Kevin Love to Timberwolves fans: “Thanks for not burning my jersey”

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Once LeBron James announced he was going back to Cleveland, it was only a matter of time before the Cavaliers and Timberwolves worked out a deal for Kevin Love. It was a long process, dragged out by the involvement of No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins, who couldn’t be included in any trade until late August, 30 days after he signed his rookie contract.

Love sympathizes with Wiggins’ uncertainty, detailing that period of the summer in a new essay titled “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” published Thursday on Derek Jeter’s Players Tribune website:

You know who had a really crazy summer? Andrew Wiggins. Of all the basketball players I’ve watched over the past few months, Wiggins surprised me the most. I can imagine how he was feeling. From the excitement of being the No. 1 draft pick to the uncertainty of where he was headed, he was poised and impressive.

I know what it’s like to have your heart jump every time your phone buzzes. I know what it’s like to talk to your agent multiple times a day. I know what it’s like to read about your future from “sources” on Twitter.

I was on the other side of it. It was exhausting.

In the lengthy and wide-ranging essay, Love also reflects on his growth and maturation in his six seasons in Minnesota, thanking fans for their support and for not turning on him the way Cavaliers fans did in 2010 after James announced he was leaving for Miami:

So I’d like to take a moment to thank the fans of Minnesota for six great years. I still remember sitting in Madison Square Garden when I was first drafted in 2008, thinking that if I could go anywhere it would be to the Timberwolves to work with one of my childhood idols, Kevin McHale. There are so many people in Minnesota who helped to shape my game and mold me into the player I am today. I’ll always be fond of going to Manny’s Steakhouse, and the support I got from the entire Minnesota community — even in tough times — is something I’ll remember forever. (Seriously, thanks for not burning my jersey, you guys.)

Love goes on to praise the camaraderie of his new Cavs teammates, including the winning mentality of veterans like James, Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and James Jones, all of whom have won at least one NBA title.

The entire thing is worth reading. Love is thoughtful and self-aware, even addressing the “empty stats” accusations his critics have lobbed at him over the years as he’s put up All-Star numbers without playing in a playoff game. It’s clear he holds no ill will towards the Timberwolves or their fans, many of whom appear to be understanding of why he wanted out. Simply put, the organization mismanaged a lot of things while he was there. Love didn’t call out former general manager David Kahn directly, but his statement that his decision to move on was all about winning says it all.

Now that he’s in Cleveland, Love will have more scrutiny on him than ever. The Cavs are expected to compete for a championship from day one, and he’s going to be a big part of that. It will be interesting to see how long it takes them to gel, and how Love’s game grows.