Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore, the former president and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, are nearing a deal to become the next owners of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The two would serve as limited partners for the next two and a half years before taking control of the team if a deal were to get done. Current owner Glen Taylor would serve as a mentor for the two new owners. The deal would also include Taylor's WNBA team, the Minnesota Lynx, according to the Star Tribune, with an agreement to keep both teams in Minnesota.
Is this a good move? The Crossover staff reacts to the news.
The Timberwolves were arguably the NBA’s worst team when Glen Taylor purchased them in 1994, and they were arguably the NBA’s worst team on the day he agreed to sell them to an ownership group headlined by Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore. In between, zero organizations that existed at the time have had a lower winning percentage or a worse defense. Change is good, but the sale should be met with cautious optimism.
Taylor told the newspaper he owns that there will be language in his contract with Rodriguez and Lore that prohibits them from moving the Timberwolves to another market, though that’s not likely to be ironclad and must be approved by the league. But if you’re a Timberwolves fan who’s suffered through several eras marred by ineptitude, a new face or two at the top is a very good thing. For a little while, at least.
The ideal scenario for everyone who loves the NBA would have been for Kevin Garnett to become the face of Minnesota’s next ownership group. Imagine KG at draft workouts, giving press conferences, involving himself in trades and reinserting himself as an iconic character in the NBA’s narrative. He’s forever connected to that team—which hasn’t won a playoff series since Garnett’s MVP season in 2004—and the Timberwolves might not be there today had the Hall of Famer spent most of his prime elsewhere.
As they say, the biggest competitive advantage in sports is ownership. If A-Rod and his group are smart enough to commit financially, empower their basketball people and stay out of the way, then yes, there's no reason it can't work. By the time they actually take over, the Wolves should be trending up—they have to get lucky in the lottery to keep their pick away from the Warriors this year, of course, but there's talent on the team and some actual direction right now. It's not a bad time to get in, if A-Rod avoids meddling. But at this point, who's to say?
There’s very, very little that could stop me from feeling terrified if I were a Minnesota fan—particularly with Rodriguez having ties to Seattle.
It’s all well and good that Glen Taylor is saying the right things for now. But the NBA’s last relocation, from Seattle to Oklahoma City, revealed that people can and apparently will say whatever is necessary to get a deal done where they want to. In that case, Clay Bennett wrote in an email to then commissioner David Stern suggesting he’d never had conversations with his partners about moving the Sonics out of Seattle. Later, we learned those conversations were already well underway, and that he was simply lying.
The Timberwolves may very well stay put forever. I hope they do. But short of seeing ironclad legal paperwork, it's hard to imagine anyone feeling totally assured of that, based on how these things work. Pinky promises aren’t adequate.
It’s hard to see the Timberwolves having less success under Rodriguez's and Lore’s leadership, right? This is, after all, a franchise that has made the playoffs just once since the 2004–05 season and just nine times in its history.
I think a potentially more interesting question is what does this new ownership group mean for the WNBA's Lynx. The Lynx have won four titles in the last decade and have made the postseason in 10 straight seasons. But in Rodriguez's statement announcing they are entering the next phase of the process to buy both franchises, he explicitly mentioned the Timberwolves, but failed to mention the Lynx. Lynx coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve has called outgoing owner Glen Taylor “one of the best listeners I’ve ever had in my life,” and Taylor has shown a willingness to pour resources into the city’s WNBA team. Maybe Rodriguez’s omission of the Lynx in his lone statement won’t mean anything down the road, but it is eyebrow-raising nevertheless.
I don’t think Alex Rodriguez and Minnesota’s new ownership group will look to move the team, so there’s no need to panic on that front. Will he turn the Timberwolves around? I have no idea.
Rodriguez’s success will ultimately be dictated by the people he chooses to run basketball operations, which (David Kahn alert) effectively ruined the chances of the previous regime. If Minnesota emerges as a title contender in the next decade, it’s likely we’re talking about Chris Finch and Cade Cunningham more than the former Yankees third baseman.