Unceasing speculation about Kevin Love's long-term future in Minnesota has been ongoing at least since January 2012, when Love signed a less-than-maximum four-year contract extension with an option to walk away after the third year.
In the months that followed, reports emerged that Love wasn't happy with then-President of Basketball Operations David Kahn's much-criticized decision to not give him a maximum five-year deal. Though Kahn was jettisoned for Flip Saunders in April of last year, a disappointing 2013-14 season left K-Love very, very sad, and now, with only one year left between Love and free agency, a number of reports are surfacing indicating team officials have already been informed the second-best player in franchise history has no interest in again re-signing here.
The strongest report to that effect comes via ESPN, which published a story with this lede this morning:
Kevin Love has made it clear to the Timberwolves that he intends to become an unrestricted free agent after next season and has no interest in a contract extension to stay in Minnesota, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.A day earlier, Yahoo's well-connected NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski wrote this:
[T]he Wolves are under pressure to start considering trade scenarios for Love, who's anxious to exercise his early termination option (ETO) in the summer of 2015 and leave as a free agent, league sources said.Not only does Love reportedly want out, but Timberwolves brass is now willing to accommodate him, local Associated Press sports reporter Jon Krawczynski writes:
Throughout most of last season, Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders and owner Glen Taylor remained steadfast in their stance that they would not consider trading Kevin Love...All of the aforementioned reports say Wolves brass want both high draft picks and established young talent for Love. It's worth keeping in mind that's the sort of package team officials thought they got from the Boston Celtics for Kevin Garnett back in the summer of 2007, and we all know how poorly that worked out -- the Wolves haven't made the playoffs since and didn't even sniff mediocrity until this year's 40-42 campaign.
With the NBA draft lottery coming up this week and an increasing concern that Love will leave for another team after next year, that stance has softened, two people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.
The Timberwolves are now open to the idea of trading Love if the right deal comes along.
All that losing has apparently taken a toll on Love, a southern California native who has long been rumored to want to play in a bigger market. But Wolves fans shouldn't take Love's unhappiness with his current professional circumstance too personally.
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ESPN reports that while Los Angeles and New York have long been mentioned as two of Love's preferred destinations, "going to the best situation for immediate contention is said to be the power forward's priority."
In other words, it's (reportedly) not about our beloved mid-market metro being too cold, too small, or too uncool for Kevin -- it's about the hole David Kahn buried this franchise in, along with Flip Saunders's inability to dig the Wolves out of it during his first season as boss.
It should be mentioned that Love himself hasn't yet publicly weighed in on all the reports he wants out of Minnesota. Furthermore, before yesterday's Lynx home opener, Wolves owner Glen Taylor told the Star Tribune's Jerry Zgoda the team won't trade Love before the NBA Draft on June 26, which contradicts reports indicating the Wolves want a high pick in this year's draft in any trade for Love.
Finally, even if Love really does want out ASAP, Saunders still has at least one card he could play besides trading him. Flip could double down this summer by making short-term moves to stack the roster around Love in hopes the team will finally break through and make a postseason run in 2015. The hope is that a winning season, combined with the team's promising young core, would persuade Love he can stay here and win. If Saunders goes that route, one thing helping his cause is that the Wolves can offer Love $30 million more in a contract extension than any other team.
In any event, it's clear Love's relationship with Minnesota is at least on the rocks. And while Love is reportedly already thinking about moving on to greener pastures, Flip and company are still trying to figure out whether there's a way to salvage their relationship with one of the NBA's top players -- a player who at just 25 years old might have even better years ahead of him, as hard as that is to imagine given just how awesome he was this past season.
As jilted lovers often say, he'll be a tough act to follow. But while getting dumped by someone you're into always leaves a scar, new love is probably just down the road. Let's just hope Flip does a better job finding it than Kevin McHale did back in 2007.