The Kevin Love free agency drama (Love Fest? Summer of Love?) has officially begun. The Timberwolves star is set to be a free agent a year from now in the summer of 2015 but after whispers of him forcing his way out due to being unhappy in Minnesota for a year, the rumor mill started running full-speed Saturday night.
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, [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.
That's two independent reports indicating first that Love wants out and two that the Wolves are starting to thaw on the idea of trading him. The Wolves have been flat adamant that they're not going to go the route of trading Love before they lose leverage in a deal, that instead they'll wait until the very last possible moment before dealing with them. They want to convince him to stay, but trying to find ways to make this roster good enough to compete in a summer just isn't feasible.
So now the Wolves have to either hope things come together magically or bite the bullet and deal him. They'll get the best return on value right now, but the only way you can trade him is if you're sure you can't keep him. It's got to be 100 percent.
The Lakers, Celtics and Suns are in the lottery, with a chance to package a possible top-three pick to Minnesota in a loaded draft. This gets more perilous if the Suns somehow jump Minnesota (their chances are abysmal), which would then send Minnesota's pick to Phoenix, leaving the Wolves facing Love in an expiring contract year without a draft pick.
The Celtics, meanwhile, could put together a package featuring Jared Sullinger, expiring contracts and their top pick. The Lakers could do something similar, though it gets tricky with how few of their players are on contract past July 1.
Someone or someones obviously wanted to get the wheel turning on stories like this one about Love wanting out. Whether that winds up being the case or if this is just ambient noise from competing forces remains to be seen. But it's an ominous sign that 13 months from Love becoming a free agent, this story has hit this level of anonymous sourcing. There are dark clouds forming over Minnesota, and how the Wolves handle this will define Flip Saunders' tenure as head of basketball operations.