Last season to the surprise of many folks around the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves were indeed able to come to terms with franchise cornerstone Kevin Love on a 4-year maximum contract extension, despite the team’s ability to offer Love a five-year deal. Love and his agent “reluctantly” agreed to the shortened contract offer, and K-Love was certainly peeved off at the organization for not dishing him the maximum possible offer. Ia an interview provided by the Associated Press, Love elaborated on his frustrations with last winters’ negotiations:
“That’s because I wanted to be here,” Love said, slapping his hand on the arm of a chair to stress the point. “I wanted them to say, ‘When people think Minnesota Timberwolves, they think Kevin Love.’ And I felt with my contract we didn’t really do that.”
Owner Glen Taylor and president of basketball operations David Kahn wanted to keep maximum flexibility with the payroll. So they were hesitant to offer the five-year maximum to Love or any other player, for that matter.
“There’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes that people didn’t know about and they will never know about,” Love said. “A lot of people looked at me and said, ‘Oh, he doesn’t want a four-year deal?’ No. I wanted to be the guy. I wanted to be THEIR guy. The fact that I worked as hard as I possibly could and made my mark in many different ways, even after last season, I felt I was a little bit slighted. At this point I’m past that now.”
Despite stating that he is past the whole situation, it is clear that Love will be playing with a chip on his shoulder from this point on. Perhaps an angry Love isn’t the worst thing in the world (as long as Luis Scola isn’t around), given that it will probably only make him play harder in attempt to prove the entire upper management and ownership that they made a mistake by not signing him to a 5-year deal.
I was one of few who completely supported signing Love to a four-year deal as opposed to the five-year maximum, as it can be argued that saving the 5-year deal for Ricky was a better course of action. At the time of Love’s contract negotiations, Rubio was at the peak of his tremendous – although shortened – rookie campaign and with a long-term perspective in mind, by maintaining the flexibility of being able to potentially offer Tricky Ricky a 5-year deal the Timberwolves would be in the best shape to truly have sustained success in the coming years.
I am as big of a Kevin Love fan as anyone, but it was extremely clear this season who the most important player to the team was in terms of winning games. With Rubio on the floor, the Timberpups wer 21-20 and possessed the number 8 seed in the Western conference. After La Pistola went down with the dreaded ACL tear, the Pups finished the season 5-20. Now, K-Love ended up missing time with injury as well as Pekovic, Ridnour, and Barea, but the impact of having Rubio on the floor as opposed to after he went down was night and day. Rubio’s elite defense and incredible passing proved to be worth all the hype he had been criticized for the previous two years, and he returned optimism and confidence back to Minnesota Timberwolves fans. The intangibles he brings to the floor night-in and night-out proved to be the missing piece to David Kahn’s puzzle he has been trying to solve. It’s no secret that Rubio either used to or still prefers the big-city life and could potentially look at New York, Boston, or LA when it comes time for free agency, but now the Timberwolves have an upper edge on their upcoming competition in free agency: they can offer Rubio a five-year maximum deal while the rest can only offer a 4-year deal. Locking up Rubio with Love already under contract could cement a dominant future point guard-power forward combination for many years to come.