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Minnesota gets Love on its terms — and a lot of pressure

Jan 25, 2012, 4:25 PM EDT

Kevin Love, Wayne Ellington, Ricky Rubio AP

Minnesota, a franchise known for handing out ridiculous contracts — hello Wally Szczerbiak! — picked now to become frugal. Kevin Love wanted a five-year, $80 million max extension to his rookie deal, but Minnesota wouldn’t give it. Four years, $62 million was the offer on the table.

Minnesota won the battle Wednesday, they got their man. On their terms.

But the war is not over.

Love demanded and got an opt-out after three years. Minnesota will keep him happy and build a winner in that time or Love can walk as an unrestricted free agent. If you don’t think that can happen, ask Cleveland.

Look at what Love told NBA.com.

“Yeah, early-termination option after the third year is definitely keeping my options open,” Love said. “I want to see where this team is gonna head. I want to continue for us to keep getting better. I feel that we are and that we will get better. But at the same time, [with] the early-termination, I can still extend as well. So I can be a part of this team for a long time. I’m not really thinking about that too much. I’m looking at it as a four-year deal and we’ll go from there.”

Love said all the right things — he spoke about how he wants to be in Minnesota and how great the fans and his teammates are — but we’ve heard all of that before from stars who skipped town.

The way Minnesota handled this created some bad blood. Love considered becoming a restricted free agent and not taking this deal. Here is what he said to Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune.

“Yeah, I definitely considered that,” he said about not signing now. “Me personally, I wanted to make a five-year commitment. When they weren’t willing to do, I feel like four years is good. I’d like to see the direction of where this team is headed and I think we are getting better. I think it is working for us. With the addition of Coach (Rick Adelman), the players we added in the offseason, where we’re heading with our youth, I think the future is bright.”

Winning will cure any issues. Building a contender will make smooth sailing with Love. But fall short and, well, we’ve seen it elsewhere.

Minnesota wanted flexibility. They wanted to keep the one “designated player” five-year deal they could offer in their back pocket (probably for Ricky Rubio, although that issue is three years away). They got it. It’s all yours, GM David Kahn. The lockout hawk owner Glen Taylor looked tough.

But now you had better use that flexibility wisely to build a real powerhouse. Free agents to be (and their agents) just saw you play hardball with the face of the franchise and that is going to make them hesitate before joining your team. Use that flexibility to draw them in. Or else.

Because without Kevin Love you are not a contender. You’re not a playoff team. And he has given you a warning that things had better be very good in three years or he may take his talents south. Or West. Or East. But somewhere else.

  1. rooney24 - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    Glad they got him signed. If they weren’t giving him 5 years, then it makes sense to give him some concession, which is the opt out. It could give both player and team a chance to resign him to a future extension earlier, even if things are going well. If things go well, he could still opt out after 3 years, and then sign an extension at that point, without tying up the “designated player” spot.

    Solid deal for both player and team.

  2. Justin - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    So we get ripped for over spending and then ripped for underspending. I looked it up and when we signed Szczerbiak to an extension it was following his All star season when he averaged about 19/5/3 on a playoff team. In the long run it was bad but at the time it wasn’t the worst ever.

    If we are still a bottom feeder after 3 years with Kevin Love then it would probably be in our best interests to let him leave. I mean clearly something has gone wrong in the whole process. Convenient that it has been failed to mention that after the 3 years if Love likes it here the team and him can agree to a 2 year extension on top of the 4 years.

    • redbullenergydrink - Jan 25, 2012 at 6:58 PM

      Thanks for the Wally Z info. I too, didn’t think he was THAT bad when he was in Minnesota.

    • dcviking - Jan 25, 2012 at 7:23 PM

      If you read this site long enough, it becomes obvious that Kurt doesn’t like Minnesota, the Timberwolves, Glen Taylor, David Kahn, some of the above, or all of the above.

      It’s a fair point that failure to create winner gives Love an out after 3 years, but do you think he’d sit quietly by for 5 years if there is no winner? KG ran out of patience after he got a record setting contract.

      This move has some risk, but it also have potential upside for the team that only people other than the author seem to grasp.

      • Tim OShenko - Jan 25, 2012 at 10:18 PM

        Agreed. So what if there’s pressure for the Wolves to improve the team? That’s what they should be doing anyhow, and with the addition of Williams, Rubio, and Coach Adelman, they’re finally heading in that direction.

        If Love bolts after three years, it won’t be because the Wolves low-balled him. It’ll be because they couldn’t or wouldn’t build a decent team around him. And if that’s the case, it only makes sense that he would leave for greener pastures.

      • kopy - Jan 26, 2012 at 10:35 AM

        I’m not sure you have to read this site too long. I don’t know why somebody would be so angry with Minnesota over this contract.

        Minnesota got Love to agree to a great contract for both sides. If Love wanted to leave, he wouldn’t have signed the deal. So what’s the point in getting worked up over an option to leave 3 years down the road when he just passed on such an option right now? Love wanted to stay, and now Minnesota can throw 5 years with max pay at another superstar who might be more tempted to flee.

  3. worldwargbp - Jan 25, 2012 at 6:10 PM

    I don’t get why everybody is bashing Kahn for this deal. He keeps his options open if Rubio or D-Will develop into stud. Locked up Love for at least three years with an option to further extend after. Every journalist takes every opportunity to bash this guy, but it seems he did the best thing possible for the team with the new CBA.

    Kahn has made some questionable moves to say the least. But bringing in Adelman, Rubio, and Williams appear to be good moves, Williams is the most questionable right now, but he has all the tools to develop into a great NBA player. Hate on Kahn all you want, but this was a good move by him.

  4. vikingsinla - Jan 25, 2012 at 7:54 PM

    Perfect deal from the Wolves perspective, yet once more, the sports media has overblown the “hurt” and “bad blood” Love feels by not getting maxed.

    Guess what? Its easier to replace what Love does than it would be to do what Kidd and Nash did in their prime, and Rubio may have a higher ceiling than both of them. Rubio is already really good, what’s he going to be with 3 years of seasoning? Love would be an idiot to leave, especially since Minny can still outpay other team via Bird rules, and should be a playoff team.

    If they aren’t, then Love obviously can’t help them get better and should be gone. If he’s still getting stats, then the Wolves dump him for assets. If he isn’t, than they aren’t on the hook to another squandered pick for 5 years.

    Win-win for the Wolves. And a terrible take by the author of this article, who I won’t even scroll up to bother naming him.

    • fatcatt - Jan 26, 2012 at 10:38 PM

      Easier to replace what Love does? With who? 2-3 players..Not alot of 20-15 players out there..They had a chance to lock him up. And why not? Whats there not to like? Hes the best big man they have by far. If this team still sucks who do you all think is going to go there? You guys are blinded by critisism of your team. There was absolutely no reason not to lock him up. Should OKC have not locked up Westbrook for the same reasons? There really arent that many players of Loves talent out there like you all think. And the ones that are will be locked up if not already. Hes one of the top players in the league. Period! You do what it takes to make sure there not going anywhere anytime soon. Quit defending the worst management in basketball because your just fooling yourselves.

  5. percybowl - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:04 AM

    Yeah what’s your agenda Kurt?

    If the Timberwolves are not competitive after 4 years, what does a 5th year matter?
    Besides why would the Wolves use their one and only max contract on Love, regardless of how good he is, when Rubio is clearly the franchise player in their eyes.

    It seems Minnesota finally made a pretty slick move and the media members jealous of the “blog writer turned GM” are blindly ripping them.

    Besides if the wolves are competitive (which let’s be honest, with Adelman, Derrick Williams, Rubio and Love…they will be) Love can optionally extend it to a 6 year deal.

    Sounds to me like a great way to treat a star player.

    The only bad blood is in your jealous idiotic self.

    • Kurt Helin - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:55 PM

      No agenda. I believe that superstar players are the hardest thing to come by in building a winner and when you get one you keep him happy. Minny didn’t do that and it comes with risks. We’ll see how things are in three years, but I think when you have a guy like Love you lock him down.

      • percybowl - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:40 PM

        I thoroughly agree, but why do you insist Love is unhappy?

        Even though his comments suggest he wanted a 5-year deal and he seems a little dis-appointed, Wouldn’t he have refused to sign if he was truly upset? The gap between “not happy” and “locked down” is 1 year?

        I think it’s objectively smart not to cater to the first great player since Garnett left when they potentially have 2 more “superstars” who were drafted the same or higher than Love.

        Kevin is a perennial all-star and championship piece, but Rubio has more upside for marketing internationally and locally, besides being a play-making point guard who could enter top 5 territory.

        (I apologize for my earlier name-calling)

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