Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.

Decision day: Love contract not done ... yet

Posted by: Jerry Zgoda under Wolves management, Wolves players, Wolves news Updated: January 25, 2012 - 9:42 AM

By 11 p.m. Wednesday night Twin Cities time, you'll know.

You'll know if Kevin Love has signed a four- or five-year contract extension -- either one at the maximum salary -- or he won't have signed at all.

And that decision hasn't been made yet.

Contrary to reports elsewhere -- and I have waited a 27-year career to use that line -- Love HAS NOT agreed to a four-year extension that would allow the Wolves to save that designated-player status for the future.

He tweeted as much tonight when he sent this one out: "If you read it on the Internet it must be true right? #sarcasm"

In fact, as Tuesday rolled by, I have become more and more doubtful of what I have contended all along: That Love and the Wolves will reach an agreement because it makes just too much sense for either side not to.

I have heard from people I trust that David Kahn presented Love with a contract offer in the training room -- not sure if it was the only formal offer ever made or the latest -- after Monday's loss to Houston and that Love was seen leaving Target Center with it crumpled in his hand and visibly angry.

And I take that to mean we have a staredown over whether it's going to be the 4-year, $61 million deal that the Wolves want or the 5-year, $78 million-plus deal Love is seeking.

A 5-year deal would put him on the same pedestal with Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, each of whom received as much as their teams possibly could pay them.

Remember a bit of history here:

The Wolves were in this situation four years ago when they went down to the final minutes before that 11 p.m. deadline and Al Jefferson came rushing into Target Center as Ozzy Osbourne fans streamed out from a Halloween concert that night just in time to sign a 5-year, $65 million extension that his agent advised him not to accept.

His agent was Jeff Schwartz.

Guess who Love's agent is...

That's right, Jeff Schwartz.

Jefferson took the Wolves' offer rather than hold out for the max deal Schwartz told him he could get if only he'd wait until the next summer because Jefferson said later he felt he owned the Wolves some loyalty for trading him for Kevin Garnett.

Jefferson later said Schwartz was mad at him for taking the deal.

Sitting in the Jazz locker room on Saturday night, though, he said, "He realized I made a good decision after. That's the goal I wanted -- the number I had in my head -- and that's what I got. No need for me to be greedy. It was a good deal for me."

And now he says he knows what's a good deal for his former teammate is.

"Why not give him five? He deserves it," Jefferson said of a length of contract that would require the Wolves to give Love a maximum salary and rare "designated player" status. "I don't know what Minnesota is waiting for on signing that extension. I know he's going to get it somewhere, now."

And maybe that's precisely why Kahn and owner Glen Taylor are haggling with Love and Schwartz.

Another team can only offer Love a four-year extension should he not sign by Wednesday night and instead become a restricted free agent next summer.

And all other 29 teams cannot offer Love as much on that four-year deal because they can only offer 4.5 percent annual raises and the Wolves can offer 7.5 raises.

I'm not so sure the Wolves' desire to get Love to agree to a four-year deal is all about preserving that designated player status -- every team can only have one such player on its roster (why small market owners agreed to that limitation, I'll never know) -- for Ricky Rubio three years down the road.

I think it's more about business, plain and simple:

Kahn/Taylor just might figure they're already offering more than Love can get elsewhere, so why go even further?

They also might not consider him at the same level as Rose and Westbrook -- one of whom already has won league MVP and the other has been named to one of three All NBA teams -- although I am fairly certain that Love believes he, like those other two players from his 2008 draft class, is deserving of every penny the Wolves can possibly pay him.

You could see that in his eyes the first day he arrived back in Minnesota after the lockout ended and talked somewhat aggitatedly, even if he said he was joking, that the new labor agreement's "Rose Rule" allowed his pal to make 5 percent more on a max contract that he could because Rose won league MVP and he didn't.

Westbrook had the same chance for that $94 million payday Rose got if he had wanted until this summer, until after he most likely made another All NBA team that would trigger the "Rose Rule" but he decided roughly $80 million was enough.

Is it more of a stretch to say Love is not worth what Westbrook is?

Or is it more of a stretch to say that Love is worth only a couple million dollars more than Marc Gasol, who reached a 4-year, $58 million-plus extension with Memphis not long ago..

Of course, by arm-wrestling for the 4 years, the Wolves threaten to alienate Love or at least hurt his feelings.

It's a long way down the road to him to play all next season for the $6.1 million qualifying offer so he can be completely free to choose where he wants to play -- L.A. and the Lakers, anyone? -- in 2013, isn't it?

Especially when at least nearly $61 million to just sitting there, awaiting his signature.

But lots of decisions have been made from pride and ego and righteousness rather than common sense in this world.

And there's no question the Wolves NEED to sign Love.

Anyone who watched Monday's loss to the Rockets can see that.

To not do so would be almost be starting this long, painful rebuilding process post-K.G. all over again.

It isn't that far down the road, though, to next summer and restricted free agency, a decision Love and Schwartz simply might make out of principle, particularly given the context of Jefferson's situation four years ago.

Love very well could agree to that 4-year extension today.

It's one of three chances:

1. Sign for 4.

2. Sign for 5.

3. Don't sign at all.

You've got a 33 percent chance of being right guessing any of them in a negotiation you once might have thought would have been the simplest of them all.

Is somebody going to blink on Wednesday, or will we have a standoff that will create more than five months of distraction and what-ifs?

I still say somebody blinks, but my gut tells me if anybody does, it'll be the Wolves.

We'll know by 11 p.m., if not well before.

 

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