Souhan: Alienating Love could be Kahn's biggest mistake yet

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 12, 2012 - 7:57 AM

Love is the second player in franchise history who has attained sustainable stardom. The Wolves need him a lot more than he needs them.

When Kevin Love complains about the Timberwolves' braintrust, he risks being labeled an ingrate, a young player who improbably achieved stardom with the NBA team that drafted him and yet is eying a door that won't even open for two more seasons.

Love, during a recent lunch with Yahoo! basketball savant Adrian Wojnarowski, mentioned a scene that had become legend within the Wolves organization, one in which president of basketball operations David Kahn walked into the trainer's room after a loss and shoved a contract offer he knew Love wouldn't like into his hands. Love was seen shortly thereafter crumpling the sheet as he angrily left.

Love noted that Wolves owner Glen Taylor, along with Kahn, has downplayed Love's importance to the franchise.

Love reiterated he wants not just to make the playoffs but play on a team capable of contending for titles.

You can take issue with Love complaining publicly during the season. You can get mad at the 24-year-old millionaire, tell him to keep his mouth shut and play, but then you would be ignoring the way the NBA functions, and the way the Wolves have failed to.

NBA teams require stars. Love is the second player in franchise history who has attained sustainable stardom. The Wolves need him a lot more than he needs them.

And what Love said about the leadership of Taylor and Kahn is exactly what you hear from inside the Wolves organization, and what anyone paying close attention could have discerned without inside information.

The past two years, the Wolves have continued to wade through mediocrity. Only now they have coach Rick Adelman and his staff, and Love, acting as stilts, elevating the franchise from abysmal to intriguing.

Love told Wojnarowski that even with an improved roster this year, he sees a desperate attempt to slap tire patches on problems rather than a plan for sustainable winning. Once again, he's right.

He said in that interview that the Wolves should have explored playing him next to Al Jefferson in the frontcourt, to see if two talented players could complement each other. Once again, he's right.

It's wonderful that Andrei Kirilenko has returned to the NBA, bringing such a graceful presence to the organization, and it's interesting that the Wolves took a chance on Brandon Roy's bone-on-bone knees, but neither is going to become a core player on a future championship team. They're here to complement Love while the organization searches for long-term solutions.

Those of us who love the NBA and yearn for nightly entertainment near the ghost-building of Block E are thrilled at the possibilities that Love, Ricky Rubio, Kirilenko and Nicola Pekovic provide, especially with the best coach in Wolves history in place.

But, as Love asks, with Kahn and Taylor in charge, is this heading anywhere promising, or will the Wolves fail to build around Love and Rubio? Will the Wolves lose Love because Kahn failed to offer him the maximum-length deal available to him last year? Will the Wolves once again become known as the most mismanaged franchise in major professional sports?

Hate him for complaining if you like, but Love has become the ideal pro athlete.

He's overachieved, shutting up all the Minnesotans who couldn't believe Kevin McHale would trade O.J. Mayo for the dorky kid from UCLA.

He's improved dramatically each season, dedicating himself to conditioning and his craft, transforming his body and his career arc.

He did the Wolves proud as an Olympian, once again playing better and becoming more important to his team than anyone could have expected.

He connects with fans and undertakes his own charitable initiatives, like his annual winter coat drive.

The Wolves are lucky to have Love. They'd be lucky to keep him.

There is one positive possibility for Kahn: If Love leaves because of him, we'll forget all about his other mistakes: drafting umpteen point guards, choosing Jonny Flynn over Steph Curry, signing Darko, trading for Beasley and hiring Kurt Rambis.

Losing Love would trump all.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. jsouhan@startribune.com

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