Messy is probably a better word. Love clearly was tired of losing, and he more or less forced the Wolves’ hand. Flip Saunders made the best of a bad situation, extracting Andrew Wiggins from the Cavaliers as a centerpiece of a Love trade.
Love was coming off a season in which he averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds for a Wolves team that won 40 games. He was just shy of his 26th birthday when the trade happened, and many assumed he would be a natural fit as part of a “Big Three” on a Cleveland team poised to make championship runs.
But there were also some skeptics. I consider myself one, but I’d also say Timberwolves (and Star Tribune) owner Glen Taylor was a bigger one. Looking back nearly two years after he made an appearance at the 2014 State Fair and expressed that skepticism, it’s almost eerie to see how much Taylor predicted the future. Here are the three money quotes from that day — with some comments from me — as they appeared in an Aug. 27, 2014 Star Tribune story by Jerry Zgoda:
1) “The only thing I still have a question mark about is his health. … 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.”
Love missed 112 games in his six seasons with the Wolves. To be fair, he’s only missed 12 regular-season games in two season with the Cavs. But he’s also fought lingering knee and back problems … and missed most of Cleveland’s run to the finals last year (where the Cavs lost) with a dislocated shoulder … and missed Game 3 of this year’s finals (when the Cavs won in a rout) with a concussion. Do you think Cleveland is happy to have five years and $110 million invested in Love?
2) “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.”
I haven’t watched closely enough to know if Love consistently gives a better effort on defense than he did with the Wolves. I do know the narrative that Love is a bad defensive player has followed him — and continues to be proven in stories like this one about how teams have exploited the pick-and-roll defense Love and Kyrie Irving play.
3) “I question Kevin if this is going to be the best deal for him. 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.”
Whoa, this last one is like “Back to the Future/time travel” accurate. If I had access to Taylor’s office, I’d inspect it for a Gray’s Sports Almanac, 2000-2050 version. While LeBron still takes the biggest share of the heat as the best player on the planet, Love absolutely gets hammered when things are going poorly and largely forgotten when things are going well.
And Love knows it. “It’s never enough,” he said recently. If the Cavs lose this series to Golden State, get ready for a raft of “Cleveland needs to trade Kevin Love” stories. He basically has two games to change the narrative — and even then, fair or not, it might not be enough.