Timberwolves star forward Kevin Love dished to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski about his feelings towards Timberwolves ownership and management.
Let me preface what I am about to say that there is no bigger fan of Kevin Love than me. Ever since watching him dominate in the NCAA tournament in 2008, I have been a fan. When the Wolves traded O.J. Helmann’s for him, I was thrilled. He is the second most fundamentally sound player in the game (sorry, Tim Duncan wears that crown until he retires) and he has continued to improve his game to the point where he is a Top 10 player at this point in his career. And he is just getting started. I am apologist, to be sure.
That said, I do not like the way he handled the interview with Yahoo. If he has a problem with management or ownership, bring those issues up with them. For a guy as media-savvy as Love is, his Tweets are usually quite insightful, circulating the comments that he did is very out of character for him. Furthermore, when you look at how his contract situation played out, there is a very strong argument to support David “I am not stopping to ask for directions.” Kahn’s plan.
Ole Kahnsie signed Love to a four year deal worth $64 million dollars, with the final year of that contract being a mutual option. That means Love could leave the Wolves after the 3rd season and be an unrestricted free agent. His annual salary under the terms of his current deal is $16 million. Love wanted a 5 year, max deal, worth $80 million. That also would have netted him an annual salary of $16 million. So on its face, the only difference in signing Love to his current deal is that the Wolves “only” had to commit to him for 4 years, versus 5. That said, considering his age, this last point is a complete non-starter. So there is no discernible difference between the two contracts except that the 5 year deal had an extra guaranteed year. But, there is more to the story.
As a result of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), teams are only allowed to offer one max deal to a current player coming off his rookie contract. Enter Ricky Rubio. Prior to tearing up his knee against the 47th worst person on the planet, Kobe Bryant, Rubio had helped lead the Wolves back into the playoff picture and the team was playing inspired basketball. Rubio looked like the kind of basketball savant that only comes around once a decade. Together, he and Love showed they could be the league’s new dynamic duo. Unfortunately, because of how closely (in time) Love and Rubio entered the league, if Kahnsie had given Love the max deal he wanted, that same deal would not be available for Rubio in 2014 when his rookie contract expires. Remember, the CBA allows only one such deal. Love’s rookie contract expired last season. Under a 5 year max deal, he would still be under contract when Rubio’s rookie deal expires in 2014.
So put yourself in Kahn’s shoes.
You have a player, Love, who has professed he would love to stay in Minnesota for his whole career provided he is surrounded by the talent to make a championship run. Enter the basketball playing savant. Who, coincidentally, had real concerns about coming to play in Minnesota (unless he got max money). With Rubio, you have an opportunity to ensure your star player has that side kick for the next 8 years, all you have to do is convince him to take a max deal for the next 3 years. At which point, because of Love’s vested Larry Bird rights, you will be able to offer him the max deal, 5 years for $80 million, that he wanted coming off his rookie contract. Provided that happens after the 3rd year of Love’s current deal, which I expect it will, you will have Love and Rubio locked up until 2019. That is the kind of foundation and stability that Love was pleading for and that Wolves fans would be thrilled about. If Love gets the max deal coming off his rookie contract, that scenario is no longer in play. So why is he spilling his guts to Adrian Wojnarowski?
My guess, and it is really no more than that, is that this winter of discontent has set in for two reasons.
First, because David Kahn has the personality of an actuary and, news flash, does not seem to have the best relationship with Wolves’ players (see Beasley, Michael). No one has ever accused Kahn of being a players’ GM. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to change any time soon.
The second, and perhaps more fixable reason, is more of an HR issue. Love spent the summer with his buddies (Westbrook & Co.) on the Olympic team hearing all about the max deals. Russell is definitely off my Christmas card list. Love knows he is an elite player. And after talking with his fellow elite players, I can see how he starts thinking, why shouldn’t I get paid like one?
But this is the big misconception. Love is essentially being paid EXACTLY like those guys. Someone should explain it to him. The money is the same. Yes, he is not signed for as many years, but that is to ensure that the Wolves can keep its core in place for the next 7 years. Prior to signing his contract, Love made multiple statements that he just wanted to win and that it was critical that he be surrounded with the talent to make multiple championship runs. So, which one is it? Win championships or get another guaranteed year? Furthermore, by signing him to the deal he took, he gave himself the opportunity to be paired with his version of Stockton for the next 7 years. There was no other way to accomplish this. Period. And for someone who appreciates basketball’s rich history, you would think Love would be more on board. He has the chance to be one of the all-time greats with Rubio at his side.
So, hammer Kahnsie all you want for being an aloof and even arrogant, former journalist who is on the ultimate power trip now that he is the “boss” to the guys he used to cover. That is fine. He clearly needs some help in the HR department. But blaming him for signing Love to the deal that will enable the Wolves to preserve Stockton/Malone 2.0? Well, that is not something that I am ready to defend.