The Timberwolves do not have to trade Kevin Love in conjunction with Thursday’s NBA draft. Flip Saunders, the basketball boss and coach, can wait awhile. He might even want to hang loose until Carmelo Anthony finds a landing spot, thus putting the losers in a Carmelo sweepstakes more in the market for Love.
Worse comes to worst, Saunders could wait until the trading deadline in February to move Love … dangerous, but doable, I suppose.
What can’t happen is this:
The Timberwolves can’t put any stock in it if Love’s rhetoric were to include encouragement about re-signing with the team. If Love gets to training camp and says there’s a possibility he would return to the Timberwolves, everyone has to understand these words would be intended to keep Minnesota fans from completely turning on him and would have no basis in reality.
If Saunders and owner Glen Taylor were to allow themselves to be duped by some phony vacillation from Love, and then he walks as a free agent in the summer of 2015, this would be my proposal:
Immediately stop the $100 million remodeling of Target Center scheduled to start after next season. Turn it into a jail, or the ultimate brewhouse, or just board it up, but forget the idea of spending any money to spiff up the home of Minnesota’s NBA franchise.
Honest to Joe Smith, if the Timberwolves can’t work out a reasonable trade for a 25-year-old who is among the top 10 players in the league, there would be no reason to continue with men’s pro basketball in Minneapolis.
Heck, the city could spend $10 million to remodel the Armory as a retro home for the Lynx, and toss the other $90 million into a soccer stadium near the Farmers Market, and we all would be better off than having to put up with any more of this woebegone NBA franchise.
Taylor could sell to interests from Seattle or Kansas City next summer for mucho millions, and we could look back on the Timberwolves as Minnesota’s 26-year sports nightmare.
OK, I’m getting carried away here, but after a quarter-century of screwups, that would be the abyss: letting Love walk.
The obvious comparison in any Love trade will be to Kevin McHale’s trade of Kevin Garnett to Boston on July 31, 2007, five weeks after the draft.
The advantage in trading Love is that he turns 26 in September and Garnett was 31 in the summer of ’07. The disadvantage is that Garnett agreed to a three-year contract extension with Boston to accommodate the trade. Love is unlikely to offer a guarantee on his future to any team that lands him in a trade.
The Garnett trade long has been bad-mouthed in these parts, but one factor that gets overlooked: McHale did get Al Jefferson, an excellent, 23-year-old center that Boston did not want to include in that trade package.
It long has been my contention that teams — when trading a star — get too hung up on getting a return in numbers rather than one young player with a big chance to become a difference-maker.
Amid Love’s litany of sideways complaints, the one making the most sense was that the Timberwolves never gave themselves a legitimate chance to find out if the combination of Jefferson at center and Love at power forward could turn into something special.
On the disaster meter, David Kahn trading Jefferson to Utah in the summer of 2010 rated much higher than McHale’s original trade for Garnett. Jefferson is not yet 30 and averaged 21.8 points in Charlotte last season.
The Twins’ trade of Johan Santana before the 2008 season gets worked over constantly. There’s still a myth out there that the Twins could have had both pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury from Boston for Santana.
Not true, but the Twins could have had one and made it simple: Give us Ellsbury (a cinch difference-maker), here’s Santana, thank you.
That’s why Flip might be advised to keep it simple with Love. If he’s as convinced about Klay Thompson as appears to be the case, tell Golden State, “Give us Thompson [and a warm body for cap reasons], here’s Love, we’ll see you this winter.”
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org