Marc Lore wants Timberwolves to be value driven. Will Connelly attract players?
That’s been a question posed to decision-makers in the organization for years, and it was asked again to new president of basketball operations Tim Connelly
How do the Timberwolves convince high-level free agents to come to Minnesota, without overpaying them?
That’s been a question posed to decision-makers in the organization for years, and it was asked again Tuesday, this time to new president of basketball operations Tim Connelly at his introductory press conference.
And the answer, frankly, is that you don’t. Not with all players, anyway. Some guys just won’t want to come to the Midwest unless they’re heavily compensated to do so.
“There are certain players that aren’t going to want to come to certain parts of the country,” Connelly said. “There’s a reason these coastal cities have a leg up.”
But that doesn’t mean you can’t contend for the guys who are more open to relocating further inbound on the map. You have to create the right situation for them to want to do so.
How do you do that?
“What you can help develop and help add credence and definition to is your culture and the organization and the wins and losses,” Connelly said.
He pointed to the Timberwolves’ improvement last season, as well as the presence of all-star talents in Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns. Hopefully, Connelly said, word spreads around the league about what’s budding in Minnesota.
And hopefully, for the Wolves, that message also carries the idea that this organization treats its players “right.”
“We have, I think, a wonderful ownership group that represents a really diverse mindset and approach to it. Our goal is to let the results speak for themselves,” Connelly said. “As I mentioned to (Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez) when we first had the conversation, I did a lot of homework and background on everyone on this stage, and I hope that as we continue to build a winning foundation and develop, this is a place that you want to come to to win.
“It’s not about the weather. It’s not about having some of these flashier markets. You’re going to come here to win, to be treated fairly and have a lot of fun.”
That’s pretty close to what the Timberwolves generated last season in Chris Finch’s first full season as coach. Players spoke ad nauseum about their general camaraderie. People seemed to generally enjoy coming to the facility every day and competing with and for people they liked.
Connelly figures to add to that culture. Other people in a similar role in the past may have spread messages about being player-centric but didn’t back it up with action. Connelly, meanwhile, built a reputation in Denver of being a relationship builder. In the past week-plus, the Denver Post reported instances in which Connelly took Jarred Vanderbilt out for a burger after trading him to Minnesota and cited the number of Nuggets players who showed up for a staff member outing Connelly hosted, and how much that meant to Connelly.
And then of course there was the trip to Serbia that featured many of Denver’s major front office and coaching decision-makers, led by Connelly, last month to hand-deliver the MVP award to Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.
Players want to be treated like people, and they want to know that you view and value them as such. That Connelly has a pedigree for just that likely played a role in Marc Lore’s attraction to the new basketball boss.
While the definition of “workplace culture” can be loose, Lore has always been a major believer in it. Happy employees are, understandably, more committed to their organization. He also has thought an organization’s core values could make a difference to potential free-agents in determining where they want to spend their immediate future.
“I think if the culture of the organization and the team were to a level where people said, ‘You know what? I really want to be a part of that. It’s bigger than dollars and cents, bigger than basketball. It’s winning, not only on the court, but off the court, I want to be a part of that organization,’ ” Lore said. “There is going to be free agents where, if it’s done correctly, would choose to go there based on that set of values.”
Will that bear out? Only time and upcoming free-agent cycles will tell.
But perhaps, with Connelly, Finch and Co. generating the type of atmosphere Lore envisioned, Lore will at least get the chance to see his idea put into practice in the offseasons to come.
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