I’ve seen the future, brother: it is murder

Zach Harper —  November 26, 2012 — 16 Comments

Love

946.

That’s how many days we have until Kevin Love has the option to exercise his early termination clause for the summer of 2015.

$9,701,000.

That’s how much money the Los Angeles Lakers have committed to their 2015-16 payroll right now. Kobe Bryant is off the books by the summer of 2015. So are Dwight Howard, Ron Artest, and Pau Gasol. Even if Dwight Howard re-signs with the Lakers, they’ll still have close to $30 million to throw at free agents. It’s assumed Kobe Bryant will be retired by then, therefore he will have no cap hold with the Lakers’ payroll. And even if he does, the Lakers will have plenty of flexibility to make a sign-and-trade happen. We’ve seen them do it before. We’ll see them do it again.

If Kevin Love wants to return to Los Angeles to play basketball, he can do it quite easily.

So how does that make you feel? It probably makes the majority of us Timberwolves fans feel like this: 

BioClock

Seems to me there are three factors that will come into play with keeping Love a Timberwolf after the 2014-15 season:

1. Ownership/management

2. Coaching

3. Roster

I feel like many of us see the five-game losing streak and become paranoid that it’s business as usual for a team that hasn’t enjoyed any postseason invites since the KG-Sprewell-Cassell era. What I find troubling about this line of thinking is that past failures have nothing to do with the present. Yes, this team has sucked for years. This team has been an embarrassment around the league and we’ve seen our fair share of jokes about the franchise and its players. But that has nothing to do with the current construct of the roster right now.

Rick Adelman has been the coach of this team for not even a year. Yes, he was hired about a year and a half ago, but he didn’t get to coach anybody until about a year ago. In that one year, only three players have remained constant: Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, and Luke Ridnour. Everybody else is new. You can look back into your painful memories about the Minnesota Timberwolves — lord knows I have. But they really have nothing to do with a talented team currently trying to figure out how to harness that talent inside a system that will help them do that sooner rather than later.

In the midst of a five-game losing streak, us fans are trying to find immediate fixes that correct the future. Get rid of Derrick Williams. Why is Luke Ridnour out there? Why is Malcolm Lee? None of these are solutions. They’re only signifiers of an imperfect team. And there’s nothing wrong with an imperfect team. The chemistry on this team is unlike anything I’ve seen with the organization. Everybody is approachable and everybody is smiling. This is a happy locker room.

It’s possible Love can enjoy his teammates more than he currently does, but it seems hard to do. Would getting Derrick Williams out of here in exchange for a sniper from the outside fix problems? Maybe. Would taking Ridnour out of the game so we can find out if Alexey Shved has the formula to combine potential and wins make this team better? Possibly.

Is any of this going to keep Kevin Love a Timberwolf through the summer of 2019? We don’t know.

To me, the roster doesn’t really matter. There’s plenty of talent here and it’s all amicable. What’s going to decide whether or not Love stays in Minneapolis for the long haul after 2015 is really two-fold. Will Glen Taylor have the ownership aspect of this franchise locked up long-term and in doing so have the correct management in place? And will Rick Adelman be the coach or have the coaching situation settled for stability purposes?

The second question is a bit tricky. Rick is 66 years old and has essentially two seasons on his contract after this one. Is he going to have the drive and energy to coach this team into his 70s? And if not, is he going to make sure the Wolves are transitioning to a coaching staff of his choosing? Maybe David Adelman taking over the sidelines? Or Bill Bayno? Regardless of what the scenario ends up being, it’s going to have to be someone that Love feels comfortable with as a coach.

The first question of the two-fold scenario is more about stability and respect. It’s not a secret Love was extremely disappointed and felt disrespected by what went down with his contract extension. He practically begged for the five-year max extension and was rebuffed. If they saved it to try to keep Ricky Rubio happy and in town down the road, then you have the gamble of needing Ricky to become one of the top point guards in the league by the time Love is free agency-eligible. Otherwise, you’ve shown your best player that a lesser player was more important. If it is true that the Wolves aren’t going to use the five-year on Ricky because they want all of their superstars to get the same treatment, then that’s a troubling business decision that seems to be more about believing in sunshine and gummy bears than the cold and calculated business realm of the NBA.

David Kahn and Glen Taylor were the two biggest obstacles against Love getting the prestige of being a five-year max guy. Taylor can make any potential ill-feelings toward him go away by cutting a check or getting a new owner in place who will be happy to cut whatever check the rules allow Kevin Love to demand. Kahn is a trickier component. There are rumors and murmurs that Love isn’t a fan of Kahn, and by reading things reported about the contract negotiations, you can certainly understand why.

Whether that’s fair or not to Kahn doesn’t really matter either. This is a player’s league and the players get to demand whatever one of the 30 teams in the NBA will give them. As long as one is willing to give in to their demands/Amazon wish list, that’s what the market says they’re worth. Kahn’s negotiating tactics were simply just that: negotiating tactics. It’s the risk you run as a front office person when negotiating with egos. When I say “negotiating with egos,” that isn’t a knock on Love. Any of us would have an ego or a sense of self worth that we’d feel needs to be met in our salary.

From talking to various people who have a decent-to-good idea with what’s going on in the organization, I’d imagine that if Kahn is still around in 2015 then Love will be hard to convince to stay. That’s not creating a witch-hunt in regards to Kahn and it’s nothing but pure speculation. That’s just what my take on the situation seems to be. But it will go deeper than that. Ownership needs to be right, the coach needs to be right and the team needs to be talented.

We’ve seen that talent isn’t enough to keep a star player. LeBron left. Chris Bosh left. Carmelo Anthony would’ve left. Dwight Howard would’ve left. Aside from Bosh whose Toronto teams are up and down, all of those guys left really good franchises with really good teams that had given their stars a taste of success. Melo’s team had been to the Western Conference Finals. Howard and James had both been in the Finals with their organizations. All of them left because talent isn’t enough in this league. The business matters too.

A long time ago, I was hanging out with my sister and we were discussing relationships. We were talking about our recent and past relationships and what had gone right and wrong in them. I informed her that in one of the relationships I had been in, I was pretty sure the girl had cheated on me at some point and that it made me paranoid with relationships. It made things harder to trust, even when dealing with people that had no history or evidence to show they were untrustworthy. Those things just seem to stay with you and mess with your mind.

She said something that resonated with me and really stuck in my head. “You can’t stop someone from cheating on you. If they’re going to do it then they’re going to do it, no matter what you do to try to prevent it. Checking up on them, worrying about what they’re doing, and trying to be overly involved isn’t going to stop it. If they do it, you deal with it and either end the relationship or work through it and move on. But you can’t stop it from happening.”

I can’t help but think about these words from her when I think about the mortality of Kevin Love as a T’Wolf. There’s nothing we can do to prevent him from leaving if he decides he wants to leave. We can’t check his phone constantly to see if Kobe or Dwight are texting him. We can’t get a new haircut or a new wardrobe by dealing Derrick Williams for a new shooter in the starting lineup or off the bench to magically make him think we’re too good to ever leave.

We can really only enjoy the story that’s unfolding in front of us with this team. This is a fun team that is in a small funk right now. We get our young phenom back in a couple of weeks. In a month or two, he’ll be relatively healthy, playing significant minutes, and back to making things über fun at all times. Four months from now, it’s possible the team is healthy, clicking on most of the cylinders, and heading toward the first playoff berth in nine years.

This team has talent that is ready to contribute now and also talent that is learning to contribute later. This team has one of the best coaches in this league, who has done a phenomenal job juggling injuries and inconsistency. And it has an owner who has rarely shied away from making a financial commitment to this team. Sweating the small stuff isn’t going to make anybody stay. It’s just going to drive yourself crazy.

Go Wolves.

Zach Harper

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16 responses to I’ve seen the future, brother: it is murder

  1. I really like Kevin Love, but if the Wolves finish below .500 this season don’t you have to question how good he actually is? A guy who is considered 2nd team all NBA should not be the leader of repeat lottery team. Does he make his teammates better? Can he be the centerpiece of a 50 win club? So many questions….

  2. James, those are all valid questions that we’ll finally see an answer to this season. I think it’s unfair to judge him with these topics over the past couple years because the team has been crap. I’m not talking about their record; I’m talking about their level of talent.

    The team around him has sucked and it wasn’t even good last year. They just played really well with their core. This is the first year he’ll have a talented team around him that he can raise up to a playoff team with his play. If he doesn’t, then we should start wondering if the juice is worth the squeeze.

  3. I couldn’t agree more, Zach. I’m still optimistic about this team, despite the 5 game drawback. Hopefully by mid-December Rubio will be back, along with a fully healthy Love, Pek, and JJ (fingers crossed). Shved will get more comfortable/confident with each game and AK47 will continue to do most everything right on the floor (I can’t wait to see AK47 and Rubio on the floor together). Throw in a healthy Budinger and Roy (more fingers crossed) a little later and we’ve got a full, deep team. (Though I’m not sold on Roy’s place on this team, he can prove to be a valuable veteran scorer off the bench in the playoffs–just ask the Mavs.)

    It’s only a matter of time before the chemistry starts to build with this team, hopefully just in time for a post-All Star playoff run.

    I’m still excited for this year and I’m already giddy for Rubio’s first game back. Go Wolves.

  4. Great post, Zach. Agree 100% that we don’t know what will keep him here or make him leave. However, management needs to keep their finger on the pulse to avoid getting LeBron’d. In your opinion, if Love seems destined to go, would the 2014 trade deadline be too early to move him?

  5. Here’s another wrench to ponder: What if this squad doesn’t make the playoffs this year? Is that a good or bad thing? Is Kahn forced to pay the price with his job, something only a year ago Wolves Nation would have applauded? Is the team simultaneously sold? Is RA then on thin-ice with a new owner? Who knows what direction a new ownership/management team wants to take the club in? Is Kahn/Adelman oddly Norman Dale and Love Jimmy Chitwood in this scenario?

  6. i feel like the start we got off to was a bit of fool’s gold. sure, we played hard and got a couple wins we shouldn’t have (particularly with the injuries we suffered in that four game stretch), but the goal was to tread water until love and rubio got back. we can’t lose sight of that. the realistic expectation is to play near-.500 ball until rubio returns. we’re close. trying to re-integrate all these new pieces on the fly takes work, time, and patience.

    clearly the problem has been fluidity on the offensive end. we need someone that not only initiates, but also controls the offense. too often it’s ridnour or barea pounding the air out of the ball for long stretches or pull-up 3s from shved with 20secs on the shot clock. we need rubio badly.

    how many times have we overlooked pek in the post? found williams making threatless jab step-step backs combos that go nowhere except a 20′ fade away. missed kirilenko slicing into the lane? had 3on2s that led to no points? how many questions can i fit in a paragraph?

  7. As a fan, I think knowing more and more about the business/economics side of the sport really allows me to enjoy the game in different ways – sometimes more, sometimes less. Knowing that a big-market team can drop dollars and poach players and quickly return to relevancy is frustrating. And if I remember correctly, one issue small-market owners had with the last CBA was that superstars were “forcing” trades and crushing the economic viability of small-market teams.

    And let’s not forget that The G.O.A.T. himself had major beef with GM Jerry Krause for numerous trades and draft missteps. Yet somehow the Bulls wound up with six rings and Jordan fulfilled what’s seen in retrospect as some kind of prophecy regarding his skills.

    But as a dude who is one of the last remaining Kahn defenders, I have to think that it may be time for him to move on. I think Kahn did a great job given the directive the first few years, which was to dump albatross contracts, get cheap draft picks, and stop the financial bleeding until we get another star. That star is Kevin Love, and the draft picks developed into some hits (Rubio), and some misses (Flynn) and some role players (Ellington –> Cunningham). He struck out on Rambis, but has the right coach for this team in Adelman, and I think it’s time to let Adelman have a bit more say in the roster and acknowledge that Kahn, for all his flaws, did manage to turn this team into a respectable one.

    My two cents on what’s happening right now: I think the panic button being pushed is about 80 percent related to the lack of Roy/Budinger on the court – I think Adelman expected our wing position to be mostly vets with some energy (JJ, Shved) off the bench.

  8. Amen brother. Let’s enjoy this for now and worry about the potential suffrage later. This team plays a brand of ball that can sway children, women, and any other non thirty something males into devoting their time to watching the product…definitely #1 or 1A along with the ’03-04 squad.

  9. I think James brings up a good point. K Love has put up historic numbers in each of our 2 worst seasons and our defensive numbers seem to take a dip when he comes back. I really like K Love too but i am beginning to doubt how valuable he actually is. People hate on Kahn all the time but he somehow got arguably the best coach in the league to come here and made this a place where free agents like to come. Getting AK and Shved when the nets owner really wanted them I thought was a terrific feat. If we think KLove isn’t going to stay I say trade him while his value is so high. This would be best for us long term in my opinion.

  10. I disagree about talent not being a factor. Love will get his money, that much is clear. Arguably he’ll get more of it signing an extension in a couple years than he would’ve this time around. More to the point, suppose LA does want him. They resign Dwight and make a pitch for Love, and what do you have? You have a team utterly hamstrung by having two max guys (or near max guys) on the same roster, and a bunch of has-been pieces surrounding them. If Love has learned anything by playing on the Olympics, it’s that you need talent to win, and a Twolves team made up of a core of Love, Pek, Ricky, Alexey, Bud, Dante, and even Dwill – all guys who would still be under 30 by the time he resigns – is a pretty compelling cast.

    The new reality of the NBA is that teams can no longer afford $28 million a year to a KG or Shaq. The top guys can get paid, but more and more Bosh and Lebron will accept less to play with Wade. And let’s not forget – those guys left because they wanted to play for talent, not because they loved the owner or any of that BS.

    One truism holds true in sports just like it does in life – if in doubt, follow the money. If Love wants to play in CA no matter what, then there’s nothing we can do. I don’t think he’s of that mindset. He doesn’t need California, and I don’t think he particularly needs the validation of being a Laker or a Knick for his ego. I think he wants to win, and if we give him the best shot at that AND we can pay him the most, then it’s a no brainer. This brings me to my second point about money – after actual dollar bills, the closest thing to money in the NBA is talent. Talent in teammates, talent in your coaches, and talent in the front office. What did Love talk about over and over again about his Olympics experience (besides not appearing in the playoffs)? You gotta have a good teammates. You gotta have good coaching.

    You force your way to LA or NY because somehow you need the legacy of the team to validate you. I truly believe that. Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony are prima donnas. Extremely talented ones, but divas none-the-less. For whatever reason (in my opinion) their own self identity or ego or whatever needed the cachet of LA or NY to be complete. They couldn’t do it on their own, they needed the outside validation, consequences be damned.

    Tim Duncan? Now there’s a player who is confident in who he is and what he can achieve no matter where he is. KG? Another player who’s a bit like Duncan in that he didn’t need to chase a marquee team’s name in order attain greatness. He already was great. Stockton and Malone. Jordan. Hakeem. The greatest players all achieved their greatness on their own terms, not because the wore a certain color.

    What’s my point. My point is that Love aspires to greatness. Would LA be nice? Ya, it would be. Is Love going to follow the Lebron route? Depends on if the Heat win the next 3 championships (as in the only way to win in the NBA is to accept less and team up with a super team, then there you go). I don’t think the Heat will win the next 3 championships, and I think Love isn’t going to have a problem staying in Minneapolis if the talent on the court and on the bench is there.

  11. Why do fans insist on worrying so much about what some player is going to do in 2015. Do most of us really know where we will be in 2015, for better or for worse? No right? So why spend a lot of time worrying about whether Kevin Love or anyone else is sufficiently committed to doing the same thing at the same place beyond the next three years? Seems fairly pointless to me. I knew a guy in Cleveland who had been unemployed for about a year and he spent more time on the Internet fretting and then lambasting Lebron about the Decision than he did about finding a job and getting back on his feet. I know for a lot of us rooting for a favorite team is a relative constant and a comfort in uncertain times, but at some point it becomes an issue of having some perspective.

  12. Good article Zack. There are no quick fixes. I’ve been down on williams for a while now, but trading him won’t make a big difference. Despite the 5 Ls I think it’s remarkable that we were 5-2 before that. With Love coming back the team needs to gel a little again and not rely too much on Love doing everything. He is a great player and a fantastic fantasy player. I have faith in our main core once Rubio is back and we can start defending the perimeter a little better. If Love turns out to leave when he can, well, then I will thank him for the good moments he gave me. I don’t believe in freaking out and trading him in 2014 just to make sure we get something back. That usually doesn’t work out too well anyway. Lets just enjoy watching him, keep oohing and aahing over his play and tell him how happy we are that he’s a wolf. That’s the best way we can make any difference on his decision.

  13. Wait… Sunshine and gummy bears aren’t real?

  14. I agree with Ivan. Fans definitely have an impact on a player’s decisions. Remember Love’s first game back, after he went off in the first quarter, the Wolves force the Nuggets to call a timeout, but Love still has to urge the crowd to make some noise? My brother and I were going nuts with everyone rebound/tip-in that Love had, the crowd should’ve been doing the same. Love is a fantastic player. I think with the talent we have this year, we will finally see if Love is as good of a teammate as he is an individual player. I know it’s lame, but I’m actually worried about Love becoming jealous of Ricky. I can’t wait for Ricky to come back, and I think he is worth every dollar, and nothing is stopping us from having Co-Stars. We all enjoy doing the “Ole” cheers as much as the Barcelona fans, but if we are contending for the playoffs at the end of the season, then we need to show Love the love! (Tehe)

  15. I don’t think there is any question Kevin Love is an elite player and the moves made by Minnesota have made them better. Landing Andrei Kirilenko was huge and Brandon Roy was a worthwhile risk (even if his knees are once again betraying him). Health has clearly been an issue, but the Timberwolves have the talent to make a playoff run.

    Retaining Kevin Love will be a trickier issue, as NBA teams have morphed into VIP sections, leaving a number of teams (mostly away from the coast) on the outside looking in. As Kevin Love spends more time on All-Star and Olympic teams, if the Timbwerwolves aren’t competetive soon, he will likely walk away.

  16. Nice Leonard Cohen reference Zach!

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