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Continued: Hartman: Taylor hopes NBA can avoid a lockout

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 23, 2011 - 7:43 AM

While the NFL lockout continues, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor -- who also is chairman of the NBA Board of Governors -- says there could be an NBA lockout next season.

"I don't know what is going to happen," said Taylor, who claims one reason a new collective bargaining agreement is needed is because 24 of the 32 NBA teams lost money last season.

"I would just tell you we're meeting with the union every week and I'm real positive," Taylor said. "We've had nice, good meetings, but there's still a long way to go. I'm going out on Tuesday for another meeting, then we have another one set for early June."

The $64 million question to ask Taylor is about the status of Wolves coach Kurt Rambis, who has two years left on his contract and, according to Taylor, will have to be paid the remaining $4 million he is owed for this coming season and the following season if he is fired.

Everything points to Rambis being let go, something I don't agree with, just like I didn't think Brad Childress should have been fired as Vikings coach. But Rambis didn't make the recent trip to Spain with Wolves boss David Kahn to scout the flop of the 2009 draft, point guard Ricky Rubio. And Rambis hasn't been involved in any of the scouting for the upcoming draft and has instead been doing analyst work for ESPN during the NBA playoffs.

Draft decisions will seemingly be made by Kahn, whose job is secure, according to Taylor.

"David hasn't talked to [Rambis] and hasn't said what they're going to do yet," Taylor said. "I'm still waiting there."

Taylor said if Rambis was fired, he would still get paid his salary even if there was a lockout next season.

"He is like everybody else," Taylor said. "They all get paid, but if we don't play in any games, then they'll get paid a little less. Everybody is like that."

Taylor said he is excited about the Wolves' recent luck in getting the second pick in the draft. Most mock drafts list Duke point guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona forward Derrick Williams as the top two picks. Taylor said he believes the team will retain the draft choice.

"I think it's most likely we'll keep [the pick] ... but we're open to look at a trade," said Taylor, who will let Kahn make the final decision. "But most likely we'll keep [the player who is drafted]. I just think when you get a pick that high, you would want to keep it for the future."

The Wolves won 17 games last year, the worst record in the league, and Taylor said some changes will have to be made if the team is to improve.

"I think we'll make a few changes this summer that will help, but at this stage we have a long ways to go," Taylor said, then added: "I'm OK with Kahn."

Kahn cut the payroll, but the Wolves still lost as much as $20 million last year. Despite that loss, Taylor said none of his partners has left the ownership.

The only way partners can sell out is to find somebody to buy them out, and I have to believe that even though Taylor is going to stay with the ownership, new stockholders in the Wolves are hard to find.

Mauer mystery

The most recent update on the health of Twins catcher Joe Mauer is that after working out in Fort Myers, Fla., he can't throw because of a sore arm.

Twins General Manager Bill Smith's answer to a question about Mauer's health was: "He's going through this whole process. We're trying to get legs and knees and shoulders and elbows and trying to get everything in shape and ready to play. We're going to keep making progress and keep working with Joe to get him on track here.

"We hope it's not too long. But he's doing everything he can down in Fort Myers, and it's been a struggle and a frustration for everybody involved. And nobody more so than Joe Mauer."

Jottings

• Bill Pohlad, the film producer and owner of the Twins along with brothers Jim and Bob and the son of the late Carl Pohlad, got a great bit of news Sunday when the Terrence Malick movie "Tree of Life," for which he provided financial backing, won the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in France. Pohlad accepted the award for Malick.

• On the recent Twins seven-game road trip, Justin Morneau batted .276 by going 8-for-29 and hit his second home run of the season. His average is up to .237 as he gets healthy, and he is starting to look like the player at the plate and at first base that he was last year before he suffered a season-ending concussion July 7.

• After enduring an 0-for-15 four-game stretch, Twins third baseman Danny Valencia went 6-for-13 in his next three games against Oakland and Arizona and hit a home run in back-to back games Friday and Saturday against Arizona.

• Jim Thome was named the nicest player in baseball in a poll of 290 MLB players, with 21 percent voting for the Twins designated hitter. ... Apparently outfielder Ben Revere, a 2007 first-round draft choice, is not ready for the major leagues. He was sent down to Class AAA Rochester, along with infielder Luke Hughes, on Sunday after hitting .242 with a .265 on-base percentage in 15 games.

• Henry Blanco, who caught for Arizona against the Twins on Sunday, was Mauer's backup in 2004 and has been with nine major league teams. He is hitting .308 in 10 games this season. ... Former Twin Jason Bartlett recently tied a San Diego Padres club record when he recorded an RBI in nine consecutive games from May 8-17.

• Fifty percent of the new panels have been installed in the Metrodome roof. Bill Lester, executive director of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission, said it's a cinch the roof will be completed by Aug. 1 unless weather delays the 62 workers. A party is scheduled for Aug. 20 to celebrate completion of the work.

• The bad academic situation Jerry Kill inherited with the Gophers football team came out a lot better than he expected after the spring semester. Still, Kill said some players have work to do in the classroom to reach team standards.

• Mario Lucia, Wayzata hockey forward and son of Gophers hockey coach Don Lucia, will definitely play junior hockey next year. Mario is expected to be a first-round NHL draft choice this year. ... Don Lucia also reported that Nick Bjugstad, a freshman forward for the Gophers last year and the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft by the Florida Panthers, will definitely stay in school and not sign a pro contract for the 2011-2012 season.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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