Timberwolves owner Taylor has the desire, and the money, to see rebuilding project to finish

By Jon Krawczynski, AP
Monday, September 27, 2010

Taylor has no plans to sell rebuilding T-Wolves

MANKATO, Minn. — Glen Taylor has heard the calls to sell the Minnesota Timberwolves.

They’ve come from fans tired of hearing about another rebuilding effort. They’ve come from some of his own business advisers who see him pouring money into what they view as a no-win investment.

Yet even in arguably the darkest days of his 16 years of ownership, a period that has seen the team free-fall to the bottom of the league, Taylor says he is as determined as ever to get it turned around. He told The Associated Press on Monday that he has the money and the wherewithal to see the scars from the latest franchise face lift heal in hopes that things will start to look better very soon.

And at 69 years old, Taylor wants all of that to happen soon.

“I want to bring a really good team to Minnesota that has a chance to win a championship,” Taylor said. “My age would be consistent with that. I’m old enough that I want to do it relatively quickly.”

The Timberwolves tied a franchise record for futility last season by winning just 15 games in the first season under president David Kahn and coach Kurt Rambis. Fans abandoned the team, prompting the business side of the operations to slash season ticket prices by up to 50 percent.

Kahn called last year a “deconstruction” and pleaded for the fans’ patience as the team worked to put itself in a better position financially and competitively. Only five players remain from the team that finished last season with two victories in their final 30 games.

Taylor swallowed hard and accepted the lower ticket prices, and is once again introducing himself to a host of new faces on the roster. He made it clear that it’s time to start seeing some real improvement.

“I call it holding people accountable,” Taylor said. “Now you can say that we’ve brought in a number of players that the coaches have asked for. So I think you can hold them accountable and say we want to see the results.”

The Wolves traded Al Jefferson to Utah for cap space, re-signed center Darko Milicic, traded for enigmatic Heat forward Michael Beasley and also added Luke Ridnour, Martell Webster, Wes Johnson and Nikola Pekovic in a drastic overhaul that they say will make them more a more athletic and better shooting team.

Many of the aforementioned are high draft picks who have yet to prove themselves in the NBA. But the state of the franchise, and the size of the Twin Cities market, don’t exactly make Minnesota a prime destination for free agents these days, so Taylor acknowledged that there has to be a roll of the dice to some extent.

“It’s a big risk,” said the man who built his wealth through printing and agriculture. “I don’t know how we were going to move ahead fast without taking calculated risks. I equate that to business in that when I started my business, I had no money. I didn’t have a lot of experience. So I took risks on people.”

It is also, in relative terms, one of the most affordable teams in the league.

With so many young players on the roster, and after sending Jefferson’s $42 million contract to the Jazz, the Wolves are hovering right around $40 million in payroll. The defending champion Lakers lead the league with a payroll near $95 million.

But Taylor said he has not instructed management to cut spending, and he has a history of exceeding the salary cap to add talent to the roster.

“Financially, thank goodness, I’m in a financial situation where that isn’t a handicap,” Taylor said. “I’m going to use my money wisely.”

Forbes recently estimated Taylor’s net worth at $2.2 billion, which is ahead of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and just behind Donald Trump. Both Kahn and Rambis backed up Taylor’s claim that money is not an issue, even in a smaller market with an eroding fan base in difficult economic times.

“He’s ready, willing and able to give us all the resources we need to put a team together that can compete for wins in this league,” Rambis said. “For an owner that is willing to lay his money on the line in this financial environment, to give you his team a chance to win, that’s huge. Because we know how difficult it is right now financially for a lot of people in the world.”

The low payroll, Taylor said, is a byproduct of a young roster with plenty of players still on their first contracts and a desire to remain flexible enough to add a star player by taking advantage of another cap-stretched team wanted to shed salary as the season wears on.

“There may be a team that wants to change their team and there may be a very good player from one of those teams and I would say even today we’re aware of what’s going on in the league and who is out there and available,” Taylor said. “We’re paying attention.”

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