NBA Will Suspend Timberwolves Owner

ByJohn Akers

M I N N E A P O L I S, Dec. 6, 2000 -- Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor saidTuesday night that he has agreed to be suspended by the NBA for hisrole in a secret deal with former player Joe Smith that violatedsalary cap rules.

Kevin McHale, vice president of basketball operations, agreed totake a leave of absence, Taylor said. Coach and general managerFlip Saunders will not be punished.

According to the agreement, Taylor and McHale will be unable toattend games, negotiate contracts or talk to reporters, the ownersaid.

Will Not Have to Attend Hearings

Taylor said his suspension would last until September. McHale’sleave of absence would last until August.

Taylor said he negotiated the agreement with NBA deputycommissioner Russ Granik. The deal has not been signed, but Taylorsaid he expects it to become official next week. By reaching theagreement, Taylor said Wolves executives will not have to attendhearings in New York City scheduled for Dec. 12-13.

NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said the league had no comment.

Minnesota’s game Saturday at Target Center against the LosAngeles Clippers probably will be the last one this season thatTaylor can attend.

“I’m not happy about this, but I accept it,” Taylor said. “I watch all the away games on television. Now I’ll watch all the games on television.”

Taylor revealed the suspension Tuesday during a speech at theUniversity of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, saying he expected to agree in a few days to a deal that he called“basically a suspension.”

While he said he would cooperate with the NBA’s decision, Taylorbelieves the Wolves were perhaps being singled out by the leaguebecause Minneapolis is not a major market.

Little Town?

“We’re a little town, a little town out here in the prairie,”Taylor said. “And it isn’t quite as important to the NBA as theother towns.”

Saunders said the Wolves wouldn’t even be in Minnesota if notfor Taylor.

“This team would be in New Orleans,” Saunders said. “It’s nota moneymaking venture for him. He does this because he loves thegame.”

Chauncey Billups said the players will miss Taylor’sinspirational speeches.

“You hate to see good people go through times like that,”Billups said. “The guy’s got such a big heart.”

Smith, now a Detroit Piston, signed a free-agent contract withMinnesota in 1999, along with a secret promise of $86 million overseven years, a deal that violated the salary cap.

NBA commissioner David Stern punished the Wolves by taking awaytheir next five first-round draft picks and fining them $3.5million, a league record. Taylor would not comment on whether thedraft picks were part of his negotiations with Granik.

Stern also voided Smith’s contract for this season and theprevious two seasons, taking away the so-called Larry Bird rightsthat would have allowed the Wolves to sign Smith to amultimillion-dollar contract next season.

Taylor said the NBA has portrayed the Smith case as more severethan it really was.

Wouldn’t Change a Thing

“The truth is, I wouldn’t do anything different. On the firstdeal, I didn’t think I had done anything wrong,” he said. “Mysense is, it happened. The rules are very clear, and we steppedover them. We’re guilty. We accept that.”

McHale was out of town on a hunting trip and unavailable forcomment. Taylor said he believes McHale will remain in theorganization. Saunders, who played with McHale at the University ofMinnesota, agreed.

“Kevin’s not a quitter,” Saunders said. “He never has been,never will be. What you see on the outside is a happy-go-lucky guywho rolls with the punches. On the inside, he’s an unbelievablecompetitor.”

Saunders, director of player personnel Rob Babcock and assistantcoach Jerry Sichting will share McHale’s duties during the leave ofabsence, Taylor said.

Saunders said he might have to send one of his four assistantcoaches on the road to help scout college players.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events