Zulgad: Taylor's failure to read situation puts damper on Wolves' big day
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The Timberwolves haven't had many good days in the past 10 years, so the scene that unfolded Tuesday at the Minnesota State Fair should have been one in which the employees who have invested their sweat in this franchise could have celebrated.
It was a day to exhale.
A crowd that appeared to be five deep gathered to watch Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young introduced to a fan base that is starved to see the local NBA team do anything.
Kevin Love, a man who had built himself into a good enough basketball player that the Wolves could command a nice return, seemed to be quickly forgotten by a public that never seemed all that enamored with him.
And then Glen Taylor decided to speak up, likely causing all at Target Center to say something along the lines of, "Did he really just say that?"
The Timberwolves owner questioned Love's commitment to playing defense (a valid point). He called Love foul prone (not valid). He questioned Love's durability (potentially valid). He surmised that Love was going to a team where he wouldn't get much credit if things go well and will take the blame if they don't (who knows?).
Whether Taylor was right or wrong about Love wasn't the point. The point was there was no reason for the owner to say anything other than good luck and point to the fact the Wolves were looking toward the future.
What Taylor failed to realize is that he and his franchise had won the public relations battle against Love. In fact, it was a blowout until the moment Taylor's lips started moving.
That's pretty impressive considering that it was Taylor and his then president of basketball operations, David Kahn, who refused to give Love a max contract in 2012 when he wanted it and thus set the wheels in motion for Love to force his way out of town. This was their fault.
This would qualify as misstep number one and led to criticism of Taylor and Kahn, one of the most in-over-his-head sports executives to ever grace the Minnesota sports landscape. But Love's pouting and petulant attitude last season, both on and off the court, put his true personality on display and left Wolves fans ready to move on from him after six non-playoff seasons.
Taylor should have realized how lucky the Wolves had gotten. If LeBron James doesn't go home to Cleveland, this trade never happens. If the 76ers weren't intent on making themselves a joke, Young isn't in Minnesota.
Taylor should have taken satisfaction in seeing the reaction from Wolves fans to the enthusiasm that seemed to be on display from the 19-year-old Wiggins, the 21-year-old Bennett, as well as the "old man" in the group, the 26-year-old Young.
Instead, Taylor seemed to want to get the last word when it came to Love. It was reminiscent of Taylor's dig at Kevin Garnett after the best player in Wolves history was dealt to Boston. Months after Garnett was traded in the summer of 2007, Taylor suggested that Garnett had "tanked it" when he missed the last five games of the previous season.
None of this might compare to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's over-the-top Comic Sans letter to LeBron James in 2010 after James bolted for Miami, but you would have figured that between Gilbert's letter and Taylor's earlier comments, the Wolves owner would have learned that sometimes staying quiet, and thus classy, makes you the real winner. Instead, Taylor left himself open for criticism all day Wednesday from the national media.
You think Flip Saunders, the Wolves' president of basketball operations and head coach, wouldn't have liked to have directed a few choice words Love's way? It was Saunders who spent the past year trying to convince Love that Taylor and Kahn had made a mistake. It was Saunders who had to find the best deal possible when he realized that Love had no interest in staying in Minnesota.
But Saunders resisted any temptation to take verbal shots at Love, only pointing out in a few select comments what some of his new players provided that perhaps the outgoing guy didn't.
Sadly by thinking he got the last word, Taylor allowed the guy viewed by most as the villain in this situation to become the voice of reason.
"I think emotions are definitely running high right now," Love told "Mike & Mike" on ESPN Radio on Wednesday morning. "For Glen to say that, I just think that he should be focusing on the players that he just received. I mean, he has two of the No. 1 picks in the last two drafts: Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. He has another guy who can really play in Thaddeus Young. I think he got a lot for me. So I'd be focusing even more on that."
This was a sensible and measured reaction from Love. It was the type of reaction that Wolves employees probably wished their owner would have offered a day earlier.