Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor made some interesting observations when I stopped by his Mankato office after attending Vikings training camp last weekend.
While Taylor can’t talk about other teams’ players — such as trade rumors about the Wolves’ possible interest in Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving — he can talk about his own. He made it clear he is going to sign guard/forward Andrew Wiggins in the near future to a five-year, $150 million contract, the highest deal any team could give him. And Wiggins is not available to anybody in a trade.
Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, said he now owns about 70 percent of the team. Two minority owners are selling their stock, but Taylor’s stock is not available for the foreseeable future.
“We have a couple of my limited [owners] that have indicated that they’re going to sell, and we have another limited [owner] that is going to buy them,” Taylor said. “I won’t be selling any of my stock. Whatever I have, I’m keeping.”
NBA franchise values are skyrocketing. Taylor talked about the Houston Rockets recently going on the market.
“We’re running through terrific times not only for the owners and the players, because of the interest, but just the value that has been put on the franchises that have been sold,” he said. “Recently the Houston team was put up for sale, and I think again that will go for a lot of money. That is helpful to other teams like myself in that our values go up. That’s on the market, so we’ll see what that one goes for. I think it’ll be helpful to my team.”
When asked if the rumors that the Wolves are worth $1 billion are true, Taylor — who paid $88.5 million for the club in 1994 — wouldn’t say.
“I don’t know,” he said. “If I put it up for sale, we’ll find out. I like the figure. But I’m not putting it up for sale, so I don’t know.”
Taylor also talked about the great television exposure the NBA gets in China, which will help the Wolves when they play the NBA champion Golden State Warriors in Shanghai and Shenzhen in early October.
“I think it will be a plus,” said Taylor said, who plans to take about 150 Wolves employees on the trip. “I think the exposure you get over there, exposure for the NBA, exposure to the Chinese people, they’re part of our being on the board of NBA China, part of our network of doing things there.
“The TV stations and the fans over in China … I mean, there are more people over there that follow the NBA than in the United States. We really have a big fan base. Then to bring a couple teams over there, I think we’re fortunate that Golden State is going, being the world champions, that’s a big plus, and we get to play them and attract a lot of people. It’s not only the attendance, which will be a large number of people, but people will watch it on TV and then we’ll do a lot of fun things over there.”
Taylor said the Timberwolves will do well financially on the trip, in part because of the Chinese television exposure.
Happy with Thibs
Taylor was happy with the job basketball boss Tom Thibodeau did last season. He said he wasn’t thrilled with the win-loss record (31-51), but he believes in Thibodeau’s vision.
“My expectations were that we would have won more games last year, but I brought him in here for the long run,” Taylor said. “We tried it with the young players, and it appears that we need more experience on the team to get where we want to get. [Thibodeau] is flexible and he’s trying his best to bring in the quality guys we need to get to the championship, so I’m happy.”
The Wolves roster has nearly every player locked in to their contracts for at least the next two seasons. Taylor also said the only players the team can sign for this year are three players to veteran minimum contracts. Those players can make a wide range of money per season, based on how long they have been in the NBA.
When it comes to his expectations for the upcoming season, Taylor isn’t settling on making the postseason for the first time in 13 years.
“Well, of course we have to get into the playoffs,” he said. “And where we get into … the playoffs is probably very important for us. To get into fourth place so you have home-court advantage would really be the super position.”
Target Center progress
Taylor talked about the remodeling of Target Center and the reception the work has received from fans taking tours of the unfinished arena.
“We’ve heard really good remarks from a lot of them,” he said. “Everyone is saying, ‘This is nicer and different than what we expected.’ So I mean we’ve had, so far, a very positive response.
“I would say we have improved not just the seating and the seats itself but the food and things that are around the seating and stuff like that. People can come earlier and have a place right in the building to eat and during halftime. It’s a lot of those smaller things that people like. Then there are things that you want all of your fans to have. We made it look nicer. The bathrooms and all of the facilities, I think, will just be cleaner and nicer.”
Lynx at Xcel
Taylor also owns the Lynx, who have the best record in the WNBA (20-2). He said the team is going to turn a profit again this year, after struggling to make money for about a decade.
He also said, somewhat surprisingly, that the Lynx have drawn better at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, where they are playing this season while their arena is remodeled, than they did at Target Center.
“They’re playing so well and we have really good attendance,” he said.
• ESPN.com released record predictions for every NBA team Thursday and had the Wolves with a projection of 50.4 wins, the fourth-best mark in the NBA and the Western Conference. They also predicted the Wolves would be the second-best offensive team in the league.
• The National League playoff race is going to feature a lot of former Twins in key relief roles. Brandon Kintzler made his first relief appearance for the Nationals on Wednesday. Brian Duensing is having his best season in seven years pitching relief for the Cubs (a 2.45 ERA in 43 appearances). All-Star reliever Pat Neshek is now in the wild-card chase after being traded by the Phillies to the Rockies (a 1.26 ERA in 46 appearances).
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. • firstname.lastname@example.org