When the Timberwolves decided not to give Kevin Love, All-Star, dominant rebounder, scorer, and best player on the team the max extension of five years, smart basketball fans largely had the same reaction:
“Why in God’s name would you not give Kevin Love the five-year max?”
The answer lies somewhere in the bowels of the Wolves’ front office and their relationship with Love, as well as their desire to hold onto the five-year extension in case they want to give it to Ricky Rubio should he prove eligible and worthy.
Love talked pretty openly about being disappointed with the decision, and it continues to boggle the mind why this worked out his way. In an interview with the National Post, Love talked about that whole experience, and says he’s over it. After, you know, not being over it for a full paragraph.
“That’s because I wanted to be here,” Love said, slapping his hand on the arm of a chair to stress the point. “I wanted them to say, ’When people think Minnesota Timberwolves, they think Kevin Love.’ And I felt with my contract we didn’t really do that.”
Owner Glen Taylor and president of basketball operations David Kahn wanted to keep maximum flexibility with the payroll. So they were hesitant to offer the five-year maximum to Love or any other player, for that matter.
“There’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes that people didn’t know about and they will never know about,” Love said. “A lot of people looked at me and said, ’Oh, he doesn’t want a four-year deal?’ No. I wanted to be the guy. I wanted to be THEIR guy. The fact that I worked as hard as I possibly could and made my mark in many different ways, even after last season, I felt I was a little bit slighted. At this point I’m past that now.”
This is going to be an issue when the three years is up (he signed for four years with a player option in the fourth year). The Wolves are going to have to pony up and by that time, if things haven’t turned around as far as winning, Love will be gone. Splitsville. Adios. The money is always hugely important for players but it’s not the only thing.
Love goes on to say that his disappointment has been quelled by the additions to the team. They’re better. They should make the playoffs this season, provided Rubio gets back to at least 75% of himself. But that won’t be enough. They have to go from terrible, to bad, to pretty good, to a playoff team, to a contending team. And there’s not a super amount of time for that. The Wolves could have bought themselves more time, but chose to go in a different direction. It’s on them, and Love, to make sure the mistake doesn’t turn out to be fatal for the franchise.