Struggle for control of Timberwolves now "personal," could drag out years

Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves

Glen Taylor sees this as a cut-and-dried business deal gone south: Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez did not meet their contractual obligations to purchase the final 40% of the Minnesota Timberwolves by the March 27 deadline, so the sale of the team is off. Taylor retains control.

Lore and Rodriguez view it very differently: They say they have the money for the final installment and with that qualify under the terms of the deal for a 90-day extension to go through the NBA's final approval process. They say this is really about Taylor not wanting to sell a team he loves to own — he has seller's remorse — and with that he is making up reasons to kill the sale.

The reality is both things can be true: Lore and Rodriguez did not hit every mark on the way to completing the deal, but Taylor gave off the vibe of never really wanting to sell, especially now that the Timberwolves are in the midst of their best season since the Kevin Garnett era.

The other reality: This is getting ugly and could drag out a while. That's the main takeaway from the brilliantly researched story by Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania at The Athletic. Check out what Rodriguez and Lore said.

"It is now personal," Rodriguez said. "We can be in this (fight) for five years, 10 years, whatever. We're not going to let go.”

Added Lore: "We will use every ounce of effort here to enforce the contract that Glen broke. So that means time, capital, whatever means necessary.”

There are a lot of factors at play here. For example, when Taylor agreed to this unusual, multi-step installment plan to sell the Timberwolves the franchise was valued for the sale at $1.5 billion. Today it is likely close to double that — Taylor and his minority owners want to get paid market value.

Lore and Rodriguez still own 40% of the team but are limited partners in Taylor's
eyes (not guys on track to buy the franchise), and are being treated as such.

As soon as he issued his statement Thursday [announcing the deal was dead], Taylor's attorney also informed Rodriguez and Lore that they were no longer allowed to be in the back hallways of Target Center where that owners' suite is located and that they were not to communicate with president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, CEO Ethan Casson or any of the principal leaders of the basketball and business departments.

"It feels very much like a slap in the face and much more personal than even just about the money," Lore said.

The league office will be in the middle of this — and trying to stop any more public sniping between the sides — however, it's easy to envision a judge or arbitrator ultimately having to make a call on this sale.

The timing couldn't be worse for the Timberwolves and their fans — this is the best team in Minnesota since the Kevin Garnett era. The Timberwolves have stars — Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and likely Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert — and they have already won 50 games and are headed for a top-three seed in the West.

Whoever is the owner will have major decisions to make this summer and over the next year about the direction of this franchise — and how much they are willing to pay to keep it elite. Minnesota already has one of the higher payrolls in the league, bumping up against the luxury tax line, and things are about to get much more expensive with the max extensions of Karl-Anthony Towns and Edwards set to kick in next season. This roster is headed for a financial cliff and difficult decisions must be made about how much an owner is willing to spend. Taylor has long been seen as a guy who does not want to pay any luxury tax, while Lore and Rodriguez are more free spending.

Billionaires and lawyers arguing over who controls one of the best teams in the league is a bad look for the NBA. Adam Silver needs to find a way to resolve this quickly, which is going to be a lot easier said than done.