Britt Robson, our former Hoopus author turned SI writer, has followed up his fantastic piece on Glen Taylor's plan to revitalize the Timberwolves with another fantastic piece....this time, it's some very candid answers to some of our most burning questions.
Taylor isn't exactly a owner who's been shy about talking to the press. When the right person asks him the right question at the right time, he'll speak his mind and then some. He's a former State Senator, and he's run this team much like he ran that office: ask a straight question, get a straight answer. I still remember him talking straight with the Pioneer Press years ago about the state of the team: why Chauncey Billups left, the rift that developed between McHale and Saunders, and Saunders and Sam/Spree, how Kevin Garnett influenced a lot of the roster moves.
Now Robson has once again gotten Taylor to open the doors of the Wolves' front office.
To start, Taylor was very, very frank about David Kahn, understanding that there's a perception about him. "I don’t think David has built the basketball rapport that the other GMs have. He is not like [Kevin] McHale, with a lot of funny stories. David is sort of like, ‘This is the way I am, and you’re going to have to adjust.’ So to a lot of people, he might come off like he thinks he’s too smart or that he is right all the time."
"But David hired a good staff and he works them hard. And he works hard. This is his life. When things were getting tense last year, I said to him, ‘David, go out to Portland [his hometown] and take some days off. The team isn’t playing well and you’re going to get beat up, I’m going to get beat up. Just get away for a while.’ He would never think of that."
He also opened up about the team's summer signing sweepstakes, and the thought process behind who was to stay and go. Taylor says Nic Batum and Brandon Roy were primarily Kahn's projects, commenting that the team knew it was overpaying to try and land Batum but felt it was worth the expense, and also that signing Roy is a gamble.
"Brandon Roy, you might think that is the coach, but that is more David. I think it is David saying, ‘Let give this player to Rick and get the backup in place in case it doesn’t work out.’ Because Rick keeps saying to me, ‘I don’t know if he can play!’ And I tell him, ‘Rick, I don’t know if he can play either!’ So the Brandon Roy thing is a risk."
Taylor further elaborated on Batum, reinforcing the idea that Batum genuinely wanted out of Portland and to be here. Batum clearly was not a fan of iso-Roy and Nate McMillan's exacting playbook, telling Taylor "I like your coach and I like Ricky and Kevin [Love]. I think I can fit in. I don’t need to score a lot; that isn’t what drives me. I like being on the court with players who share the ball." Taylor further stated that we were one of three teams he had interest in (the others being Toronto and New Orleans), and that..."Batum recruited us about as much as we recruited him. He was one of a number of guys who said they are interested in coming to us because of Ricky."
A very, very good sign for a team that has historically been dead in the water in free agency. Even Garnett struggled to get other big names to voluntarily sign here (and it wasn't for a lack of trying, believe me)
Also, Taylor quite candidly answered questions about what was offered to Portland and when:
"We went to them [Portland] and said, ‘OK, what is it you need?’ And they were never really clear on what it would take. So then it got to the point where it was like, ‘Well, I guess you’ll do anything.’ No, we wouldn’t do anything. The closest we got really was they named some players who were not on our team. [Probably Kyle Korver, who played for Chicago last season.] But when we brought that back to them, saying we got your player, they said, ‘Well, I guess not.’ It never ended up being that we offered [second-year forward Derrick] Williams. I said to David [Kahn], ‘We’re not going to offer Williams,’ so I know David never did it. And as far as we know, we never got beyond [offering] one first-rounder [in the NBA draft]. It never got stretched that far because Portland wouldn’t say what they wanted."
This very much reinforces our (meaning mine and S-n-P's) various inquiries and general gut feeling that the Batum thing went all the way to the top in Portland; that Paul Allen was the roadblock, not Olshey, and that a lot of the various early moves the Wolves made or talked about making (like Korver and Wayne Ellington) were tied to trying to put together a package the Blazers would accept, when the reality was the Blazers (or at least Allen) wouldn't have accepted anything. The constant delays and missed 'deadlines' about when the offer sheet was going to be signed/submitted was because Olshey also knew we were overpaying Batum and was asking for extra time to convince Allen of that, but couldn't.
So, as Taylor said, Adelman came in and said Kirilenko was the guy he wanted. "He never talks about scoring, he talks about passing and he talks about defense. I need that player in my system to be successful." So that's who the team went after next, and got.
Taylor continued by saying that Adelman genuinely liked both Beasley and Randolph, but ultimately decided they had to go because he couldn't see the team progressing with them. "What Rick said about Michael was, ‘Yes, Michael has been good. I get along with him. But I don’t think we’ll be a championship team with him. If I put Michael in, Michael can score, but he doesn’t play any defense and he forgets the other offensive players, and I just can’t tolerate that under my system because the other players are just standing around.’ … The coach would have put up with Randolph if we had gotten rid of Beasley. He said Randolph isn’t really a problem, he just can’t remember things. When he was going down his list and got to Randolph, he said, ‘I think he should be off the team. But if these things were taken care of and I had to deal with it, I can deal with a kid like him because he is more of an introvert, he’s not a nasty kid.'"
And, not surprisingly, the first guy Adelman wanted out was Darko.
I'll always feel indebted to Taylor for buying the team and keeping it here, even when I get on his case for making bad decisions running it. The man bleeds Minnesota and bleeds Timberwolves, which is rare. His commitment to make sure the new owner keeps the team in the state is more than just reassuring, it's honestly touching. What would we do with ourselves if the Timberwolves weren't here anymore? I don't want to even think about it, and he doesn't either. And if there's one thing I've greatly enjoyed about having Glen Taylor owning the team, it's moments like these, where he just sits down with you and says whatever is on his mind.