Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is dealing with the massive fallout from the shutdown of the NBA season last week, a move the league made to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
On Tuesday, Taylor created a $1 million relief fund to help Target Center support staff for the Wolves and Lynx while they await the return of games and events.
NBA teams are still unsure when or if games will return this season, but the league is preparing for every scenario.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN on Wednesday that he remains optimistic the league will play this season, even if it is without fans for a time.
Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, said he is closely monitoring the situation and believes the league will do all it can to get the regular season finished and go on to the postseason.
“I’m really hopeful. I think we’re going to do it, if it’s at all possible,” Taylor said. “This is a health issue that we have no control over, but I think for our players and our fans, I would like to see us take a break and hopefully we can get back in 30 days and finish the season. I think the playoffs, they’re just so much fun and so important to our fans and our players.”
The reason some remain hopeful for the season’s return is that foreign leagues in Asia have restarted in the past week after taking two months off, but Taylor knows it might be a while before anyone knows when pro sports will restart in the United States.
He said he has been following coronavirus coverage for some time because his Taylor Corporation has international operations.
“I have a company in China, so we started on this here a couple of months ago,” Taylor said on Sunday. “[The company is] in about eight different countries and we have about 50 plants in Minnesota. It’s about all I have been doing.”
Season of change
This already had been a dramatic year for the franchise. They traded away starting forward Andrew Wiggins to the Warriors for D’Angelo Russell, and used a number of moves to completely changed their roster from Opening Day.
On top of that, star center Karl-Anthony Towns, who had missed five games in his first four seasons with the Wolves, battled injuries all season and had played in only 35 of 64 games.
Taylor was asked for his opinion of the club, with a record of 19-45 at the time of the league shutdown.
“I had higher expectations in the number of wins that they would have,” he said. “But with Karl’s injury previously [sprained left knee] and now again with his [fractured left wrist], we just made a lot of changes. We’re using this as a development year to get us ready for next year.”
The Wolves’ players acquired right before the Feb. 6 trade deadline — which included guards Russell and Malik Beasley and forwards James Johnson and Juancho Hernangomez — were starting to play well, even while Towns missed 12 games because of his wrist injury.
They won games at Miami and New Orleans, two teams in playoff contention, and also beat the Bulls at home before the shutdown.
Russell was averaging 21.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists in 12 games with the Wolves after averaging 23.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game with the Warriors.
Hernangomez and Beasley showed they might be ready for extended minutes after playing limited time for the Nuggets.
Hernangomez averaged only 3.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 12.4 minutes per game while shooting 25% on three-pointers for the Nuggets in 34 games.
With the Wolves in 14 starts, Hernangomez has averaged 12.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 29.4 minutes per game while shooting 42% from three.
Beasley showed an even bigger jump, going from averaging 7.9 points and 1.9 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game in 41 appearances (no starts) with Denver to averaging 20.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 33.1 minutes while starting all 14 of his games for the Wolves.
And Johnson, who appears to be a great veteran leader, saw his averages jump from 5.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game in 18 games with Miami to 12.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists with the Wolves.
Taylor said that while the season has been a struggle at times, he thinks the franchise is pointing in the right direction.
“Yeah, I am positive we have the right people,” he said. “I think that we made wholesale changes in the players — these players that we now have on our team are more apt to play the style that the coach [Ryan Saunders] would like to see. That’s shooting of threes, moving the ball around the court a lot and moving up and down the court fast.”
But whenever the season resumes and before the start of next season, Taylor said he thinks the team will need to find a big man who can play alongside Towns.
“I think it shows, with Karl’s injury, that it’s an area that we’re a little weak on,” Taylor said. “Part of it is we’re playing a rookie [Naz Reid] in that position right now. My guess is that you’re correct, that we’ll look around and see if we can find another person to support us in that area before next year.”
So even while the season is on hold, there’s no doubt Taylor and the rest of NBA fans can’t wait for the games to return.
• It’s incredible what a year can do to salaries in the NFL. After reworking his contract, the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins will be the 15th-highest paid quarterback in the NFL this season with a cap hit of $21 million, according to Spotrac. For the 2019 season, Cousins was third in the NFL among QB salaries at $29 million, trailing only the Lions’ Matthew Stafford ($30.7 million) and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers ($29.7 million).
• Pro Football Focus wrote that the Bills’ decision to trade for former Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs turns them into Super Bowl contenders and wrote, “Stefon Diggs is the perfect complement to the Buffalo offense.”
• With Rick Pitino being hired as head basketball coach at Iona, where former Gophers top recruit Isaiah Washington is the point guard, he was asked by ESPN if he plans to play any future games against the Gophers and his son, Richard Pitino. “Not that I know of,” Rick said. “The last time my son and I played [at a Coast Guard base in Puerto Rico, where Louisville beat the Gophers 81-68 to open the 2014-2015 season], he barely shook my hand after the game. He gave me a blow-by.”