Ever since the New England Patriots started winning in 2001, more and more organizations seem to be taking up the Patriot Way. Basically, the less interesting and entertaining the commentary coming from coaches’ and players’ mouths, the better.
That’s fine and good when your team is a winner and there’s nothing to complain about. For Minnesota Timberwolves’ star Kevin Love, though, that’s not exactly the case. Love did the Timberwolves a favor by accepting a four-year contract extension after they didn’t offer him their max five-year offer — supposedly saving it for Ricky Rubio. Love obviously expected some sort of compensation for his willingness to stay the course with Minnesota — most notably, winning.
So far, that hasn’t been the case for Love since he signed the four-year deal in January 2012, and he doesn’t see that changing anytime soon. Love is being honest with the Timberwolves when he hints that if things don’t change, he will opt out after the 2014-15 season.
Love said Friday that he was not apologetic regarding remarks he made about the Timberwolves and how he was upset that the team didn’t offer him the five-year deal, hasn’t shown any hint of a plan for winning and showed skepticism over how he fractured his hand before the season.
Love said he shouldn’t have made the comments public, but that’s where he’s wrong. By making those remarks to Yahoo! Sports, he gets leverage — and sympathy — if things don’t turn around and he decides to leave the Wolves after 2015. If Love simply went into Glen Taylor or David Kahn‘s offices and voiced his displeasure, that might have been more favorable to his employers, but it wouldn’t have got him anywhere in the long run.
Now fans know what the next three years of Love’s career and the team’s fortunes during those three seasons mean. If the Wolves can build a winning culture, they can keep their franchise player (even if the front office doesn’t see him that way). If they don’t, and Love jets, there’s no one to blame but Taylor and Kahn for making more poor decisions and for not ponying up more to win.
The Minnesota organization clearly doesn’t know what it has in Love. He’s one of the best players in the game, and he proved that last season while taking home second-team All-NBA honors as he averaged 26 points per game and 13.3 rebounds.
It’s not Love’s fault the Wolves can’t draft or develop lottery pick after lottery pick. Jonny Flynn — drafted No. 6 overall in 2009 — is out of the NBA, and Wesley Johnson — drafted No. 4 overall in 2010 — was traded during the offseason along with a first-round pick for two second-round picks and expiring contracts. The Wolves haven’t fared much better during the brief career of last year’s No. 2 overall pick, Derrick Williams.
Love also had to wait around for two seasons while Rubio was playing in Spain and the Timberwolves were trying to negotiate to get him to come over to the NBA. Love had to play through 15-67 and 17-65 seasons while Rubio was playing in Europe, and now that the point guard is playing in Minnesota, suddenly he’s the Timberwolves’ prized possession.
If Minnesota can’t make the playoffs in the next three seasons, Love should follow in Kevin Garnett‘s footsteps and move on while he still can. In today’s NBA, one star player isn’t going to net a team an NBA championship or even a playoff berth if the team can’t build around him. And Minnesota has proven an ineptitude in drafting and developing talent. Love has fairly delivered an ultimatum to his bosses in Minnesota, and that’s better than leaving unexpectedly.
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