouldn’t do anything. The closest we got really was they named some players who were not on our team. [Probably Kyle Korver, who played for Chicago last season.] But when we brought that back to them, saying we got your player, they said, ‘Well, I guess not.’ It never ended up being that we offered [second-year forward Derrick] Williams. I said to David [Kahn], ‘We’re not going to offer Williams,’ so I know David never did it. And as far as we know, we never got beyond [offering] one first-rounder [in the NBA draft]. It never got stretched that far because Portland wouldn’t say what they wanted.”
The Wolves will probably trade an off-guard when it is clear that Rubio is healthy:
According to Taylor, “There is room to do more [trading] but not right now because of Ricky’s injury. There are like, five guys at the two guards, so I think logically we could do something — and there is something out there — but until we know for sure that Ricky is going to come back healthy, I think you are going to see us set with this group.”