Jan 10, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT
Kevin Love is frustrated — and he should be. The Minnesota Timberwolves have the point differential of a team that should be 23-12 (according to Basketball-Reference.com), yet they are 17-18. Minnesota is 0-10 in games that ended within five points, which is a combination of some bad luck and some poor execution at the end of games.
That frustration manifested itself Wednesday night when Love lashed out at guys off the bench (on a night he was 4-of-20 shooting, for the record).
What has to worry Minnesota and its fans is how that frustration manifests itself in the summer of 2015, when Love can and likely will opt out of his current deal.
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com quoted one executive who spoke for a lot of others on Love’s state of mind come 2015:
“They should trade him,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “No one thinks he’s staying. Everyone knows he wants to go to the Lakers.”
Berger’s question is how should Minnesota handle this situation? Like Cleveland handled LeBron James and stick with him trying to convince him to stay? Like Utah did with Deron Williams and move him early? Something more like the middle ground of Dwight Howard or Carmelo Anthony?
Minnesota’s plan is clearly to keep Love by making him not want to leave. They jettisoned David Kahn — the former GM who insulted Love by not offering the big man a max five-year extension on his rookie deal (saving that for Ricky Rubio) — and brought in Flip Saunders, who has a better relationship with Love.
With Love, Rubio, Kevin Martin (acquired this summer), Nikola Pekovic and guys like Chase Budinger (just healthy now) and Corey Brewer this should be a playoff team, a growing young team. Berger notes that Minnesota’s model is not any of the players who bolted their teams listed two paragraphs up.
But not all executives agree, and while none would wish Saunders’ dilemma on his worst enemy, there’s another situation that bears comparison to Love’s. That would be the one involving LaMarcus Aldridge and the Portland Trail Blazers.
As Portland endured front-office turmoil and the bad luck of losing No. 1 pick Greg Oden and franchise cornerstone Brandon Roy to devastating knee injuries, it once seemed that Aldridge’s days in Portland were numbered. Though he frequently said all the right things publicly, suspicions around the league were growing stronger that a third straight non-playoff season this year would force the Blazers’ hand as Aldridge approached his 2015 date with unrestricted free agency.
Portland GM Neil Olshey stayed the course, found Damian Lillard in the draft, put the right pieces around Aldridge, and voila: the Blazers have been the surprise story of the league with the third-best record in the West.
It is impossible to say with any certainty right now what Love will do in 2015 — Love doesn’t know. He is frustrated today, and the Lakers have the cap space on the books to go get a max player in 2015, but both of those things could change in the next 18 months. If Love decides to leave Minnesota he will have a number of suitors, including potentially the New York Knicks.
But know there are a lot of people around the league that think Love wants out of Minnesota and to get back to the city where he played his college ball.