When Wolves offseason moves built a squad that's glaringly white, skeptics chimed in about motives.
Dante Cunningham noticed when he reported for work in Minnesota this fall that his new Timberwolves team is unlike any for which he has ever played.
"Day One, we were all in the elevator and I kind of looked up," he said about a crowded ride with many of his new teammates, "and I was just like, 'Where is everybody?' "
Everybody, in this case, being black teammates. Come opening night on Friday, Cunningham will be one of five black players on a 15-man Wolves team that has reversed the National Basketball Association's historical racial percentages with a roster that is the league's whitest since the Boston Celtics teams of the 1980s.
Raised in Washington, D.C., and educated at Villanova, Cunningham played his first four professional seasons for three different teams in a league where American-born black players constituted 78 percent of roster spots last season and have been at least 75 percent since 1991-92.
Twin Cities black leaders have noticed, suggesting the franchise strategically has rolled back the calendar by decades in a league that long has been at the forefront of diversity among America's professional sports leagues.
"How did we get a roster that resembles the 1955 Lakers?" asked Tyrone Terrell, chairman of St. Paul's African American leadership council. "I think everything is a strategy. Nothing happens by happenstance."
That strategy, Terrell and others in the black community believe, is to sell tickets to the Wolves' fan base, which is overwhelmingly white.
"Patently false,'' said David Kahn, Wolves president of basketball operations. He and other Timberwolves executives instead call it a coincidence of circumstance and a purposeful plan to scour the globe for the best players they can possibly obtain. They will start the season with players from Russia, Montenegro, Spain and Puerto Rico, a total of five international players among a group that also includes five white American-born players.
IMO they are reaching... there are always going to be anomaly's to the average... also I think this speaks more to their international recruitment more than just trying to get "White Americans on their team"