Kevin Love says chance to win, not previous contract, was reason for forcing trade from Timberwolves

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Kevin Love might still be a member of the Timberwolves this season, had the man previously making the basketball decisions in Minnesota given him a max contract back in 2012.

The much-maligned David Kahn and owner Glen Taylor decided to save that money for Ricky Rubio, while giving Love a four-year deal with an opt-out after three — one he would have used after this season to become an unrestricted free agent, and leave Minnesota without the team being able to get anything in return.

So, the Timberwolves sent Love to the Cavaliers, and netted a couple of nice pieces in Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, who may be instrumental in helping the team rebuild for the future. And, they got a legitimate veteran in Thaddeus Young, who (if he stays in Minnesota) can help guide the young talent along the way.

But replacing a legitimate All-Star is never easy, and Flip Saunders believes it may have been avoidable had Love been given the max contract he deserved.

From Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:

On Monday, Saunders said Love’s departure was “pretty much set in stone the minute he got his four-year contract” and stated Timberwolves fans won’t ever forgive Love for forcing his way out. …

The difference in money was substantial — $80-plus million compared with the $62 million contract Love signed — but perhaps more important was the statement such a max contract would have made about Love’s earned place as the franchise’s foundation.

Love was asked Sunday if that contract decision ultimately was something he just never could get over and accept.

“I don’t know, I think more than anything I just wanted to win,” he said “Now that we’re doing it here, I’m very happy. I think that was very shortsighted when it first happened, but in the end it was more the constant losing.”

Two years isn’t all that long to hold a grudge, especially when considering the loss of millions of dollars that was the result of the franchise’s decision.

But most superstar players would choose to play for a contender if the money remained the same, and with Love in line to get max money in the years that follow, we’ll take him at his word when he says getting to play alongside LeBron James was the primary reason, at least currently, that he chose to force his way out.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.