Basketball / Sports

He's gone: Kevin Love traded by Wolves to Cleveland

Seven years later, the Timberwolves on Saturday morning once again traded away an All-Star named Kevin.

Yes, finally.

This time around, it was the guy named Kevin Love, their unhappy three-time All-Star who officially was sent to Cleveland in a three-way trade that also included Philadelphia.

Long after the team traded former league MVP Kevin Garnett to Boston in 2007, the Wolves completed a trade that has been expected for weeks but couldn't be finalized until Saturday because of NBA salary-cap rules.

The Wolves received No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins and 2013 No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett from the Cavaliers, and veteran forward Thaddeus Young from the Sixers while sending Love to Cleveland and Luc Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved to Philadelphia along with a 2015 top-10 protected first-round draft pick they're getting from the Cavs.

The trade's announcement was delayed until Saturday because an NBA rookie can't be traded for 30 days after he signs a contract. The Wolves and Cavaliers needed Wiggins signed because his $5.5 million salary helped financially balance under those salary-cap rules a trade that sends Love and his whopping $15.7 million salary away.

Love was traded away before he could opt out of his current contract next summer and leave the Wolves without any compensation in return.

Love received that opt-out clause when he reluctantly accepted a four-year, $61-plus million contract extension in January 2012 instead of a maximum five-year, $80-plus million "designated player" deal he sought.

Wolves owner Glen Taylor and then-president of basketball operations David Kahn held firm, offering Love only the four-year contract because they presumably believed the NBA's new supposedly restrictive labor agreement -- hammered out two months early after a two-month player lockout -- would allow the team to guarantee Love more money on his next contract extension than any other team.

It also kept the Wolves' option open to offer that one singular designated-player contract allowed each team to promising young point guard Ricky Rubio. The Wolves, in theory, could then sign Love to a five-year extension in 2015 or 2016 while keeping Rubio long term with a five-year deal as well.

That was all in theory, of course.

When Love was presented by Kahn with the offer in the team's Target Center training room late after a game one day, he inevitably crumpled it up and called it, well, no good.

Two days later, Love accepted the offer that included the chance to get out of his contract after just three seasons, in July 2015.

On the day Love signed, his brother Collin tweeted that the Wolves had just rented their best player for the next three years, implying his future in Minnesota was limited.

Turns out, the Wolves had rented Love for just the next two seasons.

They were forced to trade him Saturday when Love's representatives made it clear to team executives in recent months that he planned to opt out of his contract next summer and sign with another team.

He presumably was willing to do so even if it meant forgoing a fifth year and an extra $26.5 million that only the Wolves could have paid him.

Love likely forced his way to Cleveland -- where he will play alongside superstar LeBron James and pal Kyrie Irving -- both because of that contract snub he never quite fully put behind him and because he lost faith in the franchise's ability to build a winning team around him.

Selected fifth overall by Memphis and acquired by the Wolves in a 2008 draft-night trade, Love played six seasons for the Wolves. In that time, established himself as the NBA's best rebounder and most feared outlet passer but never reached the playoffs with a team that for years failed at nearly every turn to put equal talent beside him.

He transformed himself from a pudgy undersized rookie at his position whom Wolves coach Randy Wittman implored not to shoot three-point shots into a chiseled three-time All Star who is now the NBA's best "stretch" power forward.

Written off by some critics early in his career, Love now -- just days shy of his 26th birthday -- is also the league's most unique big man, a relentless inside presence who shoots three-pointers like a guard.

Love missed the start of his second season because of a broken hand and played just 18 games during the 2012-13 season after he broke that same hand not once but twice. The first time, he said he did so while doing knuckle pushups during a workout on his own during preseason in October 2012.

He returned healthy last season and in 77 games averaged 26.1 points while shooting 37.5 percent from three-point range and 12.5 rebounds.

Love refused to address his future repeatedly last season, saying only "I want to win" wherever he plays in coming seasons.

But it became increasingly obvious as the weeks after last season turned to months that Love wanted out of Minnesota. A very-public weekend visit to Boston -- one of several teams that sought to trade for him -- in May seemed to announce his intentions even if he never publicly asked to be traded.

Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders preferred a trade that would have brought young but established NBA players in return. He approached a deal with Golden State that would have brought Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and David Lee to Minnesota but the Warriors pulled Thompson from the package when advisor Jerry West advised Golden State owner Joe Lacob not to trade Thompson.

The Cavaliers seriously joined the pursuit after James declared himself a free agent and returned home to Ohio and Cleveland earlier this summer, despite their early public protests that they wouldn't trade Wiggins.

Now Love joins a Cavaliers team poised to contend for an NBA title.

The Wolves, in return, receive in Wiggins and Bennett the No. 1 overall picks chosen in the last two NBA drafts and in Young a seven-year veteran who's just 26 years old.

Wiggins and rookie guard Zach LaVine, the team's own first-round pick this summer, give the Wolves two athletic 19-year-olds who each can vertically leap 44 inches or higher from basically a standing start.

Young gives them a proven player -- if undersized -- who can start at Love's power-forward position.

(c)2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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