Q. I heard a couple of your radio interviews today. How well positioned do you think you leave this team?
A. Highly well positioned. I think it’s a team that’s a force to be reckoned with the next seven to 10 years. Very few teams, when you think about it, have the star power contained in Ricky and Kevin. Pekovic is becoming a significant player at his position in the league. You have Kirilenko, Shved, Barea, Budinger, there’s a lot and I’m leaving people out. There’s just a lot of talent on the roster and it’s mostly young talent, mid 20s and under. I think the team is very well positioned to make a serious run these next several years. The organization is better positioned than it was and the facilities are better. We made major strides and upgrades in almost every area of the franchise because frankly, when I arrived here, this was a very distressed situation.
Q. You said next 7 to 10 years. So you’re convinced that, unlike many Wolves fans, Kevin Love doesn’t bolt in 2015 because of that opt out clause?
A. I don’t believe any player makes his mind up until he has to make his mind up. There is nothing that would suggest to me that Kevin is irrational. I actually think he is very rational so he’ll make his decision over time based on the evidence. Any kind of hysteria surrounding what he may do is just far-fetched. If anybody put themselves in those shoes, you wait until you have to make a decision and then you make a decision. And there’s still a long time to be had before then.
Q. That’s two years down the road, right?
A. Yep, and maybe sooner if the team decides to offer an extension on the three-year anniversary.
Q. Did you handle the contract extension with him well?
A. We handled it the best way we can, and of course I handled it per instructions from the owner. Glen and I talked about it at length. I think it actually took me some time to tell Glen it was imperative he receive max money. The only issue, the only quibble came down to that last year and as I’ve said countless times, for us the danger was if you commit for five years, you’re really committed for six because of the lockout year, which he was playing. It’s an awfully long time to string a contract out with all the variables that can occur mostly due to injuries and oftentimes to big men. That was it. I think Kevin really had his heart set on a fifth year. I think his friendship with Russell Westbrook (who signed a five-year deal with OKC) made it difficult to accept, but that’s why I also prevailed upon Glen that we should relent and give him a third-year option so he felt like he was winning something too. In every compromise it’s important for both sides to walk away with something that was valuable to have. That’s what that was all about. I never had any problems offering that third year option. I thought it was the right thing to do.
Q. Think his feeling toward that or his feeling towards you influence Glen’s decision?
A. I doubt it. You’d have to ask Glen, but I doubt it. And my feelings toward Kevin, frankly, I really like him. And we’ve had some really productive conversation about the steps he needs to take to win back the respect and admiration of his teammates and coaches. It’s almost ridiculous how much attention to paid to my relationship with him. In terms of import, it has no bearing at end of the day whether he’ll be happy here and whether organization will be happy with him. It’s much more important for him to forge really meaningful relationships with his teammates and coaches.
Q. But if he doesn’t have respect for the guy who runs the organization, that’s important isn’t it?
A. If you want to say it’s important, then you have to put it in context. If the person won’t let him have what he wants to have every time, you can make a counter-argument that that’s actually probably a healthy situation, too, that you don’t kind of cave to every desire. Much too much has been focused on me. Remember there’s an owner involved who ultimately has to say yeah or nay. That’s the final say. But no, I don’t think when Kevin makes his decision to stay here – and I hope and trust he will – that his relationship with a front-office person will be on his list of the top 20 things for him. I think his relationship with his teammates, his coaches, is the team winning, the city, the facilities, the outlook for the future, the money comparable to what he could get, there’s so many other things that will be much more important in that analysis. Otherwise, you’re suggesting he’s irrational and he’s not irrational.
Q. Why did you say he needs to win back the respect of his teammates?
A. I think there’s some work for him to be done in terms of, he didn’t play very much this year, right? And I think there’s a void there because of that. Many of those guys really fought their way back from injury, sometimes multiple injuries. He had two broken hands. He came back once, didn’t play well, broke his hand again and then decided to have his knee done at the end of the year when the pain was such. I think he has some work to in the locker room and I believe he will. I certainly don’t want that to come across negatively. I believe he will and I believe he’s on the right path.
Go to Part II of the interview