Timberwolves

How Responsible Are A-Rod and Lore For Minnesota’s Recent Success?

Photo Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

The three most crucial aspects of the Minnesota Timberwolves ownership situation converged in late September 2021. The Wolves fired Gersson Rosas on Sept. 22, 2021, days before training camp opened. Complaints about Rosas’ relationship with a female employee and the toxic work culture he created reached Glen Taylor, Marc Lore, and Alex Rodriguez, and they moved swiftly to remove him.

Many people working in the organization felt that the tension Rosas created was unsustainable. How he managed the team ran counter to ownership’s vision for their front office. Five days later, the Timberwolves held a press conference before the start of the season. Taylor said that Lore and Rodriguez were not “legally” allowed to comment on Rosas’ firing, so the focus turned to Taylor’s pending sale to Lore and Rodriguez.

In April 2021, Lore and Rodriguez surprised the NBA world when they signed an exclusive letter of intent to buy the Timberwolves from Taylor. They initially wanted to purchase the New York Mets, but Steve Cohen outbid them, and they turned their attention to the NBA. They reached an unorthodox agreement with Taylor, where they would buy part of the team incrementally until they had full ownership.

Taylor intended to teach them the ropes while trying to keep the team in Minnesota. “We have no plans to move this,” Rodriguez said in September 2021. But could fans in the Twin Cities trust Rodriguez, who used performance-enhancing drugs and terrorized the Twins in his baseball career? Could they trust Lore, a New Jersey billionaire, not to move the team? Furthermore, it was hard to know how involved Lore and Rodriguez were in firing Rosas. Did they spearhead the initiative to improve the culture, or was that Taylor?

“Overall, we’re not going to compromise in anything, right?” Rodriguez said in September 2021. “Whether that’s behavior, missions, facilities, players, staff, and management. We’re going through the exercise right now, spending tons of hours interviewing people, both fans, media, coaches, [and] players, about how do we start building a great mission, a great foundation, and then really build a very flat organization where there’s full transparency, fairness, and honesty.”

Lore and Rodriguez mentioned wanting to replace the Target Center, which Taylor renovated in 2017 but is the NBA’s second-oldest arena. Lore said they were “nowhere near” building a new arena, but he had plans to do so. “There’s a great opportunity,” Lore said, “to eventually build a new arena and infuse it with the latest technology.” Owners often leverage moving the team to use more tax money to build the arena, meaning they may not have been fully committed to keeping the team in Minneapolis.

Taylor agreed to sell the Timberwolves to Lore and Rodriguez for $1.5 billion. Since then, Mat Ishbia bought the Phoenix Suns for $4 billion, Mark Cuban sold the Dallas Mavericks for $3.5 billion, and Michael Jordan sold the Charlotte Hornets for $3 billion. The Wolves are likely worth between $2.5 and $3 billion now. Part of that is because we have more information after three team sales. Part of that is the NBA is eyeing a new $75 billion media-rights deal after the 2024-25 season. However, the Wolves are also more valuable because they have Anthony Edwards and are a winning team.

In May 2022, Lore and Rodriguez compiled a list of five presidents of basketball operations who they wanted to hire to replace Rosas. Former Denver Nuggets GM Tim Connelly was among them, and the Wolves moved aggressively to pry Connelly from Denver. They offered him a five-year, $40 million contract with an equity kicker, and Connelly quickly built a contending team.

He made a controversial trade for Rudy Gobert that has worked out this season and has found value along the margins. Connelly acquired Mike Conley to replace D’Angelo Russell and got Nickeil Alexander-Walker as a throw-in. He traded for Monte Morris to back up Conley at the deadline. Connelly has also signed Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Naz Reid to extensions, locking in a winning core. As a result, the Wolves reached 50 wins faster than any other team in franchise history this season.

However, Rodriguez and Lore have reportedly missed multiple deadlines to purchase the Timberwolves. In August 2022, the New York Post reported that Rodriguez’s breakup with Jennifer Lopez jeopardized his ability to buy the Wolves. Taylor says he won’t sell the Timberwolves to Lore and Rodriguez because they missed a deadline on March 27. Lore and Rodriguez say he has seller’s remorse because the franchise is worth more than it was three years ago.

It’s hard to know the extent to which Lore and Rodriguez are responsible for Minnesota’s increased value. The Suns, Mavericks, and Hornets’ sales helped increase their value, as will the NBA’s new TV deal. But the Wolves are also more valuable as a winning team with Edwards under contract. How much should we credit Lore and Rodriguez for replacing Rosas with Connelly? Would they have moved the team if they didn’t get a new arena deal? And will the Timberwolves regress if Taylor remains the principal owner?

Three years after Taylor surprisingly decided to sell to Lore and Rodriguez, we still don’t know the crucial aspects of Timberwolves’ ownership. We know they’ve increased in value, but we don’t know who’s responsible for it.

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