The standard operating procedure when an NBA star has decided to use his impending free agency to force a trade to a team of his choice (see: Anthony, Melo 2011, Howard, Dwight 2012) is to deny the entire time that you want out of wherever you are. You want plausible deniability to try and handle the constant questions. But that's an outdated principle. Back when newspapers were around, you could just say you don't know what someone's talking about and move on. Even in the early 2000's, you could downplay it and move on.
But social media has changed that. Sports rumors are omnipresent now, no more so than in the NBA. And so it is that in June 2014, with a full year and 19 days left on his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Love stopped denying he wants out of Minnesota. That doesn't mean that he's acknowledging that his days as Timberwolf are over. He's just no longer denying it.
On an appearance with ESPN's SportsNation, Love was asked if he would start the season next year with Minnesota.
"You know, my agent is handling everything at this point, and I'm hoping that everything works out for all parties involved."
Not "I love Minnesota," or even Melo's approach of "I'm a Denver Nugget right now." Just "My agent is handling things. Meanwhile, he's being bombarded so much he's actually taken to answering questions about other teams possibly trading for him, which is often considered a no-no.
Q: I saw this actual sentence on ESPN over the weekend: “Cleveland has interest in Love, but the feeling isn't mutual.” Did you see that and what do you make of reporting like that? How difficult is it not to pick up the phone and call your agent, or pick up your phone and tweet that it's BS?
Love: I try not to read it. A lot of it is brought to my attention through outside sources, sometimes twitter. But like most people, I need to be conscious of my image and try to roll with the punches. I know that's a generic answer. I don't think the Cleveland [trade rumors] are outlandish at all. They have a great young foundation.
Cleveland has the No. 1 pick and young players to use in trade for Love. Dion Waiters and the No. 1 pick plus filler is better than anything the Wolves will get from Boston or the Lakers. But then, Love could just be being polite to Cleveland.
The more important element here again, though, is that we're far along that Love's no longer adamantly saying he's coming back. That doesn't mean that Flip Saunders won't convince him to stay for another year, or that the Wolves won't just refuse to trade him. But it does mean that if you were a Timberwolves fan holding out hope that this was going to change and your favorite player was going to stay with your team, you had better get past that idea.
This no longer seems like a possibility. It seems like an inevitability.