Something has to happen in Minnesota.
That sounds like an ultimatum, even though Kevin Love — the frustrated Timberwolves power forward who said it, in an interview with Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports — isn’t in the best position anymore to give one.
Love would have been, of course, had he opted to play the 2012-13 season on a one-year qualifying offer of about $6.1 million, rather than accept a four-year, $61 million contract extension in January that was frustrating in its own right to the Wolves’ leader and inside-outside punisher. If Love were 12 months away from unrestricted free agency rather than 36 (his deal has an opt-out after three years), you can bet both Minnesota management and the team’s fan base would be heeding — and probably convulsing — over every dissatisfied thing he said.
As it is, Love has no actual hammer to hold over president of basketball operations David Kahn’s and owner Glen Taylor’s heads. He’ll have to settle for the less-tangible weapons of public relations and threatened crankiness by a star player.
That’s not nothing, though. So with just a little less clout behind it, Love’s message remains the same: Something has to happen in Minnesota.
What’s the beef? Love made the final cut for the U.S. Olympic team over the weekend and, as he looked around at the other 11 players, it became clear to him: Everyone else in the room had been to the NBA playoffs. Six of them had made it to the Finals and three of them – Kobe Bryant (5), Tyson Chandler (1) and LeBron James (1) – won rings there.
It was enough to make a guy feel like Christian Laettner on the original Dream Team. And that’s where Love was coming from when he spoke to Spears.
“My patience is not high,” Love said. “Would yours be, especially when I’m a big proponent of greatness surrounding itself with greatness? All these [Team USA] guys seem to have great players around them.
“It’s tough seeing all these guys that are young and older who have all played in the playoffs. When they start talking about that, I have nothing to talk about. If I don’t make the playoffs next year I don’t know what will happen.”
The Timberwolves haven’t made the playoffs since 2004, a string of eight seasons. Love was hopeful the T’wolves would end the streak last season, but they lost rookie point guard Ricky Rubio to a season-ending knee injury on March 9 and never really recovered. Love admitted he was disappointed Minnesota’s front office failed to get an adequate replacement for Rubio. With Rubio sidelined, the T’wolves finished the season with the Western Conference’s fourth-worst record (26-40).
In fact, since Love arrived in 2008, he has had four coaches on teams that have gone 82-230 (.262). They’re a little better on the nights Love actually has played — 77-192 (.286), including 24-31 last season — which justifies his sense of inadequate help. Serious questions about the NBA viability of Kahn’s high lottery picks, Derrick Williams (No. 2, 2011) and Wes Johnson (No. 4, 2010), and the lingering fail of Jonny Flynn (No. 6, 2009) linger.
Then again, the 6-foot-10 forward from UCLA has to own some of the losing. Help did seem to be on the way, too, in the form of Rubio and center Nikola Pekovic, a Most Improved candidate last season who was part of Minnesota’s promising 21-19 start. Kahn told Spears: “I’m sure Kevin has a sense of urgency. I think the team demonstrated it could win last season before we were hit with a cascade of injuries.”
So far this summer, Kahn has worked out a deal for retired Portland guard Brandon Roy to attempt a comeback with the Wolves and wooed Blazers restricted free agent Nic Batum with a $45 million offer sheet. He dealt the No. 18 pick in the first round to Houston for forward Chase Budinger. And he cut loose forwards Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph.
Whether subtraction equals addition and the moves in sum equal improvement, it’s too soon to say.
“At this point, I’m not afraid to go on the record,” Love said. “Being around these [USA] guys, they know the situation I’m in and how competitive I am. I want to win. All the players on the Timberwolves feel the same way, as well. The coaching staff is awesome. They want to win and win now. Hopefully, we can make some stuff happen.”
Something has to happen in Minnesota. Kevin Love is antsy.