On Sunday night, Yahoo!'s own Marc Spears dropped a story that made pretty much every basketball fan in Minnesota uneasy. Kevin Love, the Timberwolves' franchise player and arguably the best power forward in the world, stated that he was unhappy with the state of the roster and wanted general manager David Kahn and the rest of the front office to make some moves.
Here's a sample of his comments, though you should really read the full story:
In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Love urged Minnesota's management to acquire the necessary talent to make the franchise a contender. If the Timberwolves don't start winning this season, Love isn't sure how long he'll want to be a part of Minnesota's future.
"My patience is not high," Love said. "Would yours be, especially when I'm a big proponent of greatness surrounding itself with greatness? All these [Team USA] guys seem to have great players around them.
"It's tough seeing all these guys that are young and older who have all played in the playoffs. When they start talking about that, I have nothing to talk about. If I don't make the playoffs next year I don't know what will happen." [...]
"I don't know if we will blow up the team again, if I'll be moved," Love said. "I don't know.
"But something has to happen in Minnesota."
Love's comments are a little peculiar in their force, because the Wolves are actually on the path to making the playoffs. Last season, they were serious contenders for one of the final spots in the postseason before Ricky Rubio tore his ACL. It stands to reason that, with reasonable progression for their young players and another year under a very good head coach in Rick Adelman, the Wolves will find themselves right in the thick of playoff contention again next season.
On top of that, Kahn is making a concerted effort to improve Minnesota this offseason. Brandon Roy and his health are considerable question marks, but his presence will undoubtedly improve a very poor shooting guard rotation. And while their offer to restricted free agent Nicolas Batum will be matched by the Portland Trail Blazers, they at least showed initiative in trying to bring him to the team (and, given Batum's glowing comments, they seem to have done a pretty good job in selling him on the Wolves). If Love isn't happy with these moves, then he doesn't have a very good sense of what a small-market franchise like this one can do on the open market in today's NBA. To bring in a star, they'd have to trade Rubio (or, well, Love), and that's just not going to happen.
Yet there's something more to these comments that goes beyond what Kahn has or hasn't done in the first weeks of the offseason. When Love signed his max-level contract extension with Minnesota in January, the front office curiously neglected to give him a fifth year even though Love was perfectly willing to commit himself to the franchise. The compromise was to give him an opt-out clause after the third season, which in practice means that the Wolves disrespected the second-best player in franchise history and then gave him the chance to leave after only three seasons. It was very weird, and perhaps the sign of a franchise that doesn't know exactly what it wants long-term.
Love's extension starts this season, so he theoretically has plenty of time to see if the Wolves develop into a serious contender. But these comments, as illogical as they are after Kahn's efforts this summer, sound like the thoughts of a man who's effectively decided he wants to change franchises whenever the opportunity arises. In effect, Love's doing preparatory public relations work for an exit via free agency or trade. That might sound like a slick maneuver by a player to engineer a move to a bigger franchise like the Los Angeles Lakers, and in many ways it is. But it's worth considering if anyone, no matter the profession, would want to work for employers with a curious sense of their top employee's value. Whether or not they bring in the pieces Love wants, the Wolves might have lost him the minute they didn't add a fifth year to his extension.