Love’s knuckle pushups, twist of fate

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: News on Kevin Love

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Kevin Love‘s passive-aggressive ploy to leave the Minnesota Timberwolves and get to “a place that I can win,” will happen, although likely not until at least Aug. 23 when the Cleveland Cavaliers can, under NBA rules, trade their newly signed No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins.

Wiggins can’t be traded for 30 days after signing his contract, which he did Thursday. It instantly put a halt on a Minnesota-Cleveland trade (at least in terms of making one official before then). It also compelled Love, a three-time All-Star, to pull out of Team USA – on grounds of injury risk and scuttling a potential trade – which is now gathered in Las Vegas and will compete in the World Cup in Spain.

Other than missing out on the trip abroad, this does feel like a fortuitous Summer of Love in the making. LeBron James‘ surprise return to Cleveland opened the door for Love to walk in as a supporting star rather than a leading man somewhere else. Nobody imagined a LeBron-Love coupling before James’ announcement on July 11, and what could be more attractive to Love, who had already, it seemed, mentally checked out of Minnesota?

While attending a video game conference in Los Angeles on June 11, Love, who played at UCLA and has long been thought to want to play for the Lakers, was asked about joining the purple and gold. Above all, he said, he wants to go to where he can win. In the same interview with Fox Sports, Love was asked the Wolves’ chances for making the playoffs next season. His answer, whether conscious of his wording or not, clued everybody into his state of mind: “If they’re healthy,” Love said, “they can do a lot of damage.”

The omission of “we’re and “we” was easily interpretable as Love viewing himself as a free agent and not a player under contract next season with the Wolves for $15.7 million. Imagine the firestorm had Carmelo Anthony or Dwight Howard committed such a gaffe.

And what of Love suggesting the Wolves, if healthy of course, “can do a lot of damage?” If it’s true without him, what’s their potential with him? Seems exactly the situation Mr. Double-Double desires.

Since that interview, Love has gone silent. His representatives, citing a scheduling conflict, pulled him out of a July 13 celebrity softball game prior to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game at Target Field. The likelier conflict had more to do with a questioning Minneapolis-St. Paul media and a predictably hostile hometown greeting.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for this mess, starting with the franchise’s bungling of Love’s contract extension in January 2012. Owner Glen Taylor and former general manager David Kahn refused to give Love the maximum five years he wanted and offered four, adding a player option after Year 3. Management’s unwillingness to commit angered and offended Love.

Love, meanwhile, has gone diva. Some fans sympathize with his dealing of years of organizational dysfunction. Mostly, the Minnesota fans have soured on him and his tactics. If current team president and coach Flip Saunders somehow doesn’t do a deal prior to the start of the season, there’ll be some awkward moments at Target Center.

History will show that Love’s botched contract to his now distancing from the franchise are only the bookends in a string of unfortunate events that truly sabotaged an era centered around Love and point guard Ricky Rubio before it could begin in earnest.

The year 2012 will go down as a debilitating one. Six weeks after Love’s contentious contract, Rubio tore the ACL in his left knee. He played just 41 games in the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season, a promising rookie start in which he averaged 10.6 points and 8.2 assists. He wouldn’t return until Dec. 15 of the 2012-13 season, but the injury, admittedly, rattled Rubio and severely curtailed his progress.

The death knell for the anticipated 2012-13 season, however, occurred well before Rubio’s return. In October, Love broke his right hand while away from the team’s facility. How did it happen? The team announced he broke it doing knuckle pushups at home. As odd as it may seem for a basketball player to include knuckle pushups as part of his workout routine, Love claimed he had always done them.

He missed three weeks of the season, less time than anticipated. But in his 18th game back, Love broke the hand again. The Wolves were only 9-9 with him, but Rubio had just come back and there was optimism. Now Love’s season and the Wolves’ playoff hopes were done.

Team dynamics became more complicated when then-coach Rick Adelman left a team besieged by injury for stretches starting in January 2013 to tend to his wife, who was seeking medical answers related to unexplained seizures. Adelman contemplated retirement after the season, but returned. Minnesota continually lost close games and numerous times failed frustratingly to scratch above .500.

We’ll never know what might have been if Love had gotten a five-year deal, or if he had never taken up knuckle pushups, or if Rubio had never torn his ACL.

And now Love seems determined not to explore what still could be in Minnesota.

13 Comments

  1. Ben G says:

    Besides, by waiting to use their 1 and only max length max money contract, the Wolves can afford to give it to him now. It wasn’t a botched deal. Love made more money per year than Lebron James from his NBA contract. If being offended is really where this all went sour, then I’m really disappointed by Loves’ attitude / reasoning. I hope a change of scenery and some distance from the situation can give him perspective I guess – and I still with both parties well.

    -B

  2. sekhon says:

    Lakers can aquire him and he can win there

  3. CJAB says:

    Best thing for TW, Love is out. Best thing for Love, going to wherever he is not the best player in the team. The Cavaliers is a perfect fit for him now. Love has repeatedly demonstrated that he can not lead a team to get the best out of them. He is a very good basketball player, but he lacks emotional intelligence and charisma to lead a locker room. Let Lebron do that job, let Love hit double-doubles and enlarge his statistics. He really cares about those statistics. Get finger crossed that he will not complain and wants to go somewhere he ‘gets more attention’, which of course he ‘deserves’. Regarding the TW, the deal with the Cavaliers is sweet. Hopefully it will happen and then, let us all enjoy the ‘aches’ and the ‘grim comments’ by Bill Simmons. Oh, Bill!! how much you hate Minnesota!

  4. sally says:

    Love and Lebron ??? wow, what a season Cleveland is going to have, with Kyrie and Waiters, that should top off the Cavs. I wouldn’t be suprised to see them in the playoffs. If Lebron carried the Heat clear up through to the finals, with pretty much, no help, just think what he can do WITH help. It is really going to be fun to watch…..and I think Love is just waiting so he can join Lebron. “Love” it !!!!!

  5. sally says:

    why would Love want to go to the Lakers idiot ??? @ Don’t ever click my name.

  6. justsayin says:

    The Wolves are going to make out like bandits. And Cleveland is going to trade away its depth and future for a pipe dream.

  7. Gillsy says:

    And again the Wolves have done another silly mistake. They could have ended this already with either picking up players from the Warriors or Cav’s. Like really the Cav’s deal could have given them two first round picks and they could have and probably will squeeze them for more. What are they waiting for they are not going to get any thing better than these two trades. And both teams could have their players getting used to their new teams.

  8. Sid says:

    Not a dwightmare at all!
    What u have here is a kid that deserves a max contract and if he want 5 years u give it to him.
    How unbelievable stupid u have to be not to do that? GT + DK keep running your small franchise – that way u never change, u never win!
    A possible top grade hall of famer does not stay if u r not committed to do anything it takes to win!
    Only 2 ways out than! Endure another year and show again how valuable u are, but your team wanna sell u and not just loose u in free agency. If it’s a team u do not wanna join u not commit to more than a year!
    Remember a year later this kid can choose to go where ever he wants for a max contract!
    Would u do different?

  9. jmf says:

    This whole “go to a place where I can win” stuff really bugs me. How many games did the Wolves lose by less than 5 points – like 15. And guess who had the ball at the end of every one of those close games with a chance to win. LOVE! He actually came through at the end like twice out of seventeen. So maybe if he would have stepped a few more times the Wolves would have the place where HE could win. Right now I’m thinking we’d be better off without him. I used to be a big Love fan – but not since he turned into such a “poor me” little prima donna.

  10. MC says:

    After Dwightmare, here comes the “Kevinmare”, hmm….

  11. harrythehawk says:

    Who cares really? There is WAY too many articles about Kevin Love. He’s going to Cleveland. We all know this. It’s just a matter of time.