Amid renewed media reports that three-time All-Star Kevin Love intends to leave Minnesota in July 2015 and the Timberwolves are reconsidering their position, Wolves owner Glen Taylor reiterated on Sunday the team doesn’t intend to soon trade him.
The New York Daily News reported Saturday that Love’s agents in the past week again told the team it better trade him or else he will leave without the Wolves receiving compensation when he can opt out of his current contract 14 months from now. ESPN.com reported Sunday that Love has made it clear to the team that he has no interest in re-signing next year.
The Associated Press, citing two unnamed sources, reported Sunday that, with Tuesday’s draft lottery and the June 26 draft approaching, the Wolves are softening their position that they won’t trade Love and are open to the idea of doing so for the right deal.
“Not by the draft,” Taylor said before Sunday’s Lynx home opener at Target Center about such a possibility.
Taylor said he hasn’t discussed that option recently with Flip Saunders, the team’s president of basketball operations, and said Love has not asked for or told the team to trade him. Taylor has remained hopeful the team, searching for a coach to replace Rick Adelman, will show enough improvement next season to convince Love his future is with a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in a decade.
Saunders told WCCO Radio on Sunday morning that he hasn’t talked to Love’s representatives since the season ended in mid-April.
“We’re proceeding the same way, that Kevin is part of our team, that we have,” Saunders told WCCO. “You’re always trying to get your team better. There have been reports we’re actively trying to trade him, which isn’t true. What we’re actively trying to do is get our team better. When you do that, you look to see what’s out there no matter what it is or for anybody. We’re a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in 10 years. We’ve got to get better.”
Trading your team’s only All-Star is not often considered the path to improvement, but the Wolves very well could decide by draft night that Love has more trade value this summer than if they waited until the season starts next fall and February’s trade deadline approaches.
The Wolves could have signed Love in January 2012 to a maximum five-year, $80 million “designated player” slot, but Taylor and David Kahn, then the team’s president of basketball operations, decided to offer Love only a four-year contract that gives him an option to escape it after three seasons.
Love accepted the four-year, $61 million-plus contract but did so unhappily because he wanted the maximum five-year contract that friends Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook received from their teams. Love’s current team can sign him in July 2015 for a fifth year and an extra $26.5 million while any other team can only offer him a four-year deal.
The NBA’s newest labor agreement, reached with the players in November 2011, allows each team only one five-year maximum contract for players exiting their rookie contracts, and Kahn at the time denied the notion he was saving that slot for rookie Ricky Rubio.
Tuesday’s draft lottery will impact whatever decisions the Wolves soon make concerning Love. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston — two teams expected to pursue Love if the Wolves decide to trade him — own a top-six picks and realistically could win one of the draft’s top three picks.
Either way, either team could use a lottery pick to offer in a trade package.
ESPN.com reported Love is intrigued by playing for either Golden State or Chicago — not in Los Angeles for the Lakers or in New York — because he wants to play for a franchise built now to win an NBA title. The Celtics, Phoenix and Houston, among others, also have assets to make a deal for Love.
Saunders told WCCO Radio on Sunday that “it’d be a lot nicer if he had three more years left on his deal, but he didn’t get the max at that time so we have to deal with the situation we’re in.”
Taylor was asked in April if he now considers the decision to offer Love only the contract the team did a big mistake. He paused for five seconds before answering.
“Let’s wait one more year to answer that question,” Taylor said then. “I think it’s a good question to ask at this point because Kevin has played as well as we hoped, and maybe even better. To have him tied up long-term probably would be better than not, but we still have one more year and we’ll see. My hope is it doesn’t make any difference.”