When a team trades its franchise player, it's expected that many people surrounding the franchise will treat it as a stone-cold bummer. It's rare to get anything approaching value for one of the top stars in the NBA, and swapping an established, excellent player for a clear rebuilding project doesn't always seem like a fair deal. It's not always good form to turn the player who pushed for the deal into an outright enemy, but it's understandable that fans would be a little ticked off.
The team's owner, on the other hand, is usually expected to act with a little more decorum. On Wednesday, Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor answered questions regarding the trade of All-Star power forward Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was not especially complimentary of Love's skills. From Derek Wetmore for ESPN1500.com:
"I think Kevin, his offensive skills got better than I think we estimated. The only thing that I still have a question mark about will be his health. I had that concern then, I still have that concern and I think Cleveland should have that concern, too," Taylor said. "If they sign him to a five-year contract like they're thinking about, I mean that's a big contract in a guy that's had sometimes where he's missed games."
Taylor said his relationship with Love remains good, but that he has not talked to him since the season ended. He also said he doesn't plan to talk to him until they run into each other, which presumably would be Jan. 31, when the Wolves host Love's Cavaliers. [...]
"I question Kevin if this is going to be the best deal for him because I think he's going to be the third player on a team. I don't think he's going to get a lot of credit if they do really well. I think he'll get the blame if they don't do well. He's going to have to learn to handle that.
"I think he's around a couple guys who are awful good. Now I'm not saying that Kevin's not good, but I think where maybe he got away with some stuff, not playing defense on our team, I'm not sure how that's going to work in Cleveland. So I would guess they're going to ask him to play more defense. And he's foul-prone," Taylor said.
Taylor isn't entirely dismissive of Love, because he says he wishes the Wolves had offered him a five-year max-level extension when they had the chance. In some way, Taylor is sad that Love is gone, even if he goes out of his way to suggest that the Timberwolves will only miss him so much and that the Cavaliers may not have obtained the all-around superstar they imagined. I'm not sure that their supposed "good relationship" will persist beyond this interview, but anyone who thinks such a thing exists certainly has affection for the departed player.
Regardless, this is a bizarre way to speak about the second-best player in franchise history. As noted by Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk, Taylor doesn't challenge Dan Gilbert's post-Decision letter against LeBron James in the annals of owner-to-player criticism. But it's odd to send off a player who helped a franchise achieve relevance over several seasons by saying that he's not quite the great player he's cracked up to be. It's possible to poke holes in Taylor's logic — Love's new teammates are just as likely to cover for his defensive mistakes as they are to expose them, getting minimal credit on a title contender will likely exceed what he'd receive in Minnesota, injuries can be random, etc. — but the substance of his remarks isn't really the issue. The story here is that an owner largely dismissed the achievements and potential future success of his former franchise player. The problem is rudeness, not that the opinion is wrong.
Sadly, this is not the first time Taylor has criticized a departed star. Several months after the Wolves dealt Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics in the 2007 offseason, he claimed that KG "tanked" the end of the 2006-07 season. Even if that were true, Taylor decided to question the effort of a fanatically competitive player who led Minnesota teams well beyond when they were able to contend for championships. Taylor's points may have some merit, but they are defined by a lack of appreciation for what players do for the franchise he owns. He speaks of what players were unable to do for him rather than what he could not provide them.
Love, for his part, spoke highly of his experience with the Timberwolves when questioned during his introductory Cavaliers press conference on Tuesday. It's standard operating procedure for players to praise the fans and organization they just pressed to leave, but it's also a really basic display of gratitude. When players don't do it, we look down on them. Owners, for all their wealth, deserve to be held to the same standard.
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