The NBA draft concluded and the disgruntled All-Star remained employed by the Timberwolves. And the team’s first-round pick appeared to utter an expletive after being selected.
In other words, it was a typical Wolves draft night.
As promised, Wolves coach/basketball boss Flip Saunders wasn’t pressed to trade Kevin Love by the “artificial deadline” of Thursday’s draft. Saunders stood pat on Love and also kept his first-round pick, using the 13th overall selection on UCLA guard Zach LaVine.
Michigan State forward Adreian Payne made more sense at that spot because he’s more NBA-ready than LaVine, and the Wolves eventually will need someone to replace Love.
LaVine looks like another project for a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in 10 years. The Wolves used their lottery pick on a 19-year-old who started one game in his one college season.
Saunders sounded enamored by LaVine’s natural, if somewhat raw, talent, calling him the “best athlete in the draft.” At least Saunders didn’t apologize or backpedal after taking a UCLA guard in the first round for the second consecutive year. He clearly felt better about this selection than his depressed reaction after taking Shabazz Muhammad last year.
It wouldn’t be the Wolves without some draft-night absurdity, though. LaVine’s reaction after hearing his name caused social media to hyperventilate through expert lip readers.
LaVine appeared to mouth a four-letter word (“f--- me,” he seemed to say) either in disgust or relief. I suspect the latter, but since it’s the Wolves, the natural assumption was that LaVine felt a sudden rush of dread.
Don’t worry, Zach. Wolves fans everywhere have said that same thing for years.
Speaking of Kevin Love, Saunders said trade discussions were “pretty quiet” on Thursday.
For those hoping for a resolution to this Summer of Love stare-down, don’t panic. The trade market remains open postdraft, and a deal that sends Love elsewhere still seems inevitable, whether today, next week, or later this summer.
Saunders is taking the right approach by not rushing into a bad decision just because it’s obvious to everyone in basketball that this relationship seems damaged beyond repair. If Love doesn’t want to be here and has made it clear that he’ll opt out of his contract, Saunders really has only one play.
At the risk of sounding like an English teacher, the use of certain pronouns by Love and Saunders in recent interviews told us all we needed to know about where things stand between the two sides.
Love referred to the Wolves as “they.” Saunders referred to his team as “we.” Both were intentional, as if to send a message to the other.
This was Love’s response to Fox Sports when asked about the Wolves’ playoffs chances: “If they’re healthy, they can do a lot of damage.”
Sure sounds like a guy who’s already emotionally removed himself from a situation, doesn’t it?
On the day he named himself coach, Saunders attempted to steer conversation away from the Love chatter by insisting the Wolves won’t adhere to a “lone warrior” approach. He used “we” in describing the culture he intends to instill as coach.
Those comments weren’t made off the cuff, either.