How Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore's $1.5 billion purchase of the Timberwolves can rebuild the team, boost diversity in NBA

Key Points
  • Former MLB star Alex Rodriguez and Walmart's former e-commerce CEO Marc Lore has agreed to purchase the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves for approximately $1.5 billion.

In this article

Alex Rodriguez on May 9, 2019, at NBC's "Today."
Zach Pagano | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

Alex Rodriguez is finally about to become a sports owner.

Months after the former Major League Baseball star came up short in a bid to buy the New York Mets, the National Basketball Association opened up its ownership club. Rodriguez will join former Walmart e-commerce CEO Marc Lore to purchase the Minnesota Timberwolves for a reported $1.5 billion.

The move still needs approval from NBA owners, and Timberwolves current owner Glenn Taylor is expected to operate the franchise for two more years while Rodriguez and Lore transition into their ownership roles.

"They've asked that I would be there for any decisions that would need to be made," Taylor told the Associated Press. "I would enjoy that. I love teaching people. These are a couple of very bright guys, and I think it could be helpful to the club, and I think I could be helpful to them so that they feel confident once they take over 100%."

Taylor will depart the club he purchased in 1994 for approximately $90 million. It's currently one of the most losing franchises in pro sports and in the middle of a rift with its biggest franchise star, Kevin Garnett.

Perhaps Rodriguez and Lore can repair the team's relationship and finally get Garnett's jersey retired. But the new group will also need to address how it will build its organization, who will help run the basketball side and what types of owners they'll be on the diversity front.

Though Taylor is praised for his work in the Minnesota community as a sports owner, he either failed to assemble great basketball minds or was too inconsistent with selecting front office staff and coaches.

Glen Taylor, owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves passes a ball before the game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the San Antonio Spurs on November 15, 2017 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Hannah Foslien | Getty Images

And for as much praise as the NBA gets with diversity, the league falls short on teams' C-suite representation. In the 2020 diversity report card, issued annually by the University of Central Florida, the NBA received an F in diversity hires among team CEOs and presidents.

Of the 55 positions, 50 are white executives, three are Black, including Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall, who also serves as one of six women in the roles. Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas serves as one of two Hispanic executives.   

Some eyes are on the Golden State Warriors, as team president Rick Welts will be retiring. The team is said to be considering internal candidates, including Chase Arena's general manager, Kim Stone. The Warriors didn't answer a CNBC request when asked if they are considering any Black executives.

Still, the NBA has a diversity problem in higher front offices. Whether the new Timberwolves owners will help or continue to hurt this issue – time will tell. But if they decide to follow any of the hiring trends to help rebuild the franchise, here are a few names to consider:

Sports agent Aaron Goodwin watches the Sacramento Kings take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 12, 2011, at ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California.
Copyright 2011 NBAE | Photo by Rocky Widner | NBAE via Getty Images

The old-new trend 

One of the more recent common trends in NBA ownership groups is hiring player agents to run basketball operations.

The Los Angeles Lakers turned to Kobe Bryant's longtime agent Rob Pelinka to transform the franchise, while the New York Knicks are gaining success under former CAA representative Leon Rose. The Knicks could be on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season under Rose.

Agents are closer to players and know this side of the NBA landscape better than most, so the trend does work. But the agent trend is nothing new.

The Phoenix Suns tried this with former agent Lon Babby, and the Golden State Warriors stripped Larry Riley and bequeathed the role to ex-agent Bob Myers to assist in their championship runs.

Another name to consider is Aaron Goodwin. Though most know mega agent Rich Paul, who has become perhaps the most prominent NBA agent powerbroker behind the scenes, Goodwin was in place before Paul.

Goodwin served as LeBron James' agent when he arrived in the NBA in 2003, helping to negotiate top sneaker contracts. Goodwin was also one of the masterminds behind establishing the NBA's G League Ignite team, where young players earn money while awaiting NBA draft eligibility.

Currently, he represents Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard and San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan. Should the Timberwolves decide to follow this trend, Goodwin has the resume for an executive position.

The ex-player turned executive

Player agents are one trend, but another is former players with some front office understanding. It's currently working well for the Suns with James Jones and Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks.

Malik Rose is another intriguing name. He gained experience both on the G League level with the Atlanta Hawks and the Detroit Pistons front office. Rose is now working inside the league office, gaining familiarity with league operations under Byron Spruell.

How much power Elton Brand has in Philadelphia these days under Daryl Morey is anyone's guess. But Brand assisted the 76ers with their transition to an NBA Eastern Conference threat and should be gaining more of an analytical perspective to roster building with Morey in charge.

And Michael Finley is gaining experience with Mavericks, serving as the vice president of basketball operations, though he appears to be committed to staying in Dallas. Using this trend, the trio can be among the names that could assist Rodriguez and Lore with team operations should Rosas be replaced under the new regime.

Joe Dumars participates in a panel discussion during the annual Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California.
Michael Kovac | Getty Images

Blast from the past?

And there's nothing wrong with the old trend either – selecting a former or current team executive with extensive NBA knowledge and a track record of success. The Knicks used this trend when they hired former Indiana Pacers executive Donnie Walsh to resurrect the team.

In this hiring formula, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri should be highly sought after, given his track record and should he leave Canada. But Ujiri may be unavailable when Rodriguez and Lore take over.

Hence, Sacramento Kings advisor Joe Dumars is a longtime figure that knows how to navigate the basketball landscape. Dumars helped orchestrate the Pistons' dominance, especially from 2003 through 2005, when the team won an NBA championship.

And sitting right in Rosas' front office is former Hornets (then the Bobcats) president Ed Tapscott, who landed the franchise its arena in Charlotte. And ex-Jordan brand executive and Portland Trail Blazers president Larry Miller is also well respected. He helped rebrand the franchise's "Jail Blazers" era.

The Spurs trend

And Rodriguez and Lore may also want to keep their eyes on the Spurs' front office, where team CEO R.C. Buford is grooming deputy general counsel Brandon James, who has a great understanding of the NBA salary cap and could be emerge as a team president in a few years. 

Turning to the Spurs' executive trend has served the Oklahoma City Thunder (hired former Spurs executive Sam Presti) and Utah Jazz (Dennis Lindsey) well.

The Thunder endured a great run with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook at the helm, while the Jazz are currently sitting atop the Western Conference and a significant threat to advance to the NBA Finals this season.