Losing a star does not mean losing hope


VIDEO: Flip Saunders talks about trading Love to Cleveland

What next for the Timberwolves was, predictably, damage control. Ads promoting the future that now includes Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, the last two No. 1 picks, their own 2014 first-rounder, Zach LaVine, and veteran Thaddeus Young. A catchy slogan — “Eyes on the rise” — to accompany the planned ascension.

Really, though, there was nothing else to do. President of basketball operations Flip Saunders, also the coach, was forced into a trade he wouldn’t have made without a loaded contract to his head, so an outbound ticket for Kevin Love it would have to be. There was something to be said for putting the mess behind them, and Saunders did about as well as could be expected while bargaining from a position of weakness, with the entire league knowing he had to deal at some point, and the Warriors drawing the line in the sand at the toes of Klay Thompson.

There is also the tangible reason for encouragement, the fact the other teams have been pushed down the same dark hole and lived to tell. The Timberwolves can look west to Denver and see that starting over doesn’t have to mean a giant step back. They can turn another direction, southeast to Orlando, and be reminded that losing the best player does not have to equal losing hope.

While each of the major trades forced by players in recent years is unique, depending on time and place, the first days of life without Love should come with knowing that moving an All-Star power forward against their true wishes does not have to be a major hit. The Nuggets traded Carmelo Anthony, heard a lot of talk about needing time for the package of prospects to develop, then made the playoffs the same season. The Magic were pressured to offload Dwight Howard, took criticism for passing on what seemed to be the obvious idea of Andrew Bynum as replacement center, and got a better outcome, times a million, with Nikola Vucevic.

Some recoveries have been muddled by additional circumstances. Some have yet to lead to so much as a playoff appearance. But it also shows there is reason to actually keep an eye out for the rise in Minnesota.

TEAM: JAZZ

Player: Deron Williams

Trade: Williams to the Nets for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, two first-round picks and cash on Feb. 23, 2011.

Long-term perspective: Utah moved Williams before the situation had a chance to deteriorate into the distraction other franchises had, and would, endure. The Jazz got back to the playoffs the next season, but have mostly gone through difficult times that have yet to lead to a clear direction. They will start this season amid predictions of another lottery finish.

It has not gone unnoticed that the lack of a consistent point guard has been an issue since Williams’ departure, though the arrival of Trey Burke in the 2013 draft and Dante Exum in 2014 has raised hopes that it is a problem of the past. The biggest redemption factor for the front office, strangely, is D-Will himself. He generally has not performed like a max player and was stained by the impression his actions led to the departure of beloved coach Jerry Sloan, so the split, however much of a setback on the court, probably does not feel like much of a loss around Salt Lake City.

TEAM: MAGIC

Player: Howard

Trade: Howard to the Lakers on Aug. 10, 2012, as part of a four-team deal that included Bynum and Jason Richardson going to Philadelphia, Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets, Arron Afflalo and Vucevic to the Magic.

Long-term perspective: The Howard breakup was different than any other, played out over seasons, plural, and with theaters full of drama that eventually felt like nausea. And when it happened, there was wreckage everywhere. New roster, new coach, new questions about which superstar Magic center in his prime would end up with the Lakers next.

Two seasons later, it doesn’t look so bad. Drama followed Howard to L.A. in some coincidence, reminding people in Orlando what else they were losing, before he left the Lakers for Houston as a free agent. Wanting Vucevic instead of Bynum has turned out to be a genius move and the Magic will open 2014-15 as a possibility for the playoffs. It helps to be in the East, as opposed to the others trying to make the climb, but there is a real future in Orlando. Again.

TEAM: HORNETS/PELICANS

Player: Chris Paul.

Trade: Paul and two second-round picks to the Clippers on Dec. 14, 2011, for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and a first-round pick.

Long-term perspective: That hurt Paul too, after the years of building a connection to the city of New Orleans. The team he left behind suffered on the court, with losses piling up, an ownership change, a name change and very little to show in return for the face of the franchise. Kaman and Aminu are already gone, the pick was spent on Austin Rivers — ironically the son of the current Clippers coach — and Gordon has struggled to stay healthy or come close to reaching what once seemed to be star potential.

TEAM: NUGGETS

Player: Anthony

Trade: Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Shelden Williams and Anthony Carter to the Knicks on Feb. 22, 2011, as part of a three-team trade that sent, among others, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, three picks and $3 million to the Nuggets and Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph to the Timberwolves.

Long-term perspective: Denver made the playoffs that season, signaling there would be no post-Carmelo rebuilding, and then built on that by pushing the heavily favored Lakers to seven games in the first round the next year. Coach George Karl loved the spirit of that group, and there would even be a third consecutive postseason appearance.

And then it went wrong. Karl was fired. General manager Masai Ujiri, Denver’s point man for the complicated negotiations, left for Toronto. Gallinari blew out his knee. The Nuggets are an uncertainty heading toward this season, waiting to see how much they can count on Gallinari and prospects, but not because of the trade. That generated forward momentum. It’s everything that happened after.

22 Comments

  1. dmh says:

    Yeah the wolves are rebuilding…. However at least Flip dumped some contracts in the process.

    If their cards are played right…. The wolves should be able to make the playoffs in a few years… In time for the spurs to actually get old….. (I want some of that fountain of youth they be drinkiin….) and for some of the others to have to make the ugly contract decisions (Warriors with Thompson and Barnes, Blazers with Lillard, and others)….

    Some of the examples of things not going right for these teams have had to do with either injuries or rebuilding than anything. Magic, Jazz=Rebuilding….. Denver=injuries…. NJ/Brooklyn=injuries…. Pelicans=combo injuries and rebuilding…. Injuries are just bad luck. Rebuilding is intentional.

    Others have been victims of mismanagement…. Knicks pre-Phil….. Lakers with Mike D…. Wolves in between Flip appearances…

    Thats why it is a matter of playing the cards right…. Regardless which way the star goes, if the team is not balanced then the success is minimal. After that it is all luck.

  2. lee says:

    I don’t see why people our hating on k love when the would do the same thing in his shoes he is going to a good team because he wants to win if he stayed in Minnesota like Carmelo stayed in new York everyone would be complaining it was about the money

  3. JohnnyB says:

    Cavs made a huge mistake. They don’t know what they just lost by trading Wiggins. This guy has potential to be ELITE. T-wolves fans have patience! Cav’s might win a title now but as soon as Wiggins develops Minnesota well be a contender for years. Just have to convince him to stay

    • Neil Young says:

      Yup. We are ecstatic. Good luck teaching Love how to play D. And FYI those weren’t knuckle pushups that broke his hand. He got drunk and punched his buddy at the bar. What a winner. (Everyone here in Minny knows that).

      And we got three good players for one spoiled overpaid whining one, so we are excited. And Wiggs doesn’t have to ride Lebs jock all career.

      • thespectator says:

        people tend to forget hes playing with the best player in the milky way. lbj demands excellence from everyone, its one of the many upsides of having a player of his level on your tear, you think klove gonna walk around and not play D?? lbj knows what wins a title, and he also knows klove has some D issues, itll be addressed and we will see a different klove, scoring is not hard for klove as we all know, but now that hes not the primary option hes game will have to develop and expand just like how chris boshs game did when it was the big 3 in miami…cavs will be fine, and theyll do alright on the defensive end.

  4. thespectator says:

    its gonna be a few seasons before the twolves make the playoffs…and everyone knows this

  5. KJS says:

    its difficult to view the impact of this trade just based on the current performance of the players traded. a very important factor is what the organisation that gets them can do to help them develop, and whether they are serious in building the team. It seems that Cleveland 2015 is different than Cleveland 2005, which was not smart enough to build a real team around Lebron. I hope that Min 2015 is smarter than Min 2010 but I am not sure this is the case. the fact that the team does not have a coach yes (FS was forced to the job and repeatedly said we wants out) is one example. Min got players with potential, this much is true. the organisation previously failed to develop such potential, this is true as well. will it learn? I am skeptic but hopeful..

  6. pokie says:

    The T-Wolves now have all the young players they need to develop into a multiple playoff appearance type franchise. I think it now comes down to the coaching staff and front office. Can they develop a playing style that maximizes their roster, continue to replenish role players across the expanse of the productive shelf-life of their elite talent, and maintain a level of success that will keep that talent interested in remaining in Minnesota? Time will tell.

  7. Outsider says:

    Surely its a deal that is advantegous for both cleveland and minnesota. Love was desperate to get out (remember last year saga), cleveland needed somebody solid who can do 20/10 easily. They found that in love, Love will have extra motivation to win something big and that will play out just fine. Wiggins and Bennett might be key additions, time will tell, you just dont know that for sure right now. I would like to see Rubio and Pekovic progressing according to the salaries they get or will allegedly be getting (ricky)

  8. taekayo says:

    Give this new Twolves team to the San Antonio organization and you will have a contender in 2-3 years. Losing Love (who will leave anyway) for two #1 picks and Young is the best thing they’ve had since drafting KG. But this is Minnesota…

    • Neil Young says:

      And? Once Glen Taylor just has the Lynx we will break out. It was him that gave us David Kahn, McHale as a GM, and Rashad McCants.

  9. Oliver says:

    While they’re losing a star, they’re still gaining a star in Wiggins and a potentially sound player in Bennett. The T’ Wolves weren’t in a bright position either way, and they should be in a contending position in a few years. They still have a sound roster with Flip Saunders controlling it. Kevin Love never really played to win in Minnesota in my opinion, and Wiggins could be a potentially better player than Love in his prime. I think this trade may actually work out better in the long-term for the T’ Wolves than the Cavs, and the T’ Wolves will probably find themselves in the race for the 8th seed, though they probably won’t make the playoffs. Having Thaddeus Young also brings some veteran play and skill needed too. Rubio, Wiggins, Young, Bennett, Pekovic. Not a bad team at all.

  10. laugher says:

    This article is a bit too optimistic in coming to the conclusion that “things worked out” for these teams. You’ll notice all 4 of these teams were in the Lottery last year, and with the possible exception of the Magic due to the weak conference they play in, none of them have particularly great odds of making the playoffs next year either (at least as far as their current rosters are today).

    The premise that these teams are doing ok because they’ve collected some promising young talent is a bit premature. There are perennial lottery teams historically in this league that get good picks, draft promising players, only to keep ending up in the lottery year in and year out. And that isn’t particularly surprising. The NBA, more than another pro sports league, is dominated by individual talent and superstars. If you trade one away and aren’t getting one in return, it’s not shocking that your team is going to struggle for the foreseeable future.

    The fact these were the best examples the author could think of (4 teams in the lottery last year) for this article is only further proof of that.

  11. Tom OToole says:

    Obviously you don’t live in Orlando back to back 20 win seasons. A brand new empty building. Howard on National TV over and over again. No national TV games for 2 years. Entire roster dumped. No way this could have turned out worse.

    All of our former players on contenders while we hope for a lottery pick oh by the way a sure thing gone wrong as Cleveland jumps to #1 and we fall to #4 and get Aaron Gordon. lol

  12. harriethehawk says:

    I think Minnesota will have a better year than last year, but will still struggle to make the playoffs. The teams are already a wrap. I do find Memphis, Portland and Houston concerning. No significant bench…

    • Neil Young says:

      Wolves beat Lebrons Heat in Miami and 4-Game sweep of the Clips. Talk about overrated teams…

  13. YungMussuBlack says:

    I missed it. What star did they lose? I know they’re getting a star!