Wednesday, Bill Simmons released a mailbag on Grantland containing a passage that would get most Celtics fans drooling like my dog being offered a bone.
Let’s say the Celtics lose the 2014 lottery and end up with a pick between no. 3 and no. 5. They could send that pick to Minny along with Atlanta’s first-rounder (probably ending up in the 13-to-18 range) and their 2015 Clippers pick for Love. And they could throw in Brandon Bass and Keith Bogans’s immediately waivable deal to make the contracts work.
The big picture: If Love is loyal to a fault, he’ll stay in Minnesota. If he wants to jump to the Lakers, he should wait a year, anyway. If he wants to play in a big market and contend for a title, Chicago makes sense … unless he thinks Derrick Rose will never be the same. But if this were a poker table, the Celtics would have the biggest stack of chips right now. If any current NBA player appreciates stuff like “Celtic Pride,” “That’s a great organization that looks out for its dudes” and “wearing the same jersey that Russell and Bird wore,” it’s Kevin Love.
My best guess: I think Love rides it out in Minnesota, then jumps to the Lakers in 2015. But I wouldn’t rule out the Celtics. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
This is too juicy to go undiscussed. I also write for a Timberwolves-centric blog called Howlin’ T-Wolf, so I emailed one of my co-workers at HTW, Derek James. Derek is a Minnesota native who also contributes to the True Hoop site Hardwood Paroxysm. He and I discussed Kevin Love and whether the Celtics have the pieces to make a Love deal work. Here’s part 1 of our discussion:
Tom Westerholm: Derek, you and I have grimaced all season at the awful trade scenarios people seem to think are respectable returns for Kevin Love, but the fact remains that all of the smoke seems to be suggesting Love is out of Minnesota, and although Love isn’t really adding any public fire to the smoke, one would have to be a little delusional to assume none is there. Let’s start here, with a question that has been hashed and re-hashed to death: What do you think the realistic chances are that Love stays in Minnesota with his next contract?
Derek James: Well, here’s the thing: Love hasn’t done anything to quell those public fires other than make milquetoast type comments about how he likes it in Minnesota (He may not not like it, but other places may be higher on his list) or how the Timberwolves have a better team than the team with the worst record in the West (Duh). I’m not too optimistic. Optimists point to LaMarcus Aldridge and the Blazers mending fences, but that feels more like the exception than the rule. On top of that, my general belief is that if you can’t make it work after eight years, which is the amount of time Love will have been in Minnesota after his current deal expires, it may be time to move on anyway.
I truly believe that Love wants to be successful no matter where he goes, and at one time that may really have been Minnesota, but looking at the evidence, I don’t see how they’ve built enough confidence in Love that Minnesota is the best place for him to do that. Sure, they’ve improved steadily, but speaking as a fellow 25-year old, I know it’s not easy to see your peers more successful than you while knowing there is something that you could be doing about it. I know the Timberwolves have improved over the years and will come very close to hitting 40 wins but will still likely miss the playoffs with the hole they’ve dug themselves in the West. The other side of this is making money in an exciting city, and as a lifelong Minnesotan, I understand that being elsewhere.
If it weren’t for years of ineptitude in the draft from the Kahn era that has left the roster void of the same affordable young help that other teams in the Timberwolves’ position enjoy, the Timberwolves may get there in a year. Or they get there in two and it would be too little, too late for the Kevin Love era in Minnesota. There may be too much damage done from the Kahn era (Ex: benched in favor of Ryan Hollins, denied the five-year max even though he asked for it…etc.) that the Timberwolves will have to either stand and play the odds or cut and run while teams have assets stockpiled.
Why, Tom?! Why do you do this to me??
TW: It’s mostly because I’m a sadist, and I apologize for that fact (although I think apologizing rules me out of actual sadism). Anyway.
I agree with all of that, and I think the saddest part for Minnesota is how clearly the evidence points to him moving on. You and I remember very well the press conference in which Love looked like someone had just kicked his dog after he signed that four-year extension…it didn’t look like someone who would be with the team for long.
Knowing this, let’s talk about how the Wolves should proceed. If it’s fair to say that all the signs point toward Love leaving, it’s also fair to say that the Wolves should probably deal him. In Simmons’ article, he essentially presented two realistic possibilities: The Lakers (who make sense from Love’s perspective) and the Celtics (who have trade chips on trade chips and probably make the most sense for the Timberwolves).
Say you had Flip Saunders’ ear. What would you tell him to demand from the Celtics in exchange for Kevin Love?
DJ: I’m pretty sure it does, too. Carrying on now.
It really does, and it seems the Timberwolves are willing to do anything short of moving Love himself in order to keep number 42 for the time being. You talk about that press conference, and I do remember it, and I know that I would be so disappointed in that situation and probably feel a little spurned as well. If there are any residual negative feelings towards the organization just by association, I wouldn’t blame him.
As far as Simmons’ idea goes, I was just fine with opening the conversation up about Love although I don’t love the scenario. I believe he mentioned Brandon Bass and MarShon Brooks and a bevy of picks, but that didn’t do much for me. I’m not sure Love would be going to any better of a situation if the Celtics included Rajon Rondo in the deal, because if I’m Kevin Love, that’s not enough for me to work with and I’m back in the same situation I was before. Only in green. But there has something to be said for Love being a big NBA history aficionado and the lore of Celtics history; that makes sense to me.
If I were the Timberwolves, I’d probably ask for Jared Sullinger to be included as well as at least the Celtics’ own first round pick this year. I know Ainge may not want to part with his own first this year and future firsts, but you are talking about the best power forward in the game and a top player. He’s certainly worth it. I just don’t know if there’s enough here with Sullinger and picks, because you know how I feel about draft picks. They’re like magic beans, unquantifiable, intangible goods, really. And with the way the Timberwolves have drafted in the past, there’s really no guarantee that they could come close to that value alone.
PART 2 of the discussion coming later today.
Follow Derek on Twitter: @DerekJamesNBA
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.