Scoop: New President Saunders Investing About $8M in Wolves
Created: 05/03/2013 1:54 PM KSTP.com
By: Darren Wolfson
It's not quite Peyton Manning or Justin Timberlake with the Memphis Grizzlies, but the Minnesota Timberwolves now have a well-known minority owner.
Sources confirm to 1500ESPN.com that, in addition to taking over the front office, former coach Flip Saunders will invest approximately $8 million in the Wolves.
Saunders remains close with Wolves' director of operations, Rob Babcock, who's expected to stay on. Look for Saunders to hire his son, Ryan, from Washington.
Someone close to Saunders, who requested anonymity, said there's no doubt Saunders knows the salary cap inside and out. That he spent plenty of time at his three previous coaching stops -- Minnesota, Detroit and Washington -- learning it from the front offices.
Glen Taylor is expected to remain as the majority owner after overtures from the Seattle-based Chris Hansen group, which wanted to move the team to the Pacific Northwest.
Sources indicate Taylor was also approached by former Memphis owner Michael Heisley, St. Louis businessman Dr. Richard Chaifetz and a group led by former coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. But none expressed a strong desire to keep the team in Minnesota long-term, sources said.
Another factor is the amount of debt Taylor wanted new owners to assume. Word has it that Taylor has made it tough for a transaction to happen. Considering his passion for the team, it now appears that it was always inevitable that he'd never find a suitable buyer.
• If and when Saunders has to hire a head coach, those close to him point to a few names. Among those: Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and Houston assistant J.B. Bickerstaff. That likely won't happen for at least a year, as Taylor told 1500ESPN.com on Tuesday that Adelman's return appears "very favorable."
• Saunders spent the 2012 postseason consulting for the Celtics. In other words, he is very familiar with ex-Celtic and current Wolves center Greg Stiemsma. The Wolves have a $2.69 million option on Stiemsma's contract they have to make a call on this summer.
• Restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic's camp isn't upset with David Kahn's dismissal. However, the ultimate call on whether to pay Pekovic $12 million a year on a long-term deal will be Taylor's. That negotiation will be as fascinating as any to follow.
• Revisionist history No. 1: In an interview available at KSTP.com, Kahn told me that, in 2009, guard Stephen Curry "didn't want to come to Minnesota" and canceled a scheduled workout. That might've scared the first-year decision-maker, but team sources say Kahn was always more in love with Jonny Flynn. So, if Curry had come in for a workout and even stated a desire to be a Timberwolf, Flynn still would've been the pick.
• Revisionist history No. 2: The Wolves brought in wing man Paul George for multiple workouts in 2010 and really fell in love. They wanted him badly. In fact, they thought they had a trade worked out with Indiana that would've sent Flynn for the 10th pick in the draft. But the deal fell through at the last second.
• Revisionist history No. 3: Kahn tried multiple times in his first year to trade forward Kevin Love. Washington is one team that could've had him for a minimal return.
• Revisionist history No. 4: Former Wild assistant general manager Tom Lynn on the once near signing of current Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa: "It was July 1 to 3, summer 2008, and we had gone hard after Hossa. He narrowed it to five teams, and then three, and then at two he talked to each team personally, by phone. Riser (GM Doug Risebrough) and I were on the phone with him for a while. Very nice kid and smart about the game and his options. He asked a lot about the future years of the team, players, fan support, et cetera. He even told us Detroit was the other team in the mix. A few hours later, his agent called to say he was going to sign a one-year deal with Detroit, as he felt they would win the (Stanley) Cup, and then look at us again the following offseason (Riser and I were gone by then)."
• Kahn is convinced that if this year's team made the playoffs, he'd still have a job.
• Roseville's Mike Muscala, a likely top-20 pick in June's draft after a successful four years at Bucknell, signed with Excel Sports Management's Sean Kennedy. He's also Pekovic's agent.
• Former Gopher Trevor Mbakwe continues to train in Atlanta for the draft. His agent is Andy Miller, who represents Kevin Garnett and many other high-level players.
• Former Gopher Rodney Williams has been taking part in workouts with the current Gopher players.
• Twins phenom prospect Miguel Sano's new agent is Rick Thurman of the Beverly Hills Sports Council.
• If the Cubs had passed on center fielder Julio Borbon, there's a very good chance he'd be a Twin. The Rangers exposed him to waivers after designating him for assignment.
• Free agent Jim Thome update: he's working out and hitting in the Chicago area, holding out hope that a team will offer him a major league deal.
• Game 1 of the Wild-Blackhawks series on Fox Sports North had more viewers than any other channel on Tuesday night. That's rare to trump every over-the-air station.
• The Gophers are still working hard to land Memphis transfer forward Tarik Black. He's eligible right away after landing his degree in three years.
• The Gophers are after Oregon State transfer guard Ahmad Starks. Because of a family health situation and his desire to be closer to his home in Chicago, there's a good chance Starks will get permission from the NCAA to be eligible right away.
• Rutgers transfer guard Vincent Garrett has expressed interest in playing for the Gophers. He's fighting to be eligible right away.
• New Gophers assistant Dan McHale is not a Villa 7 guy.
• A Gophers source, when asked if this year's schedule will include any high-profile nonconference games outside of the Maui Invitational and the ACC/Big Ten challenge: "I don't think so." There's been no dialogue about getting athletic director Norwood Teague's former school, VCU, on the schedule.
• Former Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi, who has spent the last two semesters teaching sports management courses, recently agreed to stay on for longer.
• Rashad Vaughn's dad, Troy, on the rumors of Rashad transferring to a prep school out of state for his senior year: "I guess when he went to Virginia last weekend a bunch of prep schools approached him about coming to visit. At this time, the Vaughn Family is planning on Rashad finishing his senior year as a Hawk at Cooper High School. We know college is fast approaching and he will be leaving us soon enough." In spite of that sentiment, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Vaughn is going somewhere new. The Twin Cities Hoops Czar blog reported Friday morning that Vaughn's mentor, Pete Kaffey, resigned his position at Cooper.
• Ohio State, Iowa State and Vanderbilt have all checked in on DeLaSalle quarterback Reid Travis in the last week. Offers from all three could be coming in the near future. A Duke football staffer will be in town next week and could convince Travis to play multiple sports there. As good as Travis is in football, basketball is probably his better sport. The Gophers and many other schools want him badly. He, high school teammate Jarvis Johnson and Apple Valley's Tyus Jones all play for the U-17 Howard Pulley Panthers. They play Friday through Sunday in a tournament at the High Performance Academy in Eagan. The Gophers also have offers out to Jones and Johnson.
• Love of basketball over traditional love: Travis and Johnson chose an AAU event last weekend over DeLaSalle's prom.
• Chanhassen junior offensive lineman Frank Ragnow will visit Northwestern this weekend. He picked up offers from Missouri, Pittsburgh and Nebraska this week. The Gophers were the first school to offer. Coach Jerry Kill wants to give Ragnow a golf cart tour of campus later this month.