I've seen the future, brother: it is murder
That’s how many days we have until Kevin Love has the option to exercise his early termination clause for the summer of 2015.
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:
Seems to me there are three factors that will come into play with keeping Love a Timberwolf after the 2014-15 season:
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.