Taylor calls acquisitions a 'failed experiment'
Before Minnesota's fifth-to-last game in a terribly disappointing season, Cassell figured his time with the Timberwolves was nearing an end.
"He told me right there he don't want me back," Cassell said Wednesday when told of Taylor's critical comments. "You experiment with something, and it doesn't work. Would you try it again?"
For a story published in Wednesday's editions of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Taylor said he regretted trading for Sprewell and Cassell -- despite significant contributions from the two veterans that led to a run to the Western Conference finals last season.
"This was an expensive financial decision; certainly, financial-wise, it was a poor decision on our part," Taylor said. "Overall, it was just a failed experiment."
Cassell, 35, and Sprewell, 34, each complained in training camp about not getting contract extensions. Sprewell will be a free agent after making more than $14 million this season. Cassell has another year at about $6 million on his deal.
Their attitudes have been questioned all season since the distractions they caused with their contract demands. Cassell missed 23 games with a strained hamstring.
"Our goal was to win the championship," Taylor said. "We never expected to be anything other than one of the top four or five teams in the league. And even today, it's hard to believe we could be anything less than that, when you look at the other teams in the league. It's hard to believe that, in the Western Conference, there are four teams that are better than us."
Actually, it's eight. The Timberwolves tipped off their game against Golden State needing to win their last five and have Memphis lose its final five. The Grizzlies were at Houston on Wednesday night.
"That's what happens when your team doesn't bond and come together," said interim coach Kevin McHale, who took a diplomatic stance on Taylor's criticism.
"I'm not going to get into all that," McHale said. "Glen's the owner of the team. He's certainly entitled to his opinion. The whole thing did not turn out very well this year. That's not just Latrell and Sam. The whole team never worked out."
Cassell complained that he had been made into a scapegoat for Minnesota's problems.
"It starts at the top and it dwindles down from there ... Hypothetically, when it's all said and done, they're going to blame it all on me," Cassell said. "Just because Sam Cassell was hurt and Sam asked for a contract."
Cassell said he'll have a long talk about his future with teammate Kevin Garnett in the offseason.
"I know for a fact he trusts me when I'm on the basketball court," Cassell said. "The only thing I can say is seven, eight months from now, I'll be back to the old Sam."
Taylor, who was unavailable for further comment at Wednesday's game, suggested major changes would be made over the summer.
"Latrell himself has to decide ... if he even wants to play with us. What we have to look at is, is he the right player on our team next year or not?" Taylor said.
Taylor hinted that Cassell could be traded.
"He's on our payroll this next year, so you've got to deal with it," Taylor said. "You just can't say what you're going to do. If you can get a trade that's a good trade, you do it. If you can't, you've got to utilize the people as best you can. It isn't just as simple as saying, 'We're going to make these changes."'
Taylor clearly hasn't appreciated his team's performance in the final weeks of the season, especially Saturday's loss to lowly Atlanta.
Wolves interim coach Kevin McHale blamed it on "selfishness" after the game, and Taylor agreed.
"I think in all businesses and stuff, there is always some selfishness," Taylor said. "Usually, you're able to moderate that toward the team goal. But we're having a difficult time doing that, and it will be how I will focus toward next year -- what players are really leading the team, and what players are causing that, and is it something we can change? And if it's something that we can't change, I guess we'll have to change the players."
Taylor was still looking forward to year. For one thing, he will have to hire a new coach because Flip Saunders was fired in February and McHale has made it clear he doesn't want to coach next season.
"I would just say every other year in our franchise was a good year," Taylor said. "We always did better than we expected. This is the first time that things didn't work out as we planned. And that's very disappointing."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press