Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor reported the sale of some of the stakes in the franchise, with Chinese investor Lizhang Jiang selling his 5 percent ownership in the franchise back to Taylor. Meyer Orbach, who bought 9.5 percent of the team in 2016, is in line to buy any shares Taylor sells.
The value of the Wolves keeps going up — Forbes put it at $1.26 billion earlier this year — something Taylor said he never expected.
“I think [the team’s value] went up about 19 percent, which is an awful lot, but everybody else’s went up, too,” he said. “It is just unbelievable. It’s not anything I anticipated, and it’s surprising. But at this point, I just want to continue to play with this team and work with them. And I have every expectation it might continue to go up in the future.”
Does he have any interest in selling the team?
“No. You know Meyer, my friend from New Jersey, has bought in a little bit, and if I sell any, it will be a little more to him.
“I like [owning the team]. You know, we have a tough going to get into the playoffs, but we are going to try for it and do our best. I know no matter what, we’ll be better next year because we were off to such a terrible start this year because of the Jimmy Butler thing we had. Hopefully next year our guys won’t be as injured as they have been this year. We have had a lot of injuries.”
Happy with Saunders
If the Timberwolves are going to make the playoffs for a second consecutive year, they’re going to need a strong finish over their final 21 games. Unfortunately for Taylor and the Wolves’ playoff chances, they lost to Atlanta in overtime 131-123 on Thursday night.
It was their second loss this season to the Hawks, who are 21-41 overall, and in both games the Wolves held 13-point leads. They are now only 9-22 away from Target Center on the season. They trail the Spurs by four games for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, said he still wants to see a solid finish before determining interim head coach Ryan Saunders’ future.
“I think he has a good chance [to get the job full-time],” Taylor said. “It’s like everything, we’re going to wait until we play out these last 20-some games and I think we’ll know and he’ll know at that time if it works out. But he is off to a good start.
“I would just say I really like him as a person. I have known him since he was a young man, and I am really pleased with how he is starting out coaching this team.”
What aspects of Saunders’ coaching style has he liked so far?
“I think his relationship with the players that he is establishing one-on-one,” Taylor said. “… He is willing to use everybody on the bench and try different things. I think those are a couple of things that I really like. I have just seen that he has changed some of the plays so that they’re very effective when [the team] comes in from timeouts or quarter breaks.”
Another positive trend early during Saunders’ tenure has been an increase in attendance. The Wolves averaged 14,765 fans per game in 21 home contests with Thibodeau and have averaged nearly 800 more fans per contest with Saunders at 15,511 fans per game in 10 home contests.
“I think not only is he popular with me, but I think being a local young man and the relationship obviously goes back to Flip [Saunders, former Wolves coach and Ryan’s father],” Taylor said. “We all had such warm feelings about Flip, and I think that carries over to his family.”
Salary cap questions
The Timberwolves’ biggest question heading into next season is they have $110 million allocated to nine players, including $27.5 million for forward Andrew Wiggins and $27.3 million to center Karl-Anthony Towns.
“It is stretched a little bit just because of Karl and Wiggins’ salary,” Taylor said. “They both will be on the max next year. That uses up a lot of it. Then we have [guard] Jeff Teague; we’ll have to wait and see what Jeff decides because he has an option [for $19 million]. We have to wait and see.”
The Wolves have veterans Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Luol Deng, Anthony Tolliver and Jerryd Bayless moving into unrestricted free agency. Does Taylor want them back?
“That’s hard to tell, because if we bring in somebody else from the outside, a new player, that would affect that,” he said. “It’s premature to know exactly who will be on our team next year.”
Wants Jones, Rose
Two of the Wolves’ most important players this season have been backup point guards Tyus Jones and Rose.
Jones will be a restricted free agent next season, meaning the Timberwolves can match any offer given to him. But if the offer would put them over the salary cap, Taylor would have to pay into the luxury tax to bring back the former Apple Valley star.
“We want him back,” Taylor said. “I am not sure what the market will be for him, and we have a lot of concerns that we’ll have to be able to work all of these guys in. But he is a player we know very well and the coach really likes him, so of course we’d like to have him back.”
Taylor said the same thing stands for Rose.
“I really like Derrick Rose. I didn’t know him until last year when he came and played. I like him as a person,” Taylor said. “He certainly has been a superstar this year on our team. The things he does coming off the bench and how hard he works, we have to be careful that he doesn’t get injured. But he sure is a classy guy and we like him very much.”
Towns one of the best
Taylor, who is in his 26th year of owning the Wolves, knows the play (and hefty contracts) of Towns and Wiggins largely will determine the future of the franchise.
Towns was fortunate when he only missed two games — the first of his career — after a car crash last Thursday. Taylor said Towns, who was averaging 23.3 points, 12.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 blocks going into Wednesday’s game, has a chance to be the best Wolves player since Kevin Garnett.
“I think at least he has potential to be that,” Taylor said. “Garnett was here for many years and kept it up, and I can’t see any reason why Karl wouldn’t. Karl is just a really gifted young man and he is very difficult for the opponents to stop. … My guess is he will continue to get better.”
Does he think Wiggins, who is shooting a career-low .396 percent from the field, can improve?
“He can play better, I think he can and I think he believes that, too,” Taylor said. “… I have every reason to believe that he’ll have a good summer and next year and be an improved player.”