McHale says Love-for-Mayo swap made sense for many reasons

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 27, 2008 - 1:32 PM

A dramatic, midnight 8-player deal reshapes the team roster.

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(left to right) Kevin Love, Timberwolves hopeful, watched as Kevin McHale gave him some points on pivoting during workouts at the Target Center.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Team vice president Kevin McHale said this morning that the eight-player deal that brings forward Kevin Love to the Timberwolves for O.J. Mayo made sense for many reasons.

The Wolves dealt Mayo's draft rights along with Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker, Greg Buckner and their contracts to Memphis for the rights to Kevin Love, swingman shooter Mike Miller, forward Brian Cardinal and center Jason Collins

According to McHale:

* Miller, a career 40 per cent  three-point shooter, fills the team’s big need for a “knockdown shooter” who can spread the floor and keep teams from collapsing on low-post scorer Al Jefferson.

* They landed in Love a prospect McHale said he considered the “most multi-versatile big man” in the draft whose outside game and unique passing skills complement Jefferson.

* Collins’ presence for the one remaining season on his contract gives the team the option to play him at center and Jefferson at his natural power forward some.

*The Wolves cleared more salary cap space down the road, enough that general manager Jim Stack predicted they will become “a major player” in the free agent market in 2010.

“It really set us up on so many levels,” Stack said. “This was a deal we couldn’t pass up.”

Stack also said of Love: "This guy is not getting his just due as an athlete."

McHale said the teams had talked basic parameters for a deal it the two days before the draft, but said the talks went no further because neither club knew if Miami was going to take Michael Beasley with the second pick. Discussion was revived during the day Thursday, but McHale said the trade died after Memphis picked Love with the fifth pick.

For about 90 minutes that is.

Memphis called back as the first round ended and asked to revive the trade.

“Actually, no one was more surprised than we were when the deal came back,” McHale said. “We were all sitting around and looking at each other, like, `Wow!’ There were just too many components to it that fit our needs too well not to do it.”

Five hours after more than 2,000 draft-party participants cheered the arrival of Mayo, their NBA hometown team made the midnight deal that reshaped its roster.

Love and McHale are appearing this afternoon at a 1p.m. news conference.

"This is where I wanted to be," Love said today at Target Center.

When the Madison Square Garden floodlights finally gleamed and league Commissioner David Stern stepped to the podium Thursday evening, all the predraft posturing and silliness dissipated and the draft unfolded just as expected -- Memphis guard Derrick Rose first to Chicago, Kansas State forward Michael Beasley second to Miami and Mayo third to the Wolves -- without any seismic trades.

That is, until the Wolves delivered the big one long after the draft crowds in New York City and the Target Center basement went home.

Minutes after the Wolves took Mayo, assistant general manager Fred Hoiberg appeared before the draft-party crowd and told the gathered fans how Mayo had not once, but twice “blown away” the team’s seven-man scouting tribunal with an individual, invitation-only workout for five NBA teams and an an hour’s interview with the Wolves on Saturday in Chicago.

One fan in the audience wore a No. 32 USC jersey, Mayo’s jersey.

Twelve years ago, the Wolves drafted Connecticut star Ray Allen and traded him minutes later for Stephon Marbury. Two years ago, they took Brandon Roy and then sent him to Portland for Randy Foye and cash.

Each time, the newest Timberwolves wore team caps while the first round still progressed.

This time, Mayo already presumably was preparing to fly to the Twin Cities for a news conference this afternoon.

When reporters cornered Hoiberg in a crowded elevator as he headed back up to the team’s draft room, one fellow asked if his just-finished speech meant the Wolves were keeping Mayo for posterity.

“This means we’re keeping him,” Hoiberg said.

The Wolves used their two early second-round picks to select Serbia’s Nikola Pekovic, a promising 6-11 European forward who just signed a rich contract with a Greek team and might not play in the NBA for at least three seasons, and Kansas guard Mario Chalmers. They then traded Chalmers to Miami for two future second-round picks and cash.

For weeks, Heat President Pat Riley supposedly explored just about every option other than selecting Beasley, who before Rose burst forth in the NCAA tournament was considered a lock to be the
No. 1 overall pick in this draft. He brought Mayo and Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless to Miami on Tuesday for a second and final “secretive” workout.

Hoiberg said the Wolves’ decision-makers thought there was a “very realistic chance” the Heat would take Mayo and leave Beasley available with the third pick. In an ESPN interview, Riley, who reportedly is concerned about Beasley’s immaturity, said his scouting staff “got me in a room and made sure Mr. Beasley was going to be part of the Miami Heat.”

That left Mayo, who says he set aim for Thursday night when he was 9 years old. That’s when his mother asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up and he opted for “NBA player” over a fireman, policeman or astronaut.

He traveled only to New York, Los Angeles and Miami to work out for the Knicks, Clippers and Heat and declined an invitation to come to Target Center. Those decisions might suggest Mayo, who already has signed a four-year endorsement deal with Nike, wanted to play in a major market, a contention he denied Thursday night.

“I’m totally excited, I’m so happy to be a part of the Minnesota organization,” he said. “I just wanted to hear my name called and be part of the NBA. It didn’t matter if it was a big-market organization, small market, medium market. I just wanted to be a part of the NBA.”

Good thing, because before the night was through he was headed from one small market to another small market while Love, the UCLA freshman forward, was bound for Minnesota and McHale, the Basketball Hall of Fame player after whom Love patterned his game.

Love brings the Wolves a frontcourt complement — a player who can spread the floor with his outside shooting and unique passing skills — to star Al Jefferson’s low-post scoring game.

Miller, 28, is a career 40-percent shooter who also will help the team spread the floor when defenses collapse on Jefferson inside.

In dealing their three current players, the Wolves send away Walker’s $9.3 million salary slot that expires after next season and Jaric’s big contract, which has three seasons and $21.2 million remaining and in return take Cardinal’s two-year, $13 million deal that the Grizzlies have been desperate to trade.

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