Kevin Love tells the Timberwolves he doesn’t want to stay in Minnesota or even talk a contract extension and all hell breaks lose. We wanted to give you, the fan, different takes and opinions on the sticky situation. This is Part 1 of our Kevin Love Roundtable discussion featuring Nick Allen, Zachary Bennett, Derek James as well as myself, Jonah Steinmeyer.
Jonah Steinmeyer: Okay, guys. It’s been approximately 48 hours since the Kevin Love news struck Timberwolves nation (62 if you want to give any credit to the iffy New York Post). There’s been a lot of opinion and plenty of overreactions to the news.
First off, let’s just start with what your general feelings are.
Zachary Bennett: Adrian Wojnarowski is undoubtedly the first writer, with credibility, I’ve seen report rumors as they pertain to Kevin Love’s future; all the other ‘reports’ are similar to the NYP column that we saw on Saturday. So, is the gig up? Things feel up in the air, still, so I don’t expect any one-certain thing to happen. Although, I would prefer some things over others when discussing hypotheticals.
Derek James: Well, ultimately I’m not surprised by this news. I think that this was a bit of an inevitability after he was given the four year max instead of the five year max that he requested. As a fellow 25 year old, I understand Love’s desire to be successful and his frustration with the organization leading to his desire to venture to greener pastures. You know that you’re still young, but you want to reach that level of achievement of your peers and feel as if you’re falling behind despite the fact that everyone’s journey is their own.
It will have been seven years by the time it comes for him to opt-out, which is more than enough time to give an organization to prove that they’re the best place for them to be successful. He gave us a lot of great moments and will ultimately wish him well and enjoy watching him as his career goes forward. No hard feelings here.
Nick Allen: I thought it was a matter of time before this kind of news came out. The timing is a bit inconvenient as far as the search for a new coach goes, but it gives the Wolves an opportunity to figure out what they’re going to do with him before this year’s draft. That ultimately may not matter if they don’t end up trading him before the start of the season, but there’s a lot more uncertainty surrounding the Wolves right now than I’m comfortable with.
JS: Clearly you guys all share a very similar opinion at least on the news in general. I mean, Allen said it, it was only a matter of time. Minnesota’s not a great market. The weather is shitty. And the basketball history isn’t any good when you consider the Lakers technically own rights to all the good years.
But what I also think Allen hit on the head was regarding the timing on the whole thing. It’s a strange time because we don’t really know what set the news off. Are these feelings that he’s been hiding for a few years? Is it correlated to Adelman’s leaving? Ricky Rubio’s interview? What do you guys think about the timing on all of this?
ZB: I’m struggling to correlate to anything, because I’m still not sure where this came from. It’s likely denial, but if you do the digging, seems as if things remain still in both camps. Until this point the definitive value of Kevin Love hasn’t been determined; what is he worth? It’s a critical time for the Wolves, because of the implications player salary has while structuring for the future, each decision must be made carefully. All details should be taken into account; it’d be nice to know how much Love is worth.
DJ: It’s been said before, I think by Jon Krawczynski, that Love is very image-conscious and wants to make it a clean break. By letting the Timberwolves know now as opposed to later, and therefore avoid the will he/won’t he drama of Dwight Howard, it makes him look like the good guy by putting the team on the clock. If they get a good return, Love looks better because he gave the team enough time to work for the best deal. If they have to settle for table scraps, it’s not Love’s problem because he gave them lots of notice.
Now, I’m not implying that Love is manipulating the situation, but it makes perfect sense to me since it’s very important, especially with how big of a part Love is of the league’s image. I think that for everyone involved that the timing was rather perfect since it actually gives the team time to seek fair value. Although I don’t believe equal value really exists in these types of situations, unfortunately.
NA: I imagine Love has been frustrated for a few years now with the lack of success the Wolves have experienced. But, kind of like what Derek said, it does seem like Love is trying to give the Wolves an opportunity to work on something that will be best for the team. Well, “best for the team” would be keeping Love, but in a world where he leaves the team, they may need as much time to work on a deal as possible. Like Brian Windhorst said in his article (Which we’ll get to in a bit) about options for Love (and as Derek mentioned above), it’s tough for a team to get great value when moving a star out of town.
JS: You all bring up great points but I want to visit what Derek said first. You made the comparison between Love’s situation with the absolute debacle that Dwight Howard had in Orlando. He made it clear to the organization that he was unhappy and planned to opt-out when he could. But then the Magic actually put together a strong season, putting the pressure back onto Howard’s camp. That basically forced him to make peace with the franchise and its fanbase to opt-in at least for another season.
I may be naive thinking this but the Wolves could certainly end up like that Magic team. Love might have leverage now but, if the Wolves play really well as a group to start next season with Love still there, they could make the playoffs and even make some noise. I mean, we’re talking about a team with one of the league’s best point differentials and a heap of losses that were within the final minutes. Couldn’t they turn things around quickly and force Love’s hand at opting-in even for just one more season? Your thoughts…
ZB: There’s almost infinite positives and negatives to the ‘Magic Method,’ as I’ll put it. Personally, I wouldn’t dislike the decision to not trade Love before the season. Someone said it earlier, but equal value doesn’t exist in this scenario. The roster in place is built around Love, and, as Jonah mentioned, the team isn’t horrible and there were a few L’s that could have been W’s. Financially, J.J. Barea and Luc Mbah a Moute both have contracts that will expire at the end of next season — and if Love were to walk away — the circumstances of other contractual obligations will allow for enough cap-space to respond from being dumped by a superstar and getting nothing in return. If you thought the team was fun this season, next year the stress and emotions would only be higher.
DJ: It’s possible, especially if the team is able to be aggressive in upgrading the roster, namely the bench unit. There will also be room for improvement from Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, which is a rarity to say of Timberwolves draft picks and actually a big part of the reason that we’re in this predicament in the first place. It’s still risky because you risk losing him for nothing, but even if he opts in, I’m not confident that he stays based on everything that has transpired through the years.
Still, I think the Magic got a good return and as of now are well-positioned to be successful at some point in the future. And they did so by holding their ground, which is different than what Denver did with Melo and what the Jazz did with Deron Williams. Could this work for the Timberwolves? Possibly, but the biggest differences there was that they had proven front offices running the show. And in a lot of ways, this may be the defining moment of Flip Saunders’ brief tenure as the decision maker. What gets back and where he goes with those pieces will certainly sway the public opinion of him, because we don’t really know yet.
My point is, if you have a smart front office, you can come away from these situations looking alright. So no matter if they trade him on draft day, mid-season or after he opts in, if he chooses to, it will require a sound plan for execution.
NA: It’s certainly possible. Like Zach has been saying, we only know so much about the situation and how much Love would want to stay in Minnesota if things were going well anyway. If reports are indeed true that Love is interested in playing for Golden State, who’s to say he hasn’t wanted to get back to his home state to play for a good team for a while now? Kobe demanded a trade from the Lakers, then ended up signing two more extensions after the team was able to bring success to the table again by trading for Pau. What are the odds of pulling something like that off, though? The offseason then becomes a bold attempt by the Wolves to bolster up their roster for essentially making a big run THIS year. There aren’t any guarantees in that scenario and it could really blow up in the Wolves’ face if they aren’t able to make the playoffs and end up losing Love.
I’d like to think the Wolves are a move or two away from making the playoffs with the roster they currently have, but ultimately I’m just not sure what could be done to change Love’s mind if he really wants to get out of town.
JS: So, the ‘Magic Method’ will be risky to say the least. But it could be a way the Wolves go in this situation. After all, Howard and Love run parallels in how they want their image perceived by the NBA universe. They’re the nice guy with a big game and want to be adored by all. It really might not be a bad idea but the risk of warming him up to the fans and hoping for a strong season from the team is very risky.
Now, Brian Windhorst wrote about some other ways the Wolves could handle this situation. One was dubbed “The Kobe Plan,” which I really read as “The Dwight Plan” because Kobe was in L.A., not Orlando. Two totally different situations, if you ask me. But the other two were intriguing. The first being “The Chris Paul Plan,” which talked about how Paul essentially gave time for the Hornets to evaluate the best possible trade that helped both parties as best they can. What a guy, eh? The second being “The Deron Williams/James Harden Plan,” where both players were shipped out almost immediately once management knew they couldn’t hold on to them much longer, hoping to get the best possible package in a ‘bidding war.’ What say you guys on either of those options on handling this situation with Love?
ZB: Alright, this is going to sound worse that I intend it to, but, seeing as how losing Love would spark all of the depressing “[defeatist] Minnesota Sports” narratives. Because the writing with this scenario has been on the wall, essentially, since the moment David Kahn got us into this mess — why not just ride it out? Hate to simplify this; but the Thunder had to trade Harden, right? The beef between the legendary Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and Williams certainly didn’t make him a fan favorite, so those situations were handled correctly from an outsider’s perspective. For Love and the Wolves, this has been an internal circumstance that Flip Saunders he arrived back in Minnesota. By keeping Love for the ‘14-’15 season, we’ll get to watch the ending of the mediocre movie we sat through this entire time, rather than thinking about what could have been.
DJ: I like the idea of the Kobe plan. Which is essentially the equivalent of telling a disenchanted lover, “Baby, I can change! I swear, I’ll be different!” and going out and grabbing a big name on the market to make a run that makes them change their mind. Or, as I like to call it: the #YOLO! plan. Go all-in. F*** s*** up, make some noise. I mean, what have they got to lose if Love is really gone anyway? Now, I realize the Kobe Plan is contingent on a team giving away their star for 10 cents on the dollar, but let’s not worry about that now.
KOBE PLAN! KOBE PLAN! KOBE PLAN!
NA: What I liked about the Chris Paul Plan was that it was essentially agreed upon that Paul would opt-in for his final year on the contract with whatever team was receiving him, guaranteeing the team two years with him instead of wondering whether or not they’d lose him right away. That would certainly make trading for Love more appealing to teams that may be in the market for him. As for the Williams/Harden Plan, I like the idea of a bidding war for Love because I’d like to think they’d at least be getting a decent deal, considering the situation. It would also be interesting to see what kind of offers would be thrown back and forth between teams. The one thing I really don’t want this all to come down to is a last-second deal before next season’s trade deadline because I’d hate to see the Wolves making some sort of panic deal.