Talked-out Taylor shifts to season

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 2, 2011 - 12:03 AM

The Wolves owner is optimistic about seeing his young team play, thanks to the deal he helped strike as chair of the Board of Governors.

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Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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Somebody asked Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor how he was doing Wednesday.

"I'm better, thank you," he answered simply.

After weeks of jetting off to New York for contentious negotiating sessions that sometimes stretched long past his bedtime, the NBA Board of Governors chairman is back in Mankato, Minn., most nights now.

He is home now that a settlement with the league's players ended a 149-day labor lockout the owners deemed worthwhile in the name of fixing what they called a broken system and making small-market teams more competitive and economically viable.

Was it? Will it?

"We certainly didn't get everything we wanted and asked for, and that's part of negotiations," Taylor said. "I don't think this guarantees anybody that you're going to break even or that you're going to make money, but I think we moved a big step towards it. In the end, we wanted to get a settlement and we wanted to play, so we compromised."

NBA owners won concessions from players totaling $3 billion over the next 10 years, but didn't get a system that will prevent Dwight Howard and Chris Paul from leaving Orlando and New Orleans for New York or Los Angeles in the next year.

Still, the new deal -- players went from getting 57 percent of revenue in the last agreement to basically a 50-50 split this time -- looks like a slam dunk for the owners, right?

"People might have said that after the last collective bargaining agreement, too," Taylor said. "In effect, as the years went on and the economy changed on us significantly from beginning to end, it became very costly for the owners. But that wasn't the projection going into it, so who knows, you know?"

Last week's late-night compromise saved a 66-game season, set to begin on Christmas Day.

"I just know if we would have missed a whole season, it would have been significant," he said when asked how much damage has been done by missing the season's first two months. "We're hopeful that our fans will understand. We're just happy that we're back to play for them. I'm hopeful it's not significant because we will get going at Christmas, if we get this worked out."

Taylor said he believes fans will come back to Target Center to see a young team that created buzz last summer by adding rookies Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams as well as new coach Rick Adelman.

"I think for the Timberwolves there is renewed interest in seeing this young group of people get together with the new coach," he said. "So I'm very optimistic. That part will serve us really well, that people will look forward to seeing us.

"I still don't think anybody's lost that. I think we're going to do all right."

Fourteen months ago, Taylor was asked how much longer he wanted to continue to own a franchise he bought in 1994. He said he wanted to fulfill his work as the NBA's Board of Governors chairman and see through the negotiating of a new labor agreement.

On Wednesday, Taylor -- recently re-elected as chairman -- again was asked how long he wants to own a team that under his guidance reached the 2004 Western Conference playoffs but hasn't sniffed the playoffs and now is on its fifth coach and second general manager since then.

"I'm excited right now, now that we have the agreement," said Taylor, 70. "I'm excited that it'll enhance our chances to be competitive. I'm a very competitive guy and I like that."

He is one month removed from celebrating a WNBA championship with the Lynx team that he also owns after years of playoffs missed and high draft picks selected.

It was an experience that reminded him of that emotional 2004 playoff run led by league MVP Kevin Garnett.

"I think my experience that year showed me where that could have gone and how that could have maybe gone," Taylor said. "That was a very exciting time for us. I think that was the first time that I saw that and experience how that might be, and now the Lynx winning a championship probably reinforced it."

He knows well the joys of winning and the heartbreak of losing a lot. The Wolves have won 17 and 15 games the past two seasons.

"It's hard for a lot of teams, isn't it?" he asked.

Now, though, comes the easier part. Or at least the fun part, compared to months and months of long, tedious labor negotiations.

"This is more like the political disagreements we had," Taylor said, chuckling and comparing the last several months to his former career as a Minnesota state senator. "Those things went one and on and on and it just seemed like you were hopeful to get it resolved like you did in the end. This isn't quite like my business negotiations. There's nothing quite like it. It's unique, I will say that."

Note: The Wolves will play Milwaukee in their two preseason games, according to a league source. The dates are yet to be determined, but will be sometime between Dec. 16-23, if the new deal gets finalized in time for camps to open Dec. 9.

KEY NBA DATES

Wednesday: Teams were cleared to begin contacting player agents.

Thursday: Players will be allowed to return to team facilities.

Dec. 9: Scheduled start of training camp and free-agent signing period.

Dec. 25: 66-game regular season scheduled to begin.

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