Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor was in Las Vegas this week for the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting and then stayed to watch the Wolves summer league team.
The Wolves have had a busy offseason, naming Tom Thibodeau coach and president of basketball operations and Scott Layden general manager, along with drafting Kris Dunn and signing multiple free agents. But there’s no question the biggest story line in the NBA is 2014 MVP Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors, who won 73 games this past season.
There was one time in recent history when the NBA vetoed a trade. When the New Orleans Hornets were under league control in the 2011, then-Commissioner David Stern vetoed their trade of Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers for what he called basketball reasons.
Taylor was asked if he could ever envision that sort of thing happening with the Durant signing.
“No, I don’t think that’s going to happen. We have our rules already in place because we have a pretty strong contract with the players union,” said Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune. “Right now it’s a contract that if we stay in, it will go for the next seven years. I just think we have to abide by what we agreed to, even if not everybody agrees with what is happening.”
Team takes shape
The Wolves didn’t make a splashy move in free agency like the Warriors, but they did make a number of smart moves, signing centers Cole Aldrich and Jordan Hill and shooting guard Brandon Rush to low-risk contracts.
Taylor said those moves should help a team that believes its young core already is in place.
“We have some young guys that we see as our potential starting team, but we need players coming off the bench to hold us competitive with the other teams,” Taylor said. “I think both Thibs and Scott are looking at other players that can come in and play competitive minutes.”
While the team has started to take some shape, Taylor wasn’t ready to give his expectations for 2016-17 quite yet.
“A lot of people have asked me that and I just think it’s premature,” he said. “I’d like the coach to get to know his players better, I’d like to have him work with them, I’d like to have him decide who’s going to be on the team, and then that might be the appropriate time to put out expectations.”
One thing Taylor did say is that he doesn’t believe point guard Ricky Rubio will be traded at this point.
“I don’t see that as a likely possibility,” he said about a Rubio trade. “I just think the coach, everybody, likes Ricky. I think we want him to come in and improve on his shooting. But his other things, he plays defense, he gets assists, he helps the others get better. He has some wonderful qualities.
“I think the coach wants to bring an assistant coach to help Ricky on his shooting and I think that’s where we’re going to start out and go and we’ll see how good Kris Dunn is.”
Injured big men
With Aldrich and Hill signing, there have been some rumblings about what that means for both Kevin Garnett and Nikola Pekovic, who struggled with injuries last season and are due combined $20 million next season.
“I know that he was going to get married this summer,” Taylor said of Pekovic. “I know he’s back at home. I know that we’re going to try to get him in here early to make sure he’s in physical shape and look at that foot and make sure it doesn’t reoccur again. But I don’t have any definite information other than that we’d like to have him in here early so the doctors and everybody can work with him.”
Has the team put any timetable on Garnett? “We haven’t,” Taylor said. “I think it’s more up to Kevin, a little bit. The sooner we know it’s helpful to us, but I mean Kevin is an important part of our past and came back last year to help us, and we all know Kevin was having some difficulty with his knees and legs or things like that.
“I think he’s the only one that can tell us if he can play or not play, and I don’t think we have put him under time frame. I mean we still have time on that, and we have some options. We have some options. But I think at the appropriate time when Kevin is ready we’ll have that discussion.”
There’s no doubt that the Wolves have become one of the most talked-about teams in the league because of players such as Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. Taylor said that excitement mixed with some moves this offseason should bode well for ticket sales.
“Yes, the season-ticket thing, I think because of bringing in Thibs as a coach and then everybody seeing the improvement we made last year has sparked renewed interest,” he said. “We look forward to a good season sale on tickets this year.”
Taylor has also been able to attract investors, bringing in Linzhang (John) Jiang and Meyer Orbach as minority owners, and while he said he isn’t planning to sell a large stake in the team at this point, that doesn’t mean he won’t listen to interest.
“We don’t have any plans on doing that today, but I wouldn’t want to say yes or no to that because I think if the right person came along and they had the right opportunity and they wanted to come in — like these fellows did on a limited base, and I still run the team and just have them help me — I might do that,” Taylor said.
• Tom Brokaw, the famous broadcast journalist and South Dakota native, and I have been friends for years. In 2010, the South Dakota football team upset the Gophers 41-38 in one of the biggest upsets in program history. Shortly after that, Brokaw, speaking at the Twin Cities Dunkers, had a gift for me: a tie with South Dakota colors, one I will prize forever. Look for Brokaw to be a big part of NBC’s Olympic coverage in Rio.
• The Gophers, who used to sell out men’s hockey games on a regular basis, now are offering ticket packages that feature four games for just $120 total. You pick two conference games from Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State; one nonconference game from North Dakota, St. Cloud State and Minnesota State Mankato; and you get one ticket to the Mariucci Classic. Now look for the Gophers to present a package for basketball that is more affordable than the football and hockey packages have been recently.
• One of the honors that Ethan Casson, the new Timberwolves CEO, received while serving as San Francisco 49ers chief operating officer was being recognized as a member of the SportsBusiness Journal’s “40 under 40” class of 2014, a group that showcases the best young executives in sports.
• While outfielder Oswaldo Arcia has complained about how he was used by the Twins, he hit only marginally better with Tampa Bay. Arcia had a stellar first six games with the Rays, hitting .450 with two doubles, a home run and four RBI. But in his final seven games before the All-Star break, he went 0-for-20 with 10 strikeouts.
• It has to be a thrill for Gophers men’s track and field and cross-country coordinator Steve Plasencia to have two former runners reach the Olympics in Hassan Mead and Ben Blankenship. Plasencia said recently: “To have Hassan and Ben both qualify for the Olympics is really something special. …They were great competitors when they were with us, and they just keep getting better and better.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org