The NBA’s trade deadline came and went on Thursday and three-time All Star Kevin Love still is a Timberwolf.
So is everybody else.
The Wolves didn’t strike a deal before the 2 p.m. deadline passed, and Love on Thursday refuted an unsourced Twitter report from late Wednesday night that said he told president of basketball operations Flip Saunders before the All-Star break he’ll opt out of his contract in July 2015 so he can play elsewhere.
Longtime columnist and commentator Peter Vecsey’s series of tweets also said the Wolves were expected to trade Love by Thursday’s deadline or this coming summer.
Saunders quickly responded with a tweet of his own shortly after Love delivered a 42-point, 15-rebound performance in a 104-91 home victory over Indiana on Wednesday and Love said he and Saunders “laughed about it” before Thursday’s partial practice at Target Center.
“It’s a media-driven story,” Love said. “For the past couple years, I can’t believe some of the stuff that has come out. We went out and played hard last night, great performance as a team. To see some stuff like that is just kind of disheartening. ... The worst part is it takes away from the team and I have to be here answering questions today after a great performance from us last night.”
So, for the record: He never told Saunders he wants to play for a franchise with a winning culture and plans to leave as soon he can, in July 2015?
“No, no,” he said.
Love told GQ magazine in an interview published online this week that he’s having “fun” in Minnesota and the Wolves are better positioned to win than the Lakers, the team so many assume he will sign with in 2015.
“Basically all I said is our foundation and our team is better than a lot of teams that you guys and Peter Vecsey and whoever the hell else says I’m going to,” Love said.
Speculation about his future will continue until Love options out of a four-year contract a year early in July 2015 and re-signs with the Wolves or another team or until the team trades him.
“It comes with the territory,” Love said. “I just don’t want to talk about it. It takes away from the team. It takes away from what Coach is trying to do. At the end of the day, I just want to play basketball. I don’t want to think about whether I’m going to be here or somewhere else in 2015, 2016 or whatever it is.”
Wolves coach Rick Adelman struck an exasperated pose as well when asked if Love essentially has told the team to trade him.
“Really? C’mon,” Adelman said. “You know, he got 42 points last night and we won the game. Some of this stuff comes out of nowhere. That’s so far in the future, I don’t even worry about that. It didn’t look like he was going anywhere last night. In this world today: ‘What’s LeBron going to do next year? What’s Carmelo going to do next year?’ Who cares? [If] it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. In Kevin’s situation, he’s here with us. I’m glad as the coach that he is with us. I’ve never heard anything about that. He certainly hasn’t said anything to me.”
The Wolves will need Love as much as ever now that they leave on a five-game road Western trip likely without centers Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf available for Saturday’s game at Utah.
Turiaf is out indefinitely because of a knee bone bruise sustained in the fourth quarter Wednesday.
Pekovic returned to the practice court Thursday for the first time since missing 10 games because of ankle bursitis. He did some drills and 5-on-0 work, and Adelman expects him to do more at practice Friday. Adelman doesn’t not know when Pekovic will play again.
When asked what he does at center until Pekovic is ready to play, Adelman looked down at some papers in his hand, fidgeted with them and said, “Well, I’ve got to see, just a couple choices. You can only play the people you have.”
Until then, Adelman’s options include playing rookie center Gorgui Dieng more, playing Love at center more or using Dante Cunningham there in a small lineup.
Extensive time at center will physically test Love, who already is banged up.
“I welcome it as long as I’m not taking any more shots to anywhere on my body,” Love said about playing more at center. “It’s another thing that comes with the territory. We pray that guys come back as soon as possible.”