Timberwolves GM Milt Newton will be in charge of the draft and free agency for the team this summer, owner Glen Taylor said today on “The Chad Hartman Show” on WCCO-AM, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter links). Newton hadn’t previously been assured of remaining the team’s top basketball executive beyond this season after inheriting the role this past fall upon the death of president of basketball operations Flip Saunders. Taylor also said that it’s unlikely he’ll complete a deal with Grizzlies part-owner Steve Kaplan, who was to purchase a 30% share of the Wolves and perhaps eventually succeed Taylor as controlling owner. Kaplan, who’d have to sell his stake in the Grizzlies to buy into the Wolves, has reportedly met resistance from primary Grizzlies owner Robert Pera.
Newton and coach Sam Mitchell have essentially been on one-season trials since Saunders’ death, as Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press noted in a recent interview with Hoops Rumors. The fate of Mitchell’s job remains undecided, but it appears Newton is safe for now. Minnesota has had a largely quiet season on the personnel front outside of buyouts with Anthony Bennett, Kevin Martin and Andre Miller. The team didn’t make a trade. The offseason ahead figures to be pivotal, however. Minnesota, which has the last two No. 1 overall picks on its roster, is in line for another top-five selection, as our Reverse Standings show.
How much say Kaplan would have had about whether to retain Newton and Mitchell was one of the issues that he and Taylor were sorting through as they tried to finalize a deal on the ownership share, but Taylor had been preparing to make those decisions on his own as of earlier this month, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune wrote then. Taylor, 74, has said that he won’t sell the team to anyone who’d move it out of Minnesota, and it appeared as though Kaplan was on board with the franchise staying put, so the dissolution of their negotiations throws the franchise’s long-term future into some doubt. Taylor said it looks like it’ll take years for Kaplan to resolve his situation in Memphis, as Wolfson notes.