Despite adversity, Wolves staying put
The Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles when they didn’t have a place to play. Then the North Stars moved to Dallas when the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission wouldn’t improve the old Met Center. More than once, the Twins under Calvin Griffith, and even under Carl Pohlad, threatened to move.
Marvin Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner tried to move the Timberwolves to New Orleans, but the NBA wouldn’t allow it and the team found a new owner in Glen Taylor. And now there is a chance that the Vikings will move if they don’t get the stadium they so sorely need.
Meanwhile Taylor, the owner who has the most reason to sell or move after probably losing as much money as any pro franchise in Minnesota, never complains. this despite having less success than most teams and playing in one of the oldest arenas in the NBA, making it hard to compete in any way with the great Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
He only asks for some improvements in the Target Center but never says a word about moving the franchise, which ranked 25th among the 30 NBA teams last season in attendance. Taylor and his partners not only subsidize the Wolves but also the WNBA Lynx, a team that has never been close to earning a profit.
"I’m not making any threats or anything like that. I’ve just found out that during these difficult times you’ve got to sit down and work with people, and try to work ahead and work on common goals," Taylor said. "I’ve been elected as chairman of the board of the NBA [Board of Governors], and we’re coming into a couple years in the future here, which we’re going to do negotiations with the union, so we’ve got some really big issues coming up and I want to stay with that leadership.
"Our goal is to sit down with the union — we have a year left and my hope, as with I think every team owner’s hope, that we will find a mutual way to come out with an agreement so that we can play next year. That’s what we’re working on, and that’s what we have told the union."
And even though the Timberwolves won only 15 games last season, he proclaims himself happy with the new administration he brought in, including David Kahn, president of basketball operations, and head coach Kurt Rambis.
"I’m happy with them," Taylor said. "as we said last year when we brought them in, we brought them in a little late because we were making the changes, and I told them to do an evaluation of the team that was here and make suggestive changes or improvements this year. I think they have done that. We had a difficult time winning games last year, but I think they learned a lot about our players and what our needs are for the future, and they’re prepared to move ahead."
The recent addition of Michael Beasley, the best player the team has had since Kevin Garnett, should give the team a shot at improving.
"I think we’re going to be an improved team next year," Taylor said. "I think it’s the first step, and we’ll have to do a couple years of those steps. But I’m confident that next year will be a step for more wins and that our fans will see improvement in both the defense and the quality of our play."
likes top draft choice
"I think [top draft pick] Wes Johnson just fits our needs perfectly," Taylor said. "We were just short a shooter out there, and he was the person that was available at four, so he fits our needs. I’m happy with that. I think we didn’t see the player at 16 that could kind of step in and help us this year, and we already have quite a few young people on the team, so the fellows made a decision that we should go out and trade that for a proven player, and one in which they see some upside. He’s a very young guy, [Martell] Webster is a young person, and they see some improvement, so I think that was the best we could do at 16."
Taylor looks for the club to make a sign-and-trade deal, and it could involve Al Jefferson.
The team may have lost as much as $20 million last year, but Taylor said the Wolves are not the exception and he believes more than half of the teams in the NBA lost money last year because of the poor economy.
"If you’re in the smaller markets and you don’t have a winning record, you’re pretty much going to lose money," he said. "Locally we’ve got to work on getting a team that’s competitive for the playoffs, and that’s our plan."
He wants to work with the city of Minneapolis on making whatever improvements on the Target Center are needed to make it a better environment for fans.
Despite the team’s poor record last year, Taylor said the Wolves have had a higher renewal of season tickets than in the past couple of years
Yes, the Beasley move was good, but even Rambis talks about it taking two or three years to build a contender. And with competition from the Vikings, Twins and Wild — besides the Gophers — the Wolves are the least popular based on their recent records. only winning will increase the attendance at Target Center.
The Wolves still owe the Los Angeles Clippers a first-round draft choice in the trade that brought Marko Jaric to the team five years ago. If the Wolves end up in the lottery next season, they still keep the choice. However, the following year they lose the first choice regardless of where they finish.
The Gophers’ Don Constable won the prestigious North and South Amateur Championship last week at Pinehurst, N.C. Constable, who was seeded 31st, had a comfortable 8-up lead through 25 holes and wound up with a 4-3 victory. Past champions of that tournament include Jack Nicklaus, Corey Pavin and Hal Sutton.
Oto Osenieks, the Latvian basketball player who signed with the Gophers, must pass the NCAA Clearinghouse before he is eligible. he is not in summer school, but the other three players signed by the Gophers — Austin Hollins of Germantown, Tenn., Maverick Ahanmisi of Tarzana, Calif., and Maurice (Mo) Walker of Wolfeboro, N.H. — are all enrolled both in summer school.
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