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Can Alex Rodriguez transform Timberwolves from miserable losers to lovable winners?

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 4/12/2021 Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY
Alex Rodriguez wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: The Timberwolves, who have advanced to the playoffs just once in the past 17 seasons, could use some of the glitz and glamour that Alex Rodriguez can bring as a new owner. © Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY NETWORK The Timberwolves, who have advanced to the playoffs just once in the past 17 seasons, could use some of the glitz and glamour that Alex Rodriguez can bring as a new owner.

Alex Rodriguez would bring power and glamour to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The NBA franchise located in Minneapolis needs an injection of money, excitement and a new ownership group’s immediate desire to have a winning product for its fans and players.

Rodriguez, the former MLB MVP, and billionaire business partner Marc Lore, an e-commerce entrepreneur, are closing in on a deal to buy the Timberwolves from Glen Taylor.

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Since signing an exclusive letter of intent on Saturday to finalize a deal in 30 days, the two sides are motivated to close – a win-win for both parties. Taylor purchased the team in 1994 for $90 million and is expected to sell for nearly $1.5 billion, and Rodriguez and Lore have had their sights set on pro sports ownership, coming close to buying the New York Mets last year.

The Timberwolves need a jolt.

Since Taylor bought the franchise, Minnesota has more losses than any other NBA team and has the second-worst winning percentage. The Timberwolves have made the playoffs once in the past 17 seasons. They had their best seasons from 1996-97 through 2003-04 with Kevin Garnett – eight consecutive playoff appearances but just once did they get out of the first round, reaching the Western Conference finals in 2004.

This season, they are 14-40 (worst record in the NBA) and headed for another high lottery pick.

New ownership can help pull a team out of that misery.


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The best example might be in the neighboring state with the Milwaukee Bucks. New ownership elevated the franchise after buying the Bucks from Herb Kohl. Yes, it helps to draft a generational player like Giannis Antetokounmpo, but since then, ownership has paid Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday and helped build a new downtown arena and practice facility.

If a deal is finalized, one of the new group’s first tasks will be figuring out Karl-Anthony Towns’ future. The two-time All-Star, who is 25 and experienced the playoffs just once in his Timberwolves career, has three more seasons and $101.5 million remaining on his contract. The Timberwolves need to find out if they can retain him, if they will have to trade him for valuable assets or let him leave in free agency with nothing in return.

Karl-Anthony Towns playing a game on the court: Karl-Anthony Towns has three years and more than $101 million remaining on his contract. Figuring out his future with the team will be one of the big tasks awaiting new ownership. © Trevor Ruszkowski, USA TODAY Sports Karl-Anthony Towns has three years and more than $101 million remaining on his contract. Figuring out his future with the team will be one of the big tasks awaiting new ownership.

Taylor plans to set up a unique structure to transfer ownership. Rodriguez and Lore will initially own a smaller stake and gradually purchase more until they have controlling ownership in about 2½ years.

This is important, because while Taylor’s teams have struggled, he is an important NBA owner. He was the NBA Board of Governors chairman and was integral to both commissioner Adam Silver and former commissioner David Stern as a confidant and right-hand man during labor and TV rights negotiations.

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His stewardship on that front is important as is his understanding of a pro sports franchise as a civic institution. Rodriguez should understand that from his time as an MLB star for Seattle, Texas and the New York Yankees.

The Timberwolves have value to the community, and it’s why Taylor, a native Minnesotan, wants to include a clause that keeps the franchise in Minneapolis. It might be difficult to enforce such a clause in perpetuity. So while there will be rumblings and even concerns that Rodriguez will want to move the team to Seattle, keep this in mind: the NBA doesn’t want a current team to relocate to Seattle as much it wants to the expansion fee ($2.5 billion or higher) for a new team in Seattle. Relocation simply doesn’t generate that kind of money.

What kind of owner would A-Rod be? Given his personality type – Rodriguez loves the spotlight – he would be less like Taylor and more like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who is Rodriguez’s friend and sometimes guest on Cuban’s ‘Shark Tank’ TV show. That doesn’t mean he would go full Cuban either. But it is guaranteed he will be involved.

There is a learning curve for all new NBA owners. It’s the not the same as investing in a sporting goods apparel or health food company or working in the low-key but lucrative maze of private equity’s billion-dollar deals.

Rodriguez and Lore need to be smart enough to know what they don’t know and learn from those who do.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Can Alex Rodriguez transform Timberwolves from miserable losers to lovable winners?

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