Wolves' owner did his part
Team must go deeperin the NBA playoffs
Glen Taylor did his part. Now the onus is on the rest of the Minnesota Timberwolves organization to follow.
Approving several acquisitions this summer with a few more still coming to fill out the roster, Taylor demonstrated an impressive commitment to getting his team beyond the -- how many times have we written this now? -- first round of the playoffs.
One might cynically argue that after watching, or refusing to watch, the dull, drawn-out death march that is the NBA postseason, the Wolves have been doing themselves and their fans a favor by getting eliminated in the opening round each year.
It's all about winning now
But this is sports, sports are about winning, and Taylor clearly wants to win. If you're a Timberwolves fan, you might want to consider helping Taylor's printing business out and buying more than your usual quota of stationery, because Taylor will lose a lot of money on the Timberwolves this season, even with attendance sure to increase with the new-look team.
He's giving up the salary-cap relief the Wolves could've gotten with injured point guard Terrell Brandon's contract, an $11.1 million figure that now belongs to Atlanta. And he's going to have to pay a hefty dollar-for-dollar luxury tax next summer, with Minnesota's now payroll approaching $70 million.
Let's not all go buy a bunch of sympathy cards for Taylor, either, because of the financial hit he's going to take on the team. The Taylor Corp. does quite well for itself, and the billionaire from Mankato will surely continue to live the good life.
But it is sort of refreshing, isn't it? Running a team for the thrill of victory and not the hunger for black ink.
Vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale was asked Wednesday night, after the four-team trade that brought Latrell Sprewell to the Wolves, if he had to try to sneak all these salaries past Taylor in order to get him to approve the moves.
"I'll tell you one thing about Glen Taylor -- he's a mathematician," McHale said. "He was a teacher before he became a printer. I can't run any number by him faster than he can add. Glen knows exactly what's going on. Glen's a very good numbers man.
"We've spent a lot of time together lately, a lot of time talking to each other about some stuff, and Glen's very, very committed. He's excited about it. He's genuinely excited about it."
This is where the rest of the organization must come in ind take responsibility for, finally, advancing a round or three in the playoffs. There have been far too many excuses made, though many of them were valid, for this failure to be one of the NBA's final eight teams.
It's up to McHale to find a few more serviceable players on the market and exert the same amount of energy working in the low post with newcomer Michael Olowokandi in practice as he did with former center Rasho Nesterovic.
It's up to coach Flip Saunders and the rest of his staff to find the right rotations, keep everyone happy and clearly spell out each players' role so that someone isn't stuck on the bench for all but six minutes two nights after scoring 14 points and pulling down eight rebounds in an important game.
It's up to players like Sprewell, Troy Hudson, Sam Cassell and Wally Szczerbiak to put away their egos and focus on running the motion offense as best they can while showing a willingness to work on the defensive end, too.
Pressure on Garnett, too
And it's up to Garnett to show he's worth the $28 million he'll be paid this year, the final year of his contract, by doing everything he did last season, and possibly just a little bit more. It's up to him to pay his employer back, on the court, for giving him the contract that changed the game nearly six years ago and showing him they care about keeping him around for the future by going out and getting him some better teammates.
Taylor wants to sign Garnett to an extension before the season starts. But he also isn't going to, in his words, live and die by it.
"I think it's just up to Kevin. If he wants to play a year without a contract, there is probably a little more pressure. On the other hand for us, when guys play without a contract, you know they always play hard."
The boss is done working. It's everyone else's turn now.
Dave Campbell is sports editor of the Minnesota bureau of the AssociatedPress.