Charley Walters: Wolves’ offseason hinges on playoff outcome

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At the midway point of this season, Timberwolves’ decision-makers figured how much of their high-priced talent would be retained would depend on how the team did in the playoffs.

Now down 2-0 in games to Dallas in the Western Conference finals, the Wolves face a luxury-tax dilemma. Breaking the team up to save millions in luxury tax, which could be as much as $25 million, would be devastating for fans, who the last month have made the Wolves the toast of Minnesota.

>> If the Wolves were to trade Karl-Anthony Towns, whose salary next season will be $49.3 million when he’ll be 29 years old, they’ll have fan-favorite Naz Reid, who’ll be 25 for $14 million, ready as his successor. For the 2027-28 season, Towns is guaranteed $61.2 million.

>> Towns is from New Jersey. His former agent, Leon Rose, is now president of the New York Knicks, who, coincidentally, have four first-round picks for the June 26-27 draft and two first-round picks in 2025. The Wolves this year have one first-round pick and none going forward until until 2028.

It’s unclear whether Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who coached Towns with the Timberwolves, could be convinced that Towns has finally decided to play defense.

>> Rudy Gobert, at $41 million, is the highest-paid Timberwolf this season. He’ll be second-highest next season, surpassed by Towns if he’s retained.

>> The $41 million pay bump Anthony Edwards, 22, will get because he was named All-NBA second-team last week will be 30 percent of his team’s salary cap. That increase boosts his five-year guaranteed maximum contract extension to $245.4 million.

>> Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, at $2.8 billion, is the 1,225th-richest person in the world, per Forbes, and has been willing to spend on players. Investors Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, challenged for cash and hoping to gain control of ownership from Taylor, wouldn’t be expected to spend as freely as Taylor, who is 83 and has said he doesn’t need cash.

>> In January, Mark Cuban sold the Mavericks for $3.5 billion. In 2021, Taylor agreed to sell the Timberwolves and Lynx for $1.5 billion.

A little birdie says one of the partners who bought the Mavericks last December from Cuban had contacted Taylor about buying the Timberwolves for more than $1.5 billion, but with a condition that his group could move the team to Las Vegas. Taylor declined.

>> Last Oct. 5 and Oct. 7 in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, the Timberwolves swept now-playoff opponent Dallas, winning 111-99 and 104-96. The Wolves’ Anthony Edwards did not play in the first game due to an ankle injury, and the Mavs’ Kyrie Irving missed the first game with a groin injury.

>> The Mavericks share American Airlines Center with the NHL Dallas Stars, the franchise that played at Met Center in Bloomington before being relocated by Norm Green in 1993.

Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Sean Sweeney directs the team during a December 2022 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

>> Sean Sweeney, the former University of St. Thomas star guard, has been moved by Mavs’ coach Jason Kidd from overseeing defense to offense and back to defense.

Sweeney, 39, at the insistence of Mavs’ star Luka Doncic, will assist Doncic’s Slovenia team in trying to qualify for this summer’s Paris Olympics. Slovenia could end up competing against Greece and star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who besides Doncic, is a fan of Sweeney from their days with the Milwaukee Bucks.

>> While in town to play the Timberwolves, Sweeney on Thursday hosted St. Paul basketball pals at a Mancini’s Char House dinner. Sweeney, who after the season could get an interview for the Washington Wizards head coaching job, residences in South Bend, Ind. (he’s a big Notre Dame fan) and eclectic Uptown Dallas. Meanwhile, he’s taking up boxing and spars to keep in shape.

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>> While the Timberwolves are in the Western Conference finals, Wild fans are still waiting for the Zach Parise-Ryan Suter $98 million, 13-year signings of 2012 to pay off, one keen observer notes.

>> Timberwolves president Tim Connelly, signed for $40 million over five years but with an option to leave after year two this season, will be able to name his price on a new deal in Minnesota or elsewhere.

>> Shooting guard Kendall Brown, 21, the 6-foot-7 former East Ridge High star with the Indiana Pacers, is averaging 3.6 minutes per playoff game.

>> Sam Darnold, the placeholder quarterback for rookie J.J. McCarthy, is the 33rd-best QB in the NFL, according to ex-QB Chris Simms’ NBC Sports rankings. Simms admires Darnold’s quick release and says he’s an “A+ intermediate short-game thrower. He also said Darnold’s “athleticism is kind of eye-popping.”

Simms, interestingly, has McCarthy ranked No. 30. There’s no doubt that Darnold, with a $10 million, one-year contract, will start the season. But as the schedule becomes less challenging at the midway point, McCarthy could then get his first chance.

>> The Vikings’ top two draft picks last month, McCarthy and Dallas Turner, as well as ex-North Star Mike Modano, attended the Wolves-Mavs game Friday night.

>> Las Vegas has the Vikings’ over-under, won-loss record next season at 6.5, which seems about right.

>> The Giants are a one-point favorite over the Vikings in their season opener in New Jersey, per

Minnesota head baseball coach John Anderson walks off the field. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

>> Among those endorsing Ty McDevitt as John Anderson’s successor as new Gophers baseball coach were Anderson and Paul Molitor, who two months ago wrote a letter to athletics director Mark Coyle on McDevitt’s behalf.

>> Sam Udovich, the Cretin-Derham Hall junior who has committed to golf at Texas Christian, shot 69 at Troy Burne to advance to final 36-hole qualifying for the U.S. Open June 3 at the Golf Club of Georgia. Also shooting 69 was former Gopher Angus Flanagan. Both happen to hold the Southview Country Club course record of 61.

The U.S. Open will be June 13-16 at Pinehurst (N.C.). Last year, there were 10,187 qualifying entries for the Open at LA Country Club. To be eligible, a handicap not exceeding 0.4 is required. More than half of the 156-player field already has been filled.

>> That was St. Paul’s Mark Nelson last weekend in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia refereeing the undisputed world heavyweight title fight that Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk won by decision over England’s Tyson Fury at Kingdom Arena. It was Nelson’s 94th world championship assignment throughout 23 countries.

>> Cretin-Derham grad Ryan McDonagh, 34, who went on to win two Stanley Cups with Tampa Bay Lightning and last week was reacquired by the Lightning from Nashville, the other day completed his college degree at the University of Wisconsin.

“Took a few extra years,” he said on social media.

>> What happened to the rivalry? St. Thomas, which last week won the Summit League baseball championship, can thank devoted St. John’s-Collegeville baseball alum Scott Becker for recommending Division III All-America former Johnnie slugger Max Nyrop to the Tommies. Nyrop wanted a masters degree program that St. John’s didn’t have and Division I competition for his final Covid-19-eligibility season, when he hit .377 with six home runs and a league-leading slugging percentage of .754.

Another former Johnnie, ace pitcher Kody Dalen, will play for the Tommies next season as a grad student.

>> Local basketball referee Eric Curry will work predominantly Big Ten and Mountain West games next season.

>> St. Thomas Academy new Hall of Fame members: Tom Perrault, Jack Blum, Mark McDonald, Nicholas Tongen, David Hicks, Dylan Thomas, William Ratelle, Alan Reid, Jordan Schroeder and Frank Deig.

>> Steve Sir, the former Cretin-Derham Hall sharpshooter, is coaching the Mongolian men’s and women’s national basketball teams.

>> Condolences to the family of former Forest Hills golf professional Mike Retica, who passed away at 84 recently due to dementia and brain injuries.

>> Randy Misegades’ Henning High boys basketball team won just one game during his first season as coach 19 years ago. The past season, Misegades coached the school to his 300th victory.

Don’t print that

>> If wideout Justin Jefferson, who, as expected, skipped last week’s voluntary Vikings workouts, skips the June 4-6 mandatory minicamp, he would be fined a total of about $90,000.

Jefferson, by the way, has the same agent, Brian Ayrault, as has 49ers linebacker Nick Bosa, who sat out voluntary and mandatory workouts last season before agreeing to a $170 million ($122.5 million guaranteed), five-year contract last Sept. 6. Ayrault also represents Bengals QB Joe Burrow, who waited until Sept. 7 to get a $275 million, five-year deal with $219 guaranteed. Burrow’s deal averages $55 million a season.

>> Among college free agents the Vikings signed, Gabriel Murphy (linebacker, UCLA) and Jeshaun Jones (wide receiver, Maryland) received the largest guaranteed deals, essentially meaning they’ll receive practice squad salaries of $12,500 per week.

Minnesota Timberwolves assistant coach Micah Nori. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

>> Timberwolves assistant Micah Nori is getting mentioned in some circles as a potential Lakers head coach.

>> It’ll be surprising if Mike Conley, 36, isn’t offered a high-paying assistant coaching job by the Timberwolves when his playing days are over. Meanwhile, Conley is guaranteed $21 million through the 2025-26 season.

>> Two potential future Gophers coaching prospects — Sean Sweeney of the Mavericks and Ryan Saunders of the Nuggets — reached the NBA playoffs as assistants.

>> For the third straight year, Vikings’ team payroll has been low. Some smart people wonder whether the reason is that owners Zygi and Mark Wilf three years ago paid nearly $500 million for the Orlando City team in Major League Soccer. Spending that amount on soccer may have decreased cash flow for the football team.

Two years ago, the Vikings were near the bottom of the 32-team NFL in real payroll; last year they were still in the bottom half, and currently are ranked near the bottom. The highest-paid players on the team were Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter and they’re gone, so there’s no excuse not to sign Jefferson.

Wide receiver Malik Nabers speaks to the media during New York Giants Rookie Minicamp at Quest Diagnostics Training Center on May 10, 2024 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

>> Pssst: There was buzz at draft time that the Vikings wanted to move from No. 11 to No. 5, not to pick a quarterback but to get LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers, who was picked No. 6 by the Giants. Had that trade occurred, Jefferson would have been traded and Nabers would have been the No. 1 receiver.

>> It looks like tight end T.J. Hockenson could miss at least the first month of the season while recovering from ACL surgery.

>> Ex-Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, who has a new $100 million guaranteed deal with the Falcons, made a $511,000 profit on the Inver Grove Heights five-bed, five-bath, 5,677-square foot house he bought in 2018 and sold the other day for $1.3 million.

>> Although Anthony Edwards is just 22 years old, inside the Timberwolves locker room, when he speaks, teammates are all ears.

>> The Timberwolves-Mavericks ticket market crashed on Wednesday. Tickets that were $148 retail went down to $80 at game time. Too many fans bought on-sale on Tuesday and got burned.

For Friday’s game, the ticket market spiked — it was $250 just to get into Target Center.

>> It was three decades ago when the then-lowly Timberwolves upset the Philadelphia 76ers at Target Center and I asked the 76ers’ Charles Barkley after the game if the loss was embarrassing to him.

“I make $3 million a year — nothing embarrasses me,” Barkley shot back.

Newly elected Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Joe Mauer poses for a photograph after signing his name to the backer board of his plaque during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Cooperstown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

>> The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., suggests inductees generally keep induction speeches to about 90 words. Former Twin Joe Mauer, asked last week by the Pioneer Press about the speech he’ll make at Cooperstown on July 21: “It’s a work in progress. I want to finish it a few weeks before to make sure I can practice it before I deliver it. It’s hard to summarize how I got there in eight minutes. I’d say I’m anxious. I’m excited to be going out there and joining that group. It’s humbling, and it still feels pretty surreal.”

Paul Molitor, also a first-ballot Hall of Famer and Cretin grad, will be at Cooperstown.

“I’m going to support him the best I can, and I hope he doesn’t succumb to any pressure to feel he has to be too short with his words,” Molitor said. “If you have to take 15 to 20 minutes to say what you need to say, I think you should have the freedom to do that. I’m going to encourage him to speak from his heart and not be concerned about the minutes that are ticking away.”

>> Fellow Hall of Famer Dave Winfield from St. Paul on public speeches: “Remember the ‘Three Bs’ _ Be Brief Brother.”

>> Among celebrities at Hazeltine National on Thursday evening to officially launch the 124th U.S. Amateur that will be held Aug. 12-18 were Mauer, who is honorary co-chair, and Gov. Tim Walz.

>> Ex-Viking Adam Thielen, 33, of the Carolina Panthers, with two seasons left on a $25 million contract, is registered for a golf trip to Northern Ireland for September of 2025.

>> The Twins are averaging 20,199 per game at Target Field, 23rd in major league baseball.

>> The Gophers will finish 18th in the upcoming 18-team Big Ten men’s basketball season, projects, with a starting lineup of Lu’Cye Patterson, Mike Mitchell Jr., Femi Odukale, Dawson Garcia and Frank Mitchell.

>> The Gophers’ Williams Arena ranks 14th among the Big Ten’s 18 basketball venues, per The worst is Rutgers’ Jersey Mike’s Arena, the best Indiana’s Assembly Hall.

>> Niko Medved, the Colorado State men’s basketball coach from Roseville who took the Rams to the NCAA tournament two of the last three seasons, via the transfer portal has landed 6-7 former Purdue starting guard Ethan Morton.

>> Gophers assistant women’s golf coach Matt Higgins has significant support to succeed retiring head coach Rhyll Brinsmead.


>> John Anderson, who last week finished his Gophers baseball coaching career with 1,390 victories, on predecessor Dick Siebert, who finished with 754 victories: “It was daunting following the legend Dick Siebert and the tremendous success he had. It will always be his program, and I tried to keep it relevant. I hope he is proud.”

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