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Connelly desires to push Timberwolves into NBA upper echelon

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Riding the momentum of a return to the NBA playoffs, the leaders of the Minnesota Timberwolves are determined to further elevate a franchise long mired among the many dregs of the league.

Tim Connelly is the primary big catch. They’re counting on more players to follow.

“There’s a reason these coastal cities have a leg up, but what you will help develop and help add credence and definition to is your culture and the organization and the wins and losses,” said Connelly, who was formally introduced Tuesday as president of basketball operations after nine seasons in that role in Denver. “Hopefully word spreads that that is where you’re going to return if you ought to be treated right.”

Connelly agreed last week to a reported five-year, $40 million contract; Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor confirmed it includes bonuses for team performance. Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, who’re within the strategy of incrementally purchasing the club for $1.5 billion from Taylor, made it a priority to aggressively pursue considered one of the NBA’s most completed and revered leaders.

“Now we have full confidence and trust in Tim, and he’s going to be empowered to construct a first-class, world-class organization. Full stop,” Lore said.

The 81-year-old Taylor initiated the sale in 2021 with the intention of staying on as kind of a mentor to the incoming owners, who plan to complete the acquisition in 2023.

“We feel like we’ve made good decisions together as a gaggle,” Lore said. “We just feel really good in regards to the partnership and where we’ve been and where we’re going.”

Connelly left behind a Nuggets team who has the back-to-back NBA MVP, Nikola Jokic, and a still-promising roster that went 48-34 within the regular season — two games ahead of the Timberwolves — without injured standouts Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Connelly also needed to uproot his young family.

“I wasn’t on the lookout for this. It was such a novel opportunity that was presented to me. The last nine years for me have been one of the best nine years professionally I could have ever imagined,” Connelly said. “As you had those sleepless nights, it makes you dig even deeper internally, much more introspective, and ask yourself if it’s something you ought to do. It’s a leap of religion, actually.”

With Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards emerging as elite players and Chris Finch drawing rave reviews for his guidance in his first full season as coach, the Timberwolves pushed No. 2 seed Memphis hard over six games in the primary round.

Minnesota also became the primary team in NBA history to lose multiple games in a series with double-digit fourth-quarter leads, doing so a staggering thrice.

“I hope that as we proceed to construct a winning foundation and develop, this can be a place that you ought to come to win,” Connelly said. “It’s not in regards to the weather. It’s not about having a few of these flashier markets. You’re going to return here to win, to be treated fairly and have a variety of fun.”

Connelly has turn into the seventh person in nine years to oversee the basketball side, since Flip Saunders returned for his second run. When Saunders died of cancer in 2015, Milt Newton filled in for one season. Then Tom Thibodeau was handed the highest job within the now-outdated dual role of head coach and lead executive.

After Thibodeau was fired midway through the 2018-19 season, his deputy, Scott Layden, was the interim alternative. Three years ago, Gersson Rosas was hired but after a sudden dismissal, Sachin Gupta was put in charge. He’s expected to stay within the front office under Connelly.

Finch was an assistant with the Nuggets in 2016-17 before being hired away by Recent Orleans. Connelly called him “Finchy” throughout his news conference Tuesday — an indication of the connection they’ve already built and the relative security Finch can have under the brand new boss.

“He has great faith in us and what we’re doing here, me particularly, and he has a variety of existing relationships with people on our staff and on this constructing. That all the time helps,” Finch said. “He’s initially about people. Doesn’t take himself too seriously. Matches right in with our culture.”

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