Kevin Love has been on his way out of Minnesota for two years. Shortly after Love signed a three-year deal with the Timberwolves, there was open speculation about where he would end up after he inevitably turned down his player option for the 2015-16 season. We knew back in January of 2012 that Love was frustrated that the T-Wolves were still mediocre three-and-a-half seasons into his career, and he was displeased that the front office didn’t offer him the five-year mini-max, a contract befitting his status as one of the best young players in the league. (Remember, since-fired president of basketball operations David Kahn was saving the mini-max for Ricky Rubio. Even at the time, that seemed like a terrible idea.)
Not much has changed since then. Minnesota’s slightly better — they’re more fun to watch, certainly — but Love, 25, is currently enduring his sixth straight playoff-less season while scoring as prolifically and efficiently as he ever has and competing for a rebounding title. He’s not a perfect player — he’s an aggravatingly lazy defender — but the T-Wolves aren’t outside the playoff race because Kevin Love is averaging merely 26.3 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. Rubio can’t shoot. The team lacks a rim protector. The J.J. Barea signing has been a disaster. Since Love was drafted in 2008, the team has drafted Jonny Flynn, Rubio, Wesley Johnson and Derrick Williams in the top half of the lottery. There’s a parallel universe in which Love is happy and playing with Steph Curry or Paul George, but the Kahn regime’s shoddy talent evaluation ensured that no second star ever made his way to Minnesota.
Because of this, Kevin Love rumors get drummed up every six months. He could go to the Lakers. The Mavs are making a play for him. The Knicks are keeping an eye out. He could be traded this offseason, but the T-Wolves think they have an outside chance to convince him to stay. What if they just let him walk next summer for nothing? That would be awful. At any rate, T-Wolves fans need to prepare for life without their best player.
This is what happens to superstars in undesirable situations. Fans and the media daydream about the player’s escape, when he’ll be playing for a more interesting or competitive team. It is, from a non-Wolves fan perspective, kind of a shame that Love is stuck where he is. He deserves to be in the playoffs.
But this ongoing discussion about Love’s next move is an undeniable bummer for the fans who have watched Kevin Love develop over the past six years.The NBA season is, in one sense, a grand pastiche of narratives, some of which persist throughout the season and others that are birthed and die in a week’s time, but in another sense, for anyone who has a favorite team, it’s a less cluttered, more coherent and often more boring single narrative. These Love rumors that have circulated over the past couple of years have haunted the running narrative in any T-Wolves fan’s mind. The team’s future is entirely up in the air, all the time. Its best player is only halfway there. Every 30-and-15 performance Love puts up is bittersweet. It’s one thing to root for a not-great team; it’s another to root for one that is under the constant threat of getting a lot worse very quickly.
It’s not a little silly for talking heads to make declarations about Love definitely leaving town. He has another season left on his contract after this one, and circumstances can always change. If the T-Wolves aren’t yet willing to think about trading him — and getting a few assets in return — that could mean they’re delusional, or they know they have a shot at keeping him. Wolves fans will undoubtedly be upset if Love bolts, no matter where or how, but at least they know that by next summer, this saga will very likely have come to an end. (There’s that player option, but I can’t see Love pulling a Dwight Howard.) They won’t be reading tea leaves or daydreaming about a contract extension. Love will either recommit, or he won’t. They will at least know where they stand.