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Just when Timberwolves thought decades of pain were over, ownership farce casts shadow over playoff campaign

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Expert
6th April, 2024
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Minnesota Timberwolves fans have endured plenty of pain in their 35 years of being a laughing stock in the NBA. 

In all that time, they have made it out of the first round once in 2004 when Kevin Garnett was MVP of the league and took them to the Western Conference finals. 

For their other 10 post-season appearances, they’ve been bundled straight out the back door. 

They were such a non-entity that they couldn’t even get Prince to leave his Paisley Palace in Minneapolis to attend a game for the sport he loved as much as his music.

The Timberwolves even tried wearing Prince-inspired purple uniforms but he preferred to stay at home making pancakes. Pancakes.

And just when it looked like they were a decent chance to make the finals for the first time in their mostly miserable existence, they are being haunted by the ghost of the dud owner that they thought they had waved goodbye. 

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Leading the Western Conference with a 53-24 record with Anthony Edwards making the leap into superstar status, Wolves fans should be cautiously optimistic about their imminent playoff campaign. 

But they have been stunned by the news that former owner Glen Taylor, who has presided over an era of pure incompetence over the past 

The soon-to-be 83-year-old former state senator bought the Wolves three decades ago and cycled through coaches, poor draft picks and penny-pinching decisions with bewildering regularity.

Wolves fans saw light at the end of the tunnel three years ago when Taylor agreed to sell the team to former Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and his business partner Marc Lore. 

They agreed on a deal of $1.5 billion to be paid in three annual instalments so Taylor could complete a gradual handover 

After transferring the funds for the first two payments, A-Rod and Lore acquired more than a third of the side but when they missed the deadline for the next instalment at the end of last month, Taylor told them the deal was off. 

Perhaps he realised that selling the team for $1.5b was yet another dopey deal to add to his lengthy list. 

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Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts against the New York KnicksAnthony Edwards. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Phoenix, Dallas and even another small market team in Charlotte have all sold for double that amount or more since Taylor first agreed to his sale price. 

It’s now headed for the courts and will prove an unwanted distraction for the team. 

Most of the current players won’t care too much about the ownership wrangle as they get set for the playoffs – finding a way past Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets will occupy much more of their thought processes. 

But it could prove problematic in the off-season if there is doubt over who is controlling the pursestrings. 

Edwards is signed long term to a five-year $260 million deal which kicks in after this season while Rudy Gobert is also on a huge contract, due another $90m over the next two seasons. 

The likely odd man out in Minnesota’s salary squeeze will be All-Star forward Karl-Anthony Towns, who has four more years up his sleeve worth $220m with the final season in 2027-28 topping out at over $61m.

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That KAT can ball but something’s got to give otherwise the Wolves will be copping a mammoth luxury tax bill – does that go to Taylor, does he pass that on to the disgruntled duo who he is now trying to make minority owners only? It’s a mess. 

Key role players like forward Jaden McDaniels, veteran Kyle Anderson and point guard Mike Conley could be jettisoned if the Wolves need to cut costs.

The sad part for Minnesota is that this playoff campaign should be the one that all ascending teams need to have before they can become champions. 

Even if they clinch the No.1 seed in the West from the Nuggets, they would still be outsiders if they met them in the conference decider but after a middling first season last year in their first campaign since trading for Gobert, this was their chance to get in some playoff reps. 

But yet again, just when it looked like the wheel might finally be turning for the Timberwolves, the rug has been ripped from under their feet.

Edwards has the talent, intensity and all-round game to lead a team all the way to the title but like Garnett, who won his ring at Boston after demanding a trade, it is hard to see that happening in Minnesota unless they can get their house in order.

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