NEW ORLEANS – Five minutes and 13 questions into his 41-minute All-Star Friday media availability, Timberwolves star Kevin Love was asked about his future starting in 2015 and beyond, and he delivered some of his best defense of the season.
A New York reporter asked if he has given any thought to the Knicks and where he will play when he can opt out of his contract in July 2015 to become an unrestricted free agent.
“Right now, I’m thinking about Derek Jeter’s decision,” he said, referring to the New York Yankees star’s intention to retire after this baseball season. “How ’bout that?”
And who says Love isn’t a natural shot blocker?
From there, Love was asked who should win NBA MVP (Kevin Durant in a photo finish), what dream 3-on-3 team he would pick if he must choose a former and current player (Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James and himself), what Winter Olympics event would suit him best (slopestyle skiing, figure skating or curling) and naturally, given his surname, is Valentine’s Day his favorite holiday.
“No,” he said, “I’m jinxed.”
But ultimately his conversation with reporters came back around to summer 2015, when he can escape a year early that four-year, $61-plus million contract the Wolves foisted upon him in January 2012 and be free to sign with the Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers or whomever he chooses.
The New York reporter asked about a Yahoo! Sports report earlier this season that said Knicks management already is planning on clearing salary-cap space so it can push to sign Love 17 months from now.
A Boston reporter tried a little more underhanded, asking generally how a free agent might view the city and the Celtics as a potential landing spot.
That same reporter asked what Love thought about reports that teams are considering how they will clear cap space to pursue him 1½ years before he’s able to set himself free, if he so chooses. Love wanted to sign a five-year, $80 million contract that would have kept him in Minnesota through 2017, but the team refused to offer him the lone “designated player” slot provided by the league’s latest labor agreement and offered him the out after three years when it insisted on a four-year contract instead.
“Of course, if I say Charlotte is a great city and I love spending some time there, then all of a sudden I’m going to Charlotte,” Love said. “Anything I say is going to be a misconception or be some sort of a headline. To me, it’s silly. Yeah, sure, it’s brought up. It crosses my mind. In a way, I just try to put that aside and it’s just a question that’s always going to be brought up. Really, I would love not to talk about it and focus on winning right now with the Timberwolves.”
The Boston reporter followed up with a question: Do you like clam chowder?
Questions will increase
But if he thinks he is asked a lot about it now, just wait…
A Minnesota reporter then asked how many times he expected to be asked about the matter in the next 16 months and whether he is prepared for it.
“Oh wow, I don’t know if I’m prepared for it,” Love said. “That’s why you change your phone number, you go into hibernation and you come out when you want. It’s something to be asked. I’m not going to say I don’t mind it. It’s flattering that other teams want me. I like the team I’m at now. I just want to win.”
His Wolves must go 22-8 after the All-Star break to reach 47 victories, and that might not even be enough to claim one of eight Western Conference playoff spots.
Love has made it clear this season he doesn’t want to talk about the matter by usually saying he’s just living in the present. During the Wolves’ trip to Mexico City, he looked for a team public-relations person to run interference when asked a question about it.
“What’s there to say?” he asked. “I don’t know what else to say.”
Asked when is the right time to think about his future, he said: “You know, I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. Probably after what, next season?”
The Wolves can extend in January 2015 Love’s contract by two years, but it’s unlikely he’ll agree to that. If he opts out that next summer, the team can sign him to a five-year extension, one year longer than any other team can offer.
“I think it will be more under a microscope next year, at the trade deadline or after the trade deadline,” Love said. “People will continue to talk about it, but it’s something that comes with the territory whether you like it or not. I feel like everybody who’s been in the position to be a free agent has been through it and it’s just the way it is.”
Fellow All Star Carmelo Anthony went through the same experience three years ago before he forced a blockbuster trade at the 2011 February deadline from Denver to New York.
“Just play basketball,” Anthony said Friday when asked for his advice. “I can only talk about my experience, what I was going through. My thing was to play and everything else will handle itself. What’s most important? Family, that’s most important. It comes down to your own personal feelings. Sometimes you have to go with your gut.”
Chris Bosh left Toronto to sign as a free agent with Miami along with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in 2010. The Raptors and Heat worked a sign-and-trade arrangement that brought Toronto two first-round picks.
“Don’t try to predict your future, just live for the day,” Bosh said. “Make sure you’re maximizing your effort on the court every night, which he [Love] does, because you can’t predict the future. You know, the scenario he thinks probably is going to happen isn’t going to happen. I know that from experience.”