On Wednesday night, the Timberwolves lost to the Phoenix Suns 104-103. It was their tenth loss in games decided by four points or less. They have not won any such games. It was a frustrating game in a frustrating season, and afterwards, it boiled over into the media. Kevin Love called out his teammates, without naming names, for failing to get up off the bench during timeouts to be in the huddle late.
Love called out Barea and Cunningham for sulking on the bench. This #TWolves team is anything but one right now.— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) January 9, 2014
Love: "If and when I did that last year when maybe I didn't sit out for the game for all 48 minutes ... They would've aired me out."— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) January 9, 2014
Love: "We can't have 2 guys sitting at the end of the bench that play good mins just sitting there and not getting up during TOs ... ".— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) January 9, 2014
Love: "We all need to be in this together. That kind of pisses me off. We're supposed to be a team."— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) January 9, 2014
It's not the first time Love has criticized the bench. He also took the bench to task publicly for a lack of scoring in a loss to Dallas. Barea took exception both times.
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com broke down Love's situation and the ramifications for the Wolves Thursday:
Whether Minnesota's inability to win close games is a random event or something more sinister is a matter of interpretation (as is, frankly, Love's culpability for it). But with Love's boiling point registering again, there's no debating the similarity between his situation and those of impatient stars who came before him and used impending free agency as leverage.
When time came to sign Love to an extension during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, Kahn declined to give Love a five-year, 30 percent max deal under the newly minted Derrick Rose rule. Love had to settle for a four-year deal in which he demanded -- and received -- a player option after the third season.
That opt-out is coming in July 2015 and will be a guiding force in every decision that the new GM, Saunders, makes between now and then. Essentially, Saunders will be faced with the same predicament that encumbered Masai Ujiri in Denver with Anthony; Otis Smith in Orlando with Howard; Kevin O'Connor in Utah with Williams; and, once upon a time, Danny Ferry in Cleveland with James.
It's worth noting that, of the aforementioned executives, only O'Connor in Utah is still running his team. Ujiri left by choice, and with a massive raise, to take over the Raptors. Smith and Ferry were fired.
Love is averaging 26.1 points and 13. rebounds this season for Minnesota, who face the Bobcats Saturday. We broke down the situation in Minnesota in detail on the Eye on Basketball Podcast Thursday.