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Kevin Love (right), Michael Beasley

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune file

Slimmer Love looking for fat deal

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA
  • Star Tribune
  • December 5, 2011 - 6:40 AM

Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love arrived at Target Center on Sunday morning for his first postlockout workout 25 pounds lighter than when he left following last season.

He lifted weights, did some on-court conditioning and then declared himself fit and ready for an onrushing, truncated preseason that's crucial for a number of reasons.

Included is an open window these next few weeks for signing a contract extension that will keep him in Minnesota.

"I love Minneapolis, I love the Twin Cities," he said. "I really do like it here. I'm in a comfort zone. This is the first NBA city I fell in love with, so this is all I know. Maybe we'll keep it that way and maybe we won't."

Wolves President David Kahn calls signing Love to a contract extension a "priority," and said he expects Love to be a "big part of our franchise for a number of years."

The big question, of course, is the same one that faced the franchise 14 years ago when Kevin Garnett's rookie contract approached expiration:

At what price for a multiskilled player and rebounding virtuoso who nonetheless might not be the No. 1 guy on a contending team?

The Wolves could place Love in a newly created "designated player" category that would guarantee him a five-year extension -- one year longer than any other team could sign him starting next summer -- and a maximum salary contract that could surpass a $17 million average.

"Am I worth the max?" he asked, repeating a reporter's question. "I'll let the front office answer that question."

He provided more than a hint at how he assesses his value, however, when he spoke animatedly about a provision in the new labor agreement tentatively reached between owners and players.

Already dubbed the "Derrick Rose Rule," it will reward overachieving rookies handsomely early in their careers.

That rule will allow a team to sign a player still in his rookie contract to an extension worth 30 percent of his team's salary cap rather than 25 percent if he already has been an All-Star Game starter twice, made two postseason all-NBA teams or won an MVP award.

Love seemed agitated -- albeit good-naturedly -- that sportswriters voting for postseason awards or fans voting for All-Star Game starters could make a difference.

"I don't know how the owners got away with this. ... I just think they put that in there to tick people off," he said.

If so, apparently it has worked.

Love will be a restricted free agent next summer if he doesn't sign an extension in the coming weeks. The Wolves could match any offer he receives from another team. Or Love could accept a $6.1 million qualifying offer to play one more season and become an unrestricted free agent in 2013.

"I don't think it'll be a distraction and whatever happens, happens," Love said. "Right now, it's not up to me."

Note

Yahoo!Sports reported Sunday the Wolves are one of seven teams set to talk to free-agent guard Jamal Crawford on Monday and are one of five teams considering making an offer to restricted free-agent center DeAndre Jordan.

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