The Scoops: Looking Ahead to a Busy Wolves Offseason
Created: 02/22/2013 1:29 PM KSTP.com
By: Darren Wolfson
This will mark an NBA-high ninth consecutive year the Minnesota Timberwolves miss the playoffs, yet they remain one of the most fascinating teams to cover.
Here's what awaits them in the next few months:
• Will owner Glen Taylor have a handshake agreement in place with a new ownership group? He told me three weeks ago that parties have reached out to him an all-time high level in the last two months, although the belief more recently is that he's not close to finding a group. Among those to show interest, according to sources: former Memphis owner Michael Heisley and California swimwear manufacturer Raj Bhathal. The latter failed in acquiring the New Orleans Hornets last year.
• The word is Mary Kay Adelman was initially against her husband, Rick Adelman, taking the Wolves job. But the lure of working with sons David and R.J., who both have bright futures, probably helped convince her. Now with Mary Kay battlings seizures, you have to wonder if Rick could step away. Well, according to league sources, there's a better chance he's back for a third season. But it's still a situation worth monitoring.
• President of operations David Kahn has yet to deliver a playoff-worthy team in four seasons, so with his contract not guaranteed for next season, it's no lock he's back. However, if Taylor is making the call, and not a new ownership group, Kahn could return. If the new group has final say, expect Kahn to be ousted.
• The Wolves are expected to exercise team options for forward Dante Cunningham ($2.1M) and center Greg Stiemsma ($2.7M).
• Forward Andrei Kirilenko is expected to exercise a player option for $10.2M.
• Considering that the Wolves were active in trade talks involving guards Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea, forward Derrick Williams, and Memphis' 1st round pick, which they own, a busy June/July is forthcoming. According to league sources, Williams is not in the team's long-term plans and his agent, Rob Pelinka, would welcome a trade. Ridnour will be entering the final year of his contract, so he'll have value. By the way, word has it the Wolves never came real close to making a trade by Thursday afternoon's deadline. They could've had guard J.J. Redick, who went from Orlando to Milwaukee, for Williams and the Memphis pick, but Kahn never gave that proposal much thought.
• To give or not give center Nikola Pekovic $12M/year on a long-term deal is the question. A team source still scoffs at that notion, but that's the going rate for productive big men. The Wolves definitely like another restricted free agent center, Timofey Mozgov, so a run at him is a possibility. If the Wolves decide Pekovic isn't worth that, they'll work out a sign-and-trade, so they can get assets in return.
• Finding a happy medium with Chase Budinger's agent, Kevin Bradbury. Budinger will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer, and while his injury this year doesn't help, one league executive still thinks he's worth at least $4M/year. He's a big priority for the Wolves.
• Figuring out if Rick Adelman confidant, Elston Turner, will join the staff. The two have talked since Turner left his assistant coach job with Phoenix. Adelman tried to hire Turner shortly after he came to Minnesota.
• Seeing if European forward prospect, Nemanja Bjelica, whose rights the Wolves own, is a fit. The best guess as of now is he'll be here next season.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman to season-ticket holders last week:
On behalf of the entire Minnesota Timberwolves organization, I want to personally thank you for all of your support during the season. Our team thrives off the energy you bring to Target Center each night, and our players and coaches really appreciate it.
I want you to know that I remain extremely excited about our young core group of players that we have on our team: Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio andNikola Pekovic. Kevin is one of the premier power forwards in the league, a two-time NBA All-Star and has continually improved his game each season. It is unfortunate that he has missed most of this season due to his broken hand. Ricky is one of the promising young point guards in the NBA who has the ability to make his teammates better with his pass-first mentality. He is such a competitor and has worked extremely hard to get back from his knee injury. The past few weeks Ricky's play has continually improved and he looks more and more like the player we saw last season. Pek is simply a tough, hard-nosed player, who continues to improve as he learns the NBA game. His development over the past two seasons has been dramatic, and has resulted in him becoming one of the top young centers in the NBA. Our goal is to re-sign him this offseason.
Although injuries have hit us hard this season and things have not gone according to plan, I cannot say enough about how hard our players have battled each and every night. I'm proud of their professionalism and their ability to compete. With a healthy roster and a few additions, I know we will compete for a Western Conference playoff spot.
For those season ticket members who have renewed their seats for the 2013-14 season: Thank You. To show my appreciation, I have offered up a road trip for two with the team (fly with the team, hotel accommodations, game tickets) to one lucky season ticket member. There will be a drawing for the road trip on Monday that will include all those members who have renewed their seats. Good luck!
For those season ticket members that have not yet renewed their membership, I hope you decide to re-join our team. The deadline for renewals is Monday, Feb. 18.
Thanks again for your support of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor to season-ticket holders last week:
This current NBA season did not go as planned as the number of injuries we have endured have clearly taken a toll on our team. All along, we truly believed that our team would be battling for a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference. That is why we introduced the bold move of a 10% Playoff Refund: you get 10% off your 2013-14 season membership if we do not qualify for the playoffs this spring.
Despite our win-loss record, I'm proud of how hard our team has competed, and I'm also proud of all the support you - our season ticket members - and all our fans have shown the team at Target Center all year long. I'm confident in our core group of players - Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic - and I know that we have one of the best coaches in league history in Rick Adelman guiding them. I promise you that we will continue to work to improve our team this offseason with the goal of returning to the playoffs.
For those of you that have renewed your membership for 2013-14, I truly appreciate your commitment. As a small thank you, I personally would like to offer you additional tickets - at no charge - to three remaining non-marquee games this season.
For those season ticket members that have not yet renewed their membership, I encourage you to do so before Monday's deadline.
Thank you once again for your support of the Minnesota Timberwolves Basketball Club.
• As of Wednesday afternoon, the Vikings had not reached out to agent Ben Dogra, who represents free agent defensive end Dwight Freeney. CBS Sports reports that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is recruiting Freeney.
• A free-agent linebacker to keep an eye on with the Vikings: Ramon Humber. He played at Champlin Park high school and for North Dakota State. He was a special teams standout for the Colts and Saints the last four years.
• Twins pitcher Rich Harden will earn $1M if he makes the team coming out of spring training. The Twins can send him to the minors, but he has an opt-out date of July 31.
• A Twins source said they "explored" acquiring first baseman/left fielder Mike Carp from Seattle before he was dealt to Boston earlier in the week.
• The Twins haven't expressed any interest in free-agent pitcher Mark Prior.
• No surprise, but St. Paul native and free-agent pitcher Mark Hamburger is hoping for a return to the Twins. Signed after a tryout, he was traded to Texas for reliever Eddie Guardado in 2008.
• Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was angling for "more pop" on his bench Thursday in Fort Myers, but as of now, a source says the team hasn't reached out to free-agent designated hitter Jim Thome. Same goes for free-agent infielder Freddy Sanchez.
• Pitcher Anthony Swarzak's 2013 contract: $502,500 with a minor-league split of $295,500.
• Outfielder Aaron Hicks' 2013 contract: he'll make the MLB-minimum $490,000 if he makes the team. His minor-league split is $39,900.
• Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague is fundraising in Arizona this weekend. However, I'm told he won't be seeing Scottsdale resident T. Denny Sanford. A source says the "U" is still hopeful that Sanford will soon cut a big check for facility upgrades. By the way, the University is expected to announce a master facilities plan in the next three weeks.
• Wild defenseman Ryan Suter and his wife, Becky, welcomed a baby girl on Tuesday: Avery Claire Suter, 7 lb, 11 oz. It's the couple's second child.
• Gophers receiver Devin Crawford-Tufts is running this afternoon in the Big Ten indoor track championships in Ohio. He's only taking part in one event: the 60 meter dash. Coach Steve Plasencia says Crawford-Tufts already has the fourth fastest time in the Big Ten.
• When the Gophers men's basketball team went head-to-head with the Wolves on cable TV Wednesday night for an hour, the Gophers had double, and for one 15-minute stretch, triple the TV rating. Looking at FS North's Wolves ratings the last few weeks, the lack of eyeballs is noteworthy.
• Men 25-54 cable TV ratings from last Sunday: Wild vs. Red Wings 4.7... Gophers hockey vs. Wisconsin: 4.6... Gophers basketball vs. Iowa: 2.1.
• Gophers left-handed starter D.J. Snelten will be out until mid-March with an elbow injury. He's projected to be picked fairly high in June's MLB Draft.