MINNEAPOLIS(AP) Three years ago, Glen Taylor was the fan favorite among sports team owners in town after his big spending on the Timberwolves helped build a championship contender.

After missing the playoffs three straight seasons, however, public opinion of Taylor's operation has soured. He has not denied this, nor the difficulty he faces this summer in an attempt to renovate Minnesota's roster.

"I understand that the people are going to complain when you're not winning. That's fair,'' Taylor said Wednesday during an interview from his home in Mankato. "I don't personally take it as too negative. I just think that most people are like myself: They just want the team to play better. They're frustrated and they don't know what else to do, so they say, 'Hey, Taylor, straighten it out.'''

That's his daunting plan.

Kevin Garnett, who led the Wolves to the Western Conference finals in 2004 with assistance from new additions Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell, is still one of the league's best all-around big men.

The problem is that, through a series of miscalculations by vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale and his help in the front office, the team's ability to make moves has been severely limited.

Minnesota already has 12 players under contract for next season, and seven of those deals extend at least through 2008-09. There is a glut of guards, but trading inconsistent perimeter players like Trenton Hassell, Troy Hudson, Mike James, Marko Jaric won't be easy considering that, combined, they'll be paid about $22 million next season.

"Because we have veterans, we may have to be looking at some younger players that are a little bit more risky,'' Taylor said. "In the past, we've gone out and signed free agents who are not supposed to be risky.''

The team took some risks in the summer of 2003, trading for Cassell and Sprewell, aging players considered risky by some because of health and attitude issues. Both ultimately enjoyed career years while playing with Garnett and finishing two wins shy of the NBA finals.

They complained about their contracts, however, a harbinger for a letdown season that followed. Coach Flip Saunders was fired, and the streak of eight straight playoff appearances ended.

Taylor was stung by that failure, and the Wolves - though they've had little room under the salary cap next to Garnett's huge contract - have since then been extra careful without any success.

James was the only free agent from outside the organization last summer, and the only significant acquisition the year before was Jaric, obtained in the trade for Cassell. Forwards Justin Reed and Mark Madsen and Hassell and Hudson have each been re-signed to multiyear deals over the past three summers.

"They were the safest alternatives,'' Taylor said. "Maybe you could've been more risky.''

McHale, a bigger target of fan criticism these days, didn't want to leave the job with the roster in disarray and will return next season. Rob Babcock, Fred Hoiberg and Jim Stack will have more input into personnel decisions, however, and Taylor himself will be more hands-on.

Without prompting, Taylor mentioned James as a trade possibility - hardly a revelation considering his up-and-down production, playing time and demeanor. Taylor also said he's talked to James, Jaric and others with uncertain status, and nobody has asked to be dealt.

The trades are surely coming, though, and they're going to be tough to pull off.

"I'm sure that nobody's just going to hand us over a surefire player,'' Taylor said, adding: "We need a guy who will come in and work like the dickens, and then they contribute not as the main player but as a great role player.''

McHale, speaking last week at his season-ending news conference, emphasized a need for better chemistry on and off the court while acknowledging the mandate to improve.

"Glen's very concerned, of course,'' he said. "Glen wants to win. That's one thing that the people of Minnesota are very fortunate about.''

Though contrite, Taylor is still confident in his 12-year ownership of the franchise.

"I think in the long run I've had a track record and showed what we can do with this club,'' he said. "We're just asking people to have faith in us that we will do that.''

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