Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor returned to the Minnesota State Fair on Tuesday after at least three years away, wearing a team golf shirt and sporty shorts and looking like a man who didn’t have a care or regret in the world.
Except he did sound like a man who had a regret or two.
Hundreds of fans gathered at the fair Tuesday to welcome new Wolves players Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young and Zach LaVine to Minnesota, the first three of whom were acquired Saturday in a blockbuster trade for discontented star Kevin Love.
In hindsight, Tuesday’s joyous welcome probably never would have occurred had Taylor and then Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn given Love the maximum five-year contract extension he sought in January 2012 instead of a four-year deal that included the option to leave after three years.
As it turns out, Love is now gone after only two seasons of the extension, dealt to Cleveland before he could walk away as a free agent next summer.
“Oh, I’d say knowing what we know now, I would have signed him to the five years,” Taylor said.
But Taylor said he never expected Love’s offensive skills to develop as much as they have in the past 2½ years and he was reluctant then to guarantee Love more than $80 million because of an injury history that at the time included a broken hand and suspect knees.
Since then, Love played only 18 games during the 2012-13 season after he broke that same left hand not once, but twice in fewer than three months.
“The only thing I still have a question mark about is his health,” Taylor said. “I had that concern then. I still have that concern, and Cleveland should have that concern, too: if he can keep his health. If they sign him to a five-year contract like they’re thinking about, that’s a big contract on a guy who’s had some times when he has missed games.”
Taylor then questioned more than Love’s health. He questioned how he’ll fit in Cleveland alongside superstar LeBron James and guard Kyrie Irving.
“I question Kevin if this is going to be the best deal for him,” Taylor said. “I think he’ll be the third player on a team. I don’t think he’ll get a lot of credit if they do really well. I think he’ll get the blame if they don’t do well. He’ll have to learn to handle that. He’s around a couple guys who are awful good.
“Now I’m not saying Kevin isn’t good. I think where he maybe got away with some stuff not playing defense on our team, I’m not sure how it’s going to work in Cleveland. I guess they will ask him to play more defense.”
Love responded to those comments Wednesday morning on ESPN2's Mike and Mike Show, when he said: "You know, I think emotions are definitely running high right now. ... For Glen to say that, I think he should be concentrating on the players he just received."
The Wolves move on, having acquired three players for one superstar in a trade intended to improve the team’s potential, athleticism and defense.
“Kevin brought us certain scoring ability and records,” Taylor said, “but the ultimate goal is getting into the playoffs and winning a championship.”
Taylor said Love never told him directly to trade the All-Star forward, but said Love’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, did tell current basketball boss Flip Saunders that.
When asked about how Love handled the situation, Taylor told a story about how Al Jefferson called him directly in 2010 and asked to be traded. Taylor said Jefferson told him that he wouldn’t say anything publicly and wouldn’t go unless the Wolves received two first-round picks — the team’s asking price — in return.
“I just thought that was such a high-class way to do it,” Taylor said. “I still think as much about Al as anything. … Kevin and I have always had a good relationship. Kevin always said to me, ‘I want to win.’ I said I do, too, so let’s work together to win. … But you know, I’m just telling you what Al did. I just thought that’s the way you do it.”
Love told ESPN2 hosts Mike Greenbern and Mike Golic that he's more focused on starting to work with his new teammates in Cleveland.
Of Taylor, he said, "I think he got a lot for me. I'd be focusing even more on that."