How The West Was Won

On the brink of the playoffs, the Wolves' brain trust breaks down the best season in franchise history

We signed Michael for three years because he has so much potential. Michael is a very smart young man. But he's raw in two senses: He hasn't played a lot and he's played on the Clippers, so he hasn't been, I would call it, disciplined. He hasn't seen the discipline that is required in a team like ours, and we've got to go in and stay with him on that. And until we find out that he's maybe uncoachable or undisciplined, then I tend to stay with those type of guys. But that's a good example of how we talk through these things and why we have the business plan.

I will tell you that Kevin McHale and I very seldom disagree. And the reason is, he thinks long-term. He sees himself being here, that this is a family business. The coaches--and our coaches are probably better than most any other team because they probably believe that they are going to be here, too--but the coaches think game to game. And the long-term for them is the year. So they have a tendency to want to trade or do anything to have a better year.

CP: Your payroll is already around $70 million, the fourth-highest in the league. But if you saw a chance to improve, would you go above that?

David Kern

Taylor: I think we want to be a little careful. We are really up there right now. But we know what Kevin's contract is going to be, and that's really going to help us because he's going to drop some. So if there is a player somehow available, and it will cost us more, because maybe we have to sign him long-term or something--yeah, we are willing to do that. What I've said to our fans is that we have this plan to stay competitive in the West, and to do that, we have to be among the elite of the elite.

CP: Is owning a basketball team in the NBA something beyond money?

Taylor: Oh, yeah. I think if you are in it only for the money, then you're like the Clippers. I think the Clippers make money because we are subsidizing them and they are losing every year.

It takes a special type of person. You've got to be really competitive and want to win. Even when I'm in business, I'm very competitive. And you need that, because you are going to have to take some risks. And although they are calculated risks, you are dealing with young people--and sometimes you're going to make a great deal of money. But sometimes it's going to really be a costly mistake that is hard to get out of.

CP: Do you have favorite Timberwolves players?

Taylor: I wouldn't say I have a favorite player, but there are different types of people that I like and relate to. When Sam Mitchell was here, I really liked Sam because of the leadership and respect he brought to the team, but also because he just sat down and we spent a lot of time talking about business. He wanted to know everything he could about it and I really enjoyed that. Then you have a really unusual person like Mark Madsen. This guy works his butt off even when he sits on the bench!

Without a doubt, I have always liked Kevin [Garnett], and more than just as a basketball player: I saw him as a young guy and probably saw more potential in him as a person. We have developed what I would call a close friendship. And then I also admire his God-given gifts as a basketball player. But I don't equate everybody as just a basketball player. I look at the gifts they have been given and how they use them.

On the team, there are probably four or five people I admire a little bit more than the other eight. But that's only because they have taken part of their personality and really pushed it. I love that leadership part. Like Sam Cassell--you talk about basketball smarts. I have to laugh at him, what he can do out on the floor and how he draws fouls and talks to refs and I know he has learned it over time. I'm sure he gets some calls just because of the way he relates to people, refs and other players, out on the court. So those are some of the people that I've really enjoyed.

CP: Commissioner Stern was just in town. Is there any chance he will relent any further and give you a first-round pick back this year, that he took away with the Joe Smith signing penalty?

Taylor: No. The answer is no. We asked if the league was going to move off of that, and they said no.

CP: You yourself are in it for the long haul, aren't you?

Taylor: A long time ago, I made enough money to live on. So I am not interested in selling to make money because it wouldn't change my lifestyle. Watching other people grow as the organization grows is probably my biggest satisfaction and because of that, I'm not interested in selling it. •

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