The sale of the Timberwolves will get finalized at some point soon, leaving three conceivable possibilities for how things could play out under new ownership.
A) Prospective co-owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore keep the operation largely intact without any Earth-shifting changes or demands.
B) They move the team to another market.
C) They use any relocation leverage available to get a new arena built.
Call me a pessimist — or a realist — but one of those options seems less plausible than the others, and it’s the one that would bring the least amount of disruption and messiness.
Best guess as to where this is eventually all headed: Option C.
A lawsuit filed by minority partner Meyer Orbach included a revelation that there is no language in the purchase agreement that stipulates the team cannot be moved out of state, contrary to Glen Taylor’s assurances in interviews with the Star Tribune (which he also owns) and other media outlets that he will insist on such a clause being part of any sale.
That section of the lawsuit did not go over well with fans of the team already suspicious about the motives and intentions of the new owners. People just assume that Rodriguez/Lore will move the team somewhere more desirable than Minnesota.
After all, even Minnesotans don’t like our winters. Will two outsiders — one of whom grew up in Miami — really want to spend the worst part of the calendar year living here and view this opportunity as a chance to establish deeply connected civic roots?
It’s OK to feel skeptical in situations like this. Skepticism is the sober driver for our naiveté. It’s best to come in eyes wide open.
A-Rod brings a lightning rod reputation from his baseball career and involvement in MLB’s steroids scandal. Realistically though, any prospective owner who did not have a Minnesota mailing address would encounter a certain level of distrust. Provincialism is a comforting quality in sports owners because this is their home, too.
Remember the reaction when the Wilf family purchased the Vikings? New Jersey real estate carpetbaggers who are going to move the team. Just you wait.
Granted, the Wilfs secured a new stadium so it’s impossible to say what would have happened if the Legislature refused to budge on that issue. But the Wilf brothers have ingrained themselves in the Twin Cities community while bringing stability to the organization.
Will Rodriguez and Lore have that same commitment? Only their actions will provide the answer. Trust doesn’t sprout overnight.
Whatever is pledged during the honeymoon phase should not be embraced as gospel. A purchase agreement that stipulates the team must stay in Minnesota likely would not hold up in court. And no prospective buyer would discuss interest in relocation with Taylor during the courtship knowing he is so adamant about that matter. That likely would have ended negotiations instantly.
Let’s be clear: There are strong reasons why moving the team does not make sense. Expansion vs. relocating an existing team is far more lucrative to the NBA and owners. People generally don’t become wealthy by being bad at business.
Creating a team from scratch in Seattle and Las Vegas is a smarter bet. And the NBA would rather not depart from an existing market.
What about 10 years from now? Or 15? Ideally, these new owners are setting up shop for the long haul, but if they believe a different market is more financially viable sometime in the next two decades, will they remain committed to Minnesota?
That likely hinges on the arena situation. Target Center underwent a $140 million face-lift a few years ago, but it is the NBA’s second-oldest arena and is regarded in basketball circles as a problem that needs to be addressed.
That issue probably won’t demand immediate attention, but a new arena campaign almost feels inevitable with ownership change.
Some Minnesotans experienced stadium fatigue with all the new venues that have sprung up across the metro. Be prepared. We might not be done yet.