NBA West’s A-Rod vs. Cuban Final a Study in Contrasting Team Sales

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks both entered the NBA’s Western Conference Finals as unlikely contenders, starting the year outside of the top 10 in championship odds. But as surprising as their seasons have been, the biggest shocks have come from ownership, where one stunning sale and another protracted negotiation have regularly drawn headlines.

In November, Dallas owner Mark Cuban announced an agreement to sell a majority stake in his franchise, with a twist. While the Adelson family, which runs the Las Vegas Sands casino company, would become majority owners, Cuban would stick around as head of basketball operations while continuing to claim 27% of the team. The transaction valued the asset at $3.5 billion.

More from

As team governor, Patrick Dumont (Miriam Adelson’s son-in-law) technically now has final say over all decisions, but Cuban has expressed that he’s been trusted to make most team-related calls. “Having the partnership and having eventually new and deeper revenue sources allows us to be better,” he said in December.

At this year’s trade deadline, the team took its typically aggressive posture, adding Daniel Gafford from Washington and P.J. Washington from Charlotte in exchange for future first-round picks. Cuban has continued to be a public face at games, too, including Wednesday’s 108-105 Game 1 win for the Mavs in Minnesota.

“If you have seen me at the games, you know it’s exactly the same,” Cuban said via email of how much he’s enjoyed this playoff run given his changed role.

Meanwhile in Minnesota, today’s ownership situation has been significantly more tumultuous. Current governor Glen Taylor and potential future majority owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore are heading toward a binding arbitration process to determine who can boast control of one of the most exciting teams in the NBA.

Lore and Rodriguez signed a deal in 2021 to buy the Timberwolves over the course of four transactions. The two have spent much of the last three years sourcing financing for the purchase. But this spring Taylor said the deal was off, arguing that the buyers missed a key deadline. The pair currently owns 36% and could keep that stake even if Taylor wins in arbitration. The original deal priced the T-Wolves at $1.5 billion, while Sportico’s latest valuation pegs their worth around $2.9 billion.

“It appears to me that we should have a very positive run for a number of years,” Taylor told The Athletic in March, “and I want to be a part of that.”

Lore and Rodriguez responded to Taylor’s stance by calling it “an unfortunate case of seller’s remorse that is short-sighted and disruptive to the team and the fans during a historic winning season.” They’ve claimed to have followed the necessary timelines laid out in the original agreement.

For its part, the league reportedly asked both sides to keep the disagreement out of public statements.

Each camp has taken a level of credit for the direction Minnesota now seems to be headed in; before this season, the franchise hadn’t made the second round of the NBA playoffs in 20 years. Whoever ends up as the primary owner will likely eventually be asked to pay a significant luxury tax to keep the new core together. As ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently put it on his podcast, “You are in financial jail.”

A-Rod has stayed close to the players despite the dispute. After the Wolves knocked off the reigning champion Denver Nuggets in a seven-game series, Rodriguez shared an elaborate on-court handshake with emerging star Anthony Edwards.

However, if Minnesota wins a ticket to its first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history, it would almost certainly be Taylor—considered the richest man in the state—on stage celebrating a conference title.

On the other side, it’s unclear whether Dumont would make his most public appearance yet as Mavs owner in that setting, or whether Cuban would get the chance to return to the trophy presentation stage for the first time since Dallas made, and won, the 2011 NBA Finals.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Cuban said.

Best of