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Monday, May 20, 2024

NBA’s Silver on T-Wolves Sale Dispute: We’re Staying Out of It

  • The league will allow the disputed sale to move through the preapproved mediation process.
  • A ban of Raptors forward Jontay Porter from the league is possible if gambling allegations are proved.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t expect the NBA to take an active role in helping resolve the festering ownership dispute surrounding the Timberwolves. 

As current majority owner Glen Taylor pulled the Timberwolves and WNBA’s Lynx off the market and continues a bitter dispute with minority partners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday the league does not have plans to step into the matter.

“There is no role for the league in that process,” Silver said at the conclusion of NBA Board of Governors meetings, representing the league’s first formal comment on the Minnesota situation since it devolved last month.

The dispute is now moving to mediation, consistent with terms in the original sales agreement. But there is no shortage of strong feelings on both sides. Rodriguez, for one, recently told The Athletic that “it is now personal,” vowing that he and Lore are “not going to let go.”

Soon after Silver spoke on Wednesday, ESPN reported that Taylor was purportedly concerned about a document that showed the Rodriguez-Lore group planned to cut spending on the Wolves’ roster. Taylor himself has long avoided the NBA’s luxury tax, but the team’s roster is constructed in a way that will cause the team’s tax penalties to balloon into the tens of millions of dollars if the young stars all stay in Minnesota. It’s unclear, however, if such plans would give Taylor contractual grounds to kill the deal. He had previously cited the minority partners having missed a deadline to secure financing. 

Silver, however, did say that the matter could cause the NBA to revisit certain multistage deal structures such as this one, calling it something of a product of the pandemic when it was developed in 2021. 

“It’s certainly not ideal to have a stepped transaction like this,” Silver said. “It met our rules from that standpoint, and it’s what Glen Taylor wanted and it’s what they were willing to agree to at the time. But I think once the dust clears on this deal, it may cause us to reassess what sort of transactions we should allow.”

In other matters addressed Wednesday by the commissioner:

  • Jontay Porter: The NBA has been investigating the Raptors forward for multiple instances of gambling irregularities, and Silver said what the player has been accused of is a “cardinal sin” for the league, and that penalties could include a banishment from the league if allegations are proved. “I have [an] enormous range of discipline available to me,” Silver said. “The ultimate, extreme option I have is to ban him from the game. That’s the level of authority I have here because there’s nothing more serious.”
  • Expansion: Silver again demurred on the hot-button topic, and insisted that no city—including much-discussed options such as Seattle and Las Vegas—has an inherent leg-up. Rather, Silver said an expansion committee will be formed, and the matter will take on greater prominence after the completion of the next round of national media-rights deals. 
  • Media rights: On that crucial topic, Silver said the NBA remains in an exclusive negotiation period with ESPN parent Disney and TNT Sports parent Warner Bros. Discovery, ending April 22. But he added that with the incumbent partners “conversations are ongoing and have been very positive.” It’s expected, however, that the league will allow that period to lapse, in order to open up discussions with other networks and streamers.
  • WNBA: Though there has been a possibility of separating the WNBA from the NBA in those media-rights negotiations, Silver gave further support to keeping the two leagues’ rights together to sell networks on purchasing a year-round presence in pro basketball covering the schedules of both. 

Silver added that just as important as boosting future rights fees for both leagues will be developing new ways to present the sport in a rapidly changing media landscape. 

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