The Kevin Love era in Minnesota appears to be over. Glen Taylor, Timberwolves owner, has conceded that the player he drafted in 2008 has probably played his last game in Minnesota. If that is indeed true then Kevin Love will follow the example of Kevin Garnett. He will leave one conference and join another.
While a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves Kevin Garnett was in the playoffs eight years in a row. He was the league MVP in 2003-04. He won Defensive Player of the Year. He was a NBA All-Defensive team selection 9 years in a row. He was an All-NBA selection 6 years in a row. He carried his team even as all the pressure to excel was thrust upon him. He stayed in Minnesota through the ups and downs of 12 seasons, through 6 head coaches, through the death of his best friend and seven straight first round playoff losses and a Western Conference Finals appearance.
Kevin Love has never been in the playoffs. He has never led his team anywhere but home in April. Up to this point in his career he has had to be satisfied with All-Star selections and an Olympic gold medal. He has never been on the NBA All-Defensive team. He has been on the All-NBA team twice. His tenure in Minnesota has lasted 6 years, half the time of Garnett.
Not possessing the loyalty of his Timberwolf predecessor, Kevin Love’s playoff misery may be finally coming to an end if he joins Lebron James in Cleveland as expected. According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the Timberwolves and the Cavs have a handshake agreement to trade Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota for Kevin Love, possibly with a third team involved like the Philadelphia 76ers who have been trying to move Thaddeus Young (expiring contract) all summer. The 76ers would acquire Anthony Bennett (last year’s #1 pick and early disaster) and the Wolves would get Thadddeus Young as a Kevin Love replacement.
But it is the Cavs who are writing something in pencil not ink and you wonder if they know it, know they are walking on eggshells even as they exude false confidence. After all they are the buyers, the anxious ones who can’t control the process and, well, they are the Cavs; things are known to blow up in their faces. They can’t be 100% sure if Minnesota, with time on its hands, has something else in play. Or if the deal will all fall apart. Or if the Timberwolves will get a better offer in the interim. Or if the Wolves will back out at the last minute. Such things have happened before.
In 1986 Dr. Buss was close to trading James Worthy and Byron Scott to the Dallas Mavericks; the paperwork was the last thing that had to be completed bringing Mark Aguirre and Dallas’ 7thpick in the draft, Roy Tarpley, to the Lakers. But Jerry West threatened to quit if Dr. Buss followed through. The deal was shelved. In the aftermath all Roy Tarpley did was become consumed with substance abuse, earn a ban from the NBA for life because of it and resume an up and down career in Europe. He later sued the NBA for his lifetime ban and the case was settled out of court. Mark Aguirre was eventually traded to the Pistons where he won two NBA titles coming off the bench; his Detroit years were his least productive. Meanwhile, James Worthy remained a Laker for the rest of his career, winning two more titles to punctuate his Hall of Fame career.
In 1994, after Michael Jordan’s abrupt retirement announcement, Bulls general manager Jerry Krause was desperate and tried to trade Scottie Pippen for Shawn Kemp of Seattle. Krause would have also gotten wing player Ricky Pierce in the deal as well as a draft pick. It was Seattle’s owner, Barry Ackerly, who backed out of the deal fearful of what the fan reaction would be to moving Kemp who was a dynamic athlete with a growing popularity.
And then in 1997 Krause was at it again, this time desperately seeking Tracy McGrady. He was willing to send Scottie Pippen to the Vancouver Grizzlies for their pick in the draft, #4. The Bulls then would have drafted McGrady. But His Airness, Michael Jordan, found out about the trade and he threatened to retire on the spot and sink the Bulls into basketball purgatory two years before he actually did retire and accomplish the same thing. Krause backed off.
As long as deals are made by humans and as long as humans are ruled by emotions and not logic- well anything is possible. All that is factual is the calendar: 19 days and counting before a Love/Wiggins deal can happen. Will it though? The NBA landscape is one built on both sand and rock, slippery when you least expect it, steady when you stand still and do nothing.
Besides, Glen Taylor has been here before. In the Garnett trade of 2007 he got Al Jefferson who was then traded to Utah three years later. He acquired Gerald Green who demanded a trade after he was banished to the bench. He received Sebastian Telfair who he traded to Donald Sterling. He acquired Ryan Gomes whose NBA career is probably finished. He received Theo Ratliff, a serviceable center who is now retired. Of their (2) first round picks in 2009 the Timberwolves took Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio. Jonny Flynn is not in the NBA. Ricky Rubio has shown flashes but has not put it all together.
Of course the Cavs know all of this. But they can’t do much more than they already have done, credit them for that. They have a deal in place so now it is just sit back and wait time. While crossing their fingers. And holding their breath. Because the Timberwolves are good at this sort of thing, really they are. They excel at giving players away and getting nothing in return.