Timberwolves re-sign their best player. How… dare… they…?

Zach Harper —  January 25, 2012 — 11 Comments

There were seven scenarios that could have played out with this Kevin Love contract extension apocalypse:

1. Kevin Love becomes the Wolves’ designated player, earning an extensions worth roughly $78 million over five years.
2. Kevin Love agrees to a four-year extension worth roughly $61 million.
3. Kevin Love agrees to a four-year extension worth roughly $61 million that includes an opt-out clause after three years.
4. Kevin Love waits until this summer to deal with his contract and accepts a max offer from the Wolves.
5. Kevin Love waits until this summer to deal with his contract, becomes a restricted free agent, signs with another team and the Wolves match the deal to retain his employment.
6. Kevin Loves accepts the qualifying offer of around $6.1 million this off-season, plays out next year as a T’Pup, and re-signs with the team after becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2013.
7. Kevin Loves accepts the qualifying offer of around $6.1 million this off-season, plays out next year as a T’Pup, and then leaves to sign with another team as an unrestricted free agent as we all curl up into the fetal position and mutter to ourselves, “there’s no place like Rasho… there’s no place like Rasho…”

Kevin Love and the Timberwolves opted with option #3. Is it the best option on the board? We have no idea and that’s why everybody seems to be freaking out about it. It leaves a certain level of uncertainty that we just can’t handle in this day of impatience.

What if Kevin Love leaves in three years? Then won’t Ricky Rubio decide to bolt at the same time? Won’t Rick Adelman leave us? Will we be stuck with the next Randy Wittman attempting to murder the joy of basketball we’re feeling right now? Are the Wolves rebuilding in 2015? Should I be scouting sophomores in college? What if the Mayans are right?!

Everybody needs to calm down a bit. The Minnesota Timberwolves re-signed the best player they’ve had since Kevin Garnett was prowling the hardwood and I’m supposed to be upset with this news? I don’t really understand how option #3 is a bad thing for this organization moving forward.

Now, I’m not defending what the organization did here. I think once again David Kahn and Glen Taylor bungled a personnel decision in some way. They sort of disrespected their best player who wanted to commit to them in a way that rewarded both his value and loyalty to this organization. It’s possible that Kevin Love feels sort of betrayed that they are probably keeping their 5-year designated player contract for someone who isn’t the best player on the team. It’s also possible Kevin Love is too busy taking pictures of his teammates being cooked in a stew by Carl Weathers to really care about this armchair psychologist role we all love to play.

We all saw the fallout of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James signing three-year extensions instead of the five-year deals. We saw how the axis of ego came together and shattered all that is holy in a sport that is always more myth than man. It’s possible Kevin Love will end up doing the same thing to the Wolves that LeBron and Bosh did to their franchises. It’s also possible that by the threat of Kevin Love being able to leave after three years from the end of this season, the Wolves have put the necessary pressure on themselves to get this ship to the shores of Contender Island.

For just about 23 years, this organization has seemingly been looking down the road for when they’ll be able to contend. Once the franchise out-grew its expansion hand-me-downs and took a chance on an 18-year old kid from Maudlin, South Carolina, it finally had something to look forward to. When they had the trio of KG, Googs and Marbury, it was always a caveat of “wait a couple of years and these guys will be scary.” A couple of years never came because Steph ended up essentially forcing his way out.

The Wolves spent the next eight years fumbling around with KG’s legacy as they kept waiting for someone to eventually step up and be his second gun. It didn’t work with Terrel Brandon (injuries) or Wally Szczerbiak (evil hair gel telling him to steal passes from his teammates). The one time the Wolves nearly pulled something off is when they decided to win now instead of three years from now. They traded for veterans like Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell and made it to the Western Conference Finals.

Sometimes, people need a kick in the ass to get moving on a project. If you give me two weeks to get something done, I’m probably going to wait 13 days before I get cracking on it. If you give me 20 minutes to get something done, I’m going to try hard to finish the job immediately and probably do a better job than when I’m constantly second guessing myself. Maybe the Wolves will be the same way.

With Love and Rubio mastering Adelman’s gameplans, it would be easy to say, “let’s just give this time to gel and see what we’ve got. Maybe Anthony Randolph will make good decisions with the ball or Michael Beasley will learn to do things within the flow of the offense instead of the flow of his questionable synapse firings. Maybe Darko Milicic will learn how to dunk a basketball or rotate from the weak side with plenty of time to spare.”

Well now, maybe Kevin Love won’t want to stay on a team still rebuilding three years from now. Maybe the Wolves should let David Kahn ride off into the sunset this summer with the smarmy, self-appreciating look on his face while they get serious about becoming a contender and give Kevin Pritchard the job. Maybe the Wolves will learn from their past mistakes of waiting for this current team to eventually get it and go get the necessary pieces that already have it.

The consensus seems to be that the Wolves screwed up their current rebuilding process by re-signing their best player to a lesser deal than he wanted. If the team can’t put a roster around him within the next three years that makes him want to stay, then I have no problem with him leaving. I don’t want to see his prime wasted like we saw with KG. This rebuilding process has been going for four years; it shouldn’t take another three.

I’m happy that Kevin Love is here for at least three more years and probably far more than that. It gives him leverage to get this organization to win sooner rather than later. It’s a deal that gives him motivation to be better and outperform his contract for the next set of negotiations down the road. It also forces the Wolves to start running their organization in a way that doesn’t leave all of us cowering in the corner, wanting someone to make the bad man stop. The Wolves shot clock has now been reset to three years and there is no reason why we should ever hear that buzzer sound.

Congratulations, Kevin Love. Here’s to four (three) more years and a new person to negotiate with in 2016 (2015).

Zach Harper

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11 responses to Timberwolves re-sign their best player. How… dare… they…?

  1. Truly unreal. The Timberwolves just have no clue how to do business in the NBA. Balking on the 5th year and allowing the opt out places them in the same mess Denver, Cavs and Raps just went through.

    Just moronic behavior as the ONLY downside to a 5th year is a catostrophic injury…

  2. We’ll see. It is possible that Kahn outsmarted himself with this deal. It’s also possible that it will work out brilliantly. In three years, the Wolves will either be stuck in neutral, or they’ll be a solid playoff contender with a lot of players in their prime. Love will either opt out, or sign the two year extension. If they are in the latter scenario then this turns into a great deal. Its a gamble for sure, it does give the Wolves more options with Rubio and Williams. Heck, drafting Rubio in the first place was a gamble. It took two years, but appears to be paying off. Trading Al Jefferson and relying on Love at the 4 was a gamble too. Seems to have worked out. Kahn is a smarmy dis-likable character. He has said some stupid things in public, and botched some draft picks and hired a terrible coach in Rambis. Yet he seems to have righted the Wolves ship. I think that he has earned another year or two on the job, as distasteful as that sounds.

  3. I sure hope the front office does add some good talent around Rubio and Love. Darko and Beasley will not be options, Neither will Wes.

    You got three years now Taylor. For the first time in years the Target Center is sold out at games. The crowd is really into it. You had huge problems selling tickets the last couple of years. If I tell my friends in other NBA cities that I can get two tickets for $5 they don’t believe me. Well, this year I have to pay a little more, but still the prices are ridiculously low. Don’t repeat past years’ mistakes. We’re supposed to learn and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

    Oh, and *PLEASE*, don’t extend Khan. We’ve had all we can take of him now. Get a real GM for a change.

  4. After the very tired and trite Khan bashing from a majority of T Wolves fans is over, let’s all focus on the reality of the situation.

    As it stands, the Wolves will have Love, Rubio, Williams, and Barea together for 4 full seasons at minimum.

    The Wolves largest contract is given to thier best player

    Depending how you feel about Barea, The Wolves don’t have a single questionable contract on the books longer than 2 seasons

    Mick, you are absolutely wrong that the only downside to a 5 year deal is a catastrophic injury

    The biggest downside would be that we could not offer the 5 year extension to Rubio or Williams should they warrant it.

    Everyone wants to insert emotions and hard feelings into a place where there are most likely not any- The Wolves and Love simply reached an agreement where they both ceded something they didn’t want to. Wolves retain the flexability to designate a player of their choosing as their franchise player, Love gets to negotiate his next contract one year earlier. I highly doubt either side is angry, hurt, or whatever…

  5. The Wolves only have Love, Rubio and Williams for a minimum of 3 years. Love will opt out after year 3 as every smart player does in order to make even more money and he could end up going some where else if we aren’t a contending team by then. Then it would make it difficult to re-sign Williams and Rubio to extensions because a centerpiece of the team could be gone. That 5th year is only valuable if the players want to stay here and it’s hard to imagine they would if Love was gone. GM’s are supposed to make decisions that are best for the organization long-term and I just don’t see how adding that risk of losing everything we are building now in 3 or 4 years was worth being a stickler on a 5th year designation. Kahn outsmarted himself this time by sticking with his flexibility approach rather than going with the safe, risk averse 5 year deal that would’ve been the best for the organization’s long-term prospects of being relevant. The only way the 5 year deal wouldn’t have been worth it would include Love getting a career ending injury. I guess at the end of the day Kahn just made his job a lot harder because he has less than 3 years to put a contender out on the floor or he can kiss Love and his job goodbye.

  6. Kyle, I assume the comment by nate of having Love, Rubio, Williams, and Barea together includes this year. Love signed a 4 (3) year extension, and is already signed through this year. So the Wolves have Love signed for the rest of this year + 3 full seasons (potentially 4), meaning the core will play together for those 4 years.

    As rubio develops a better jump shot (clearly he was better than advertised, and will likely get better given his high IQ and work ethic), and fine tunes his already ridiculous instincts for when to go for the nice pass or the steal, there’s a very good possibility he’ll be a top 3-5 PG in this league. Given that he’ll put more butts in the seats than Love (and also will be a larger free agent draw than Love), being able to offer Rubio a 5th year, if he turns out to be that stud, will be more of a priority. Additionally, if we do offer Rubio that 5th year, we’ll have him around for the next 7 seasons (after this one). If DWill or whatever stud SG we end up with (if we go that route) steps up to a potential all-star caliber, there’s zero chance Love will not resign with the team if we’re a perennial contender in the west.

  7. They don’t necessarily have Love for even three years. Disgruntled players (see Williams, Deron; Anthony, Carmelo; Paul, Chris; Howard, Dwight) usually start demanding trades in the year before their walk year because they know the team doesn’t necessarily want to wait until the walk year when said player’s trade value will drop. They don’t have a ton of leverage in that situation but they can make things unpleasant enough to force a trade if they really want to. Love doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would do that, but he also seems like the kind of guy you should give a five year contract to. I am not saying this was a horrible move or a travesty, I understand Zach’s general point that resigning a great young player is pretty much just a good thing. But it seems like it pretty easily could have been a better thing.

  8. Mac, Disgruntled players can complain all they want- Under no circumstance has a team ever been “forced” to trade a player. He is under contract until 2015, and nothing can change that. If the Wolves choose to deal him before then, so be it, but they will always have the option to play out the contract without moving the player.

    Kyle, Khan didn’t have 3 years to to field a winner anyway- If we aren’t winning next year, he’s gone. It doesn’t matter to him what Love will do if he doesn’t field a winner. If he doesn’t field a winner, he’ll be gone long before Love.

    Also Kyle, I agree with your logic that it’s possible that the opt out in year 3 makes it more difficult to re sign one star if the other decides to leave. You do have to weigh the fact that Rubio and Williams would be restricted free agents in that year, and the Wolves would have the right of first refusal. Unless the Wolves prefer them to leave the team, and release them, they cant really choose where they play in 2016.

  9. @Nate, I readily concede players can’t force trades while under contract, they can only decide they want to play for another team, have this conveyed to their present team by various channels to various degrees of seriousness, and sometimes, by happy coincidence, their team will independently determine that it is for the best and trade said players. But certainly a player cannot literally cause his team to trade him every single time, and we should never be concerned about anything that doesn’t happen 100% of the time. Too random, just butterfly effect crazy talk.

    In any event, my point was not that I am deeply concerned that Love will try to force a trade (I say only “try” – as we have established he cannot technically succeed), but only that I think they should have given him the five year deal. This isn’t DeMarcus Cousins or Greg Monroe here, this is one of the top 10 players in the NBA you can have for a fraction of Joe Johnson money at age 23. Why the hell not.

  10. I think most Wolves fans (or NBA fans for that matter) feel that Kahn is kind of a d-bag but he has assembled a roster that is a blast to watch (I personally enjoy his smug attitude, but that probably puts me in the minority). I think keeping flexibility in their future options and dealings is key and Kahn made a smart move. We are only a couple months into the new CBA and nobody is sure how things will play out quite yet. Love is the focal point of an offense that allows him to do what he does best, score points and gobble up missed shots. He has a crazy unselfish PG who wants nothing more that to feed his teammates highlight reel passes and stuff the rest of the statsheet ala Jason Kidd in his prime. Players may hate the cold but they love playing with great point guards. Hopefully Minnesota will become a free agent destination. Fans and people in general have a hard time enjoying the moment. Pack the Target Center and howl at the fake moon. Watch them at home or a bar and howl at the TV. If you hear another wolves fan making some noise, give him a howl-out. This is going to be great while it lasts.

  11. Let me start by saying that I would have signed Love to the full five years. I think Kahn is incompetent and I hope he isn’t re-signed this summer. (Though I sort of expect he will be — the only person who seems to like Kahn (other than Kahn) is Glen Taylor.) But, here’s what I think Kahn was thinking, and it sort of makes sense: Love genuinely wants to be in Minnesota. Yes, he’s from SoCal, but he likes the Twin Cities and will stay if it’s a good team. Rubio on the other hand basically only came over to Minny because he had no other choice if he wanted to play in the NBA. If any player needs an additional year and more money to be convinced to stay, it is Rubio, not Love. Plus, Rubio may be more valuable to the team in a couple of years. If you take Rubio off the team, you basically get the Wolves from last year with better coaching. Still bleh. But if Rubio turns into Jason Kidd or Steve Nash, then you take Love off the team and you end up with the Phoenix Suns — not great but not awful. I think Kahn is also expecting that the luxury tax penalties will become so severe in a couple years after the new penalties kick in that player movement will become much tougher. In other words, Love will have trouble leaving the Wolves unless he wants to go to a bad team. And Kahn is anticipating being better than any team with the cap space to sign Love. I’m not sure if all of this will be true, but it does make sense to me. That said, I would still have given Love the full five years for the stability it creates.

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