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Former coach Saunders part of group interested in T-Wolves

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Associated Press
3/5/2013 12:14:23 AM
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Ever since Glen Taylor put the Timberwolves on the market last summer, the longtime owner has been in search of an ownership group that would keep the team in Minnesota for the long haul.

If Minnesota native Flip Saunders is involved, the odds of that happening would seem pretty good.

Taylor confirmed on Monday night that he has had conversations with the former coach, who approached Taylor at the behest of a group of prospective buyers. The identities of the investors were not immediately known. But if they are successful in purchasing the team, Saunders would be expected to take over as the leader of basketball operations.

Saunders coached the Timberwolves for 9 1/2 seasons and has also coached the Pistons and Wizards. Taylor fired him in 2005, the season after Saunders led the team to the Western Conference finals. But the two long ago repaired any damage done to their relationship by that move and Taylor occasionally chats with Saunders about basketball matters.

Sports talk radio station KFXN-FM first reported the talks, but a deal is far from imminent. Taylor has been looking for a successor to buy in as a minority partner, with the plan to take over as majority owner in a few years, when Taylor is ready to relinquish control. After watching a season that started with playoff aspirations swirl down the drain thanks to a litany of injuries, Taylor isn't in any hurry to make a deal.

"I think Glen is not what you would call an anxious seller," Commissioner David Stern, a close confidante of Taylor's, said in February. "Sometimes I think he might have seller's remorse even though he hasn't sold it because he loves the team and he loves what it does for the community."

The Wolves have not made the playoffs since Saunders was fired. They have spent years trying to find a new identity after trading Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics, and only recently have started to show signs of coming out of the doldrums with a core of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic. Love has missed most of this season with a twice-broken right hand and Pekovic has missed chunks of time with various injuries as well, leaving Taylor to wonder what the team would be able to do with a full roster of healthy players.

There is still no timetable for Taylor making a deal. He may want to see what plays out with the Kings first before making a move. The Maloof brothers have an agreement in place to sell the Kings to a group that would move them to Seattle, but Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has pulled together a local group to make a bid at keeping the team there. Whoever gets the team, and at what price, could go a long way toward setting a value for the Timberwolves.

If Saunders' group is successful in acquiring the franchise, it could mark the end of president of basketball operations David Kahn's tenure in Minnesota. But that's a long way from certain, and Taylor said he would evaluate Kahn's job status once the season is over. He wants to see if Love and Chase Budinger can return later this month and give the team a boost to finish out the season.

"This has been a terrible season (because of injuries)," Taylor said after the Timberwolves fell to 20-37 with a loss to the Miami Heat. "I don't know if I can blame it on David. We would like to get some of these guys back in the next couple of weeks and let's just see how we play with the whole team."

Flip Saunders (Photo: Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)
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