When Timberwolves forward Kevin Love played out his rookie-scale deal, he fought for a five-year max contract to remain in Minnesota. The Wolves instead signed Love to a four-year deal with an opt-out clause. That move might cost the organization greatly because of what transpired over the weekend.
The three-time All-Star and 2011 NBA rebounding leader has made it clear to the organization that he intends to become an unrestricted free agent after next season and has no interest in a contract extension this summer to stay in Minnesota, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
First, from the New York Daily News:
Kevin Love’s people reiterated to the Timberwolves this past week that they had better trade him or else he’ll leave via free agency when his contract is up after next season. With Love looking to exit, there’s your No. 1 reason the T-wolves have not been able to find a head coach to take over for Rick Adelman. Love wants to play for the Lakers but he’s also open to coming to the Knicks.
Then Yahoo Sports followed up with this Saturday night:
“For the first time, team president Flip Saunders sounds like looking at deals for Love is an option,” one rival executive told Yahoo Sports.
The Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are among many teams determined to make hard runs at trades for Love, league sources said. Boston and Los Angeles plan to make high-lottery picks in the 2014 NBA Draft available in offers for Love, sources said.
No team is likely to trade for Love without an assurance that he’ll commit to a five-year, $100 million maximum contract extension. Despite a belief that Love prefers Los Angeles or New York as a potential destination, he’s open to deals in other markets like the Chicago Bulls or the Golden State Warriors, where he can be part of an immediate contender.
Nevertheless, Saunders has made finding a coach to help convince Love to reconsider free agency as a top priority. Sam Mitchell has emerged as a serious candidate for the franchise’s head coaching job, league sources stated. Mitchell left a good impression with Saunders in a recent meeting and has moved himself into consideration for the job, league sources said.
Mitchell has a substantial part of Timberwolves’ history with Saunders. He had two stops as a player — 1989-1992 and 1995-2002. Mitchell played for Saunders in his second stint.
When Mitchell was the Toronto Raptors head coach for parts of five seasons, he reached the playoffs twice and won the NBA coach of the year award in 2007. After his firing in Toronto in 2010, he spent a season with the Nets as an assistant coach. He’s been a television analyst and radio host since leaving the Nets in 2011.
The bigger issue for the All-Star forward comes with a roster that hasn’t been talented enough to make the Western Conference playoffs. Love’s career averages are 19.2 ppg, 12.2rpg, 36 percent from three and an 82 percent free throw shooter. Those are numbers Minnesota cannot afford to lose right now.