Love says he’s happy with Wolves’ direction
MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Love didn’t apologize. He didn’t make excuses or suggest his words were taken out of context.
What the Minnesota Timberwolves power forward did do on Wednesday in the wake of some harsh words toward the organization was offer some balance to the idea of him as another unhappy star in a small market seemingly destined to move on to bigger and better things.
Love met with the media on Wednesday morning before the Wolves were scheduled to host the Denver Nuggets to address comments he made to Yahoo! Sports that were critical of Timberwolves leadership. In it, he complained about getting a four-year deal instead of the maximum five-year contract extension last January, called into question the plan that team president David Kahn has for building around him and even seemed to hint at a perception that the organization was favoring Ricky Rubio over him in the team’s long-term plan.
Love stood by his complaints about his contract and his criticism of Kahn on Wednesday, but also said that he’s happy with the direction of the franchise and hopeful he will be here for a long time.
“I’m not going to fall back and say I didn’t mean the things that I said,” Love said. “I do believe this is the closest-knit team that we have, the coaching staff has been great and we have a chance to make something very special this year and for years to come.”
Love can opt out of his deal in two years, putting more pressure on the organization to help get him to the playoffs for the first time in his career. He said he had no regrets or apologies for making the critical remarks, but he does wish that he would have aired them internally and not in a public setting.
He also said he still sees the possibility of a bright, and long, future for him with the Wolves.
“I’d love to end my career as a Timberwolf,” he said.
Love’s displeasure with his contract has been no secret, practically from the moment he signed it. He wanted the five-year deal and the validation that it brings. But the Wolves can only offer one of their drafted players a five-year deal during the life of the current collective bargaining agreement. There is speculation that they are saving that for Rubio, though Kahn has said that he would prefer not to give that deal to anyone on the roster so the team can have as much salary cap flexibility as possible.
Love has heard the whispers about Rubio getting the five-year deal, and he told Yahoo that “it was a projection over a sure thing. There’s no question there was an agenda here. A different agenda.”
Love and Rubio are close friends, and when asked about it on Wednesday, he continued to heap praise on the point guard who is due to come back from a torn ACL in his left knee any day now.
“I never have a problem with anybody getting paid,” Love said. “If there’s one other guy to pay on this team it’s Ricky Rubio. I’ve kind of been enamored with him since he got here. He’s a pass-first point guard, a guy I haven’t really played with before.
“I’m not going to pick favorites but he’s one of my favorite teammates and one of the best guys to be around. And I’ve mentioned since Day 1 that it’s refreshing to be around him because he loves the game so much.”
As for his issues with Kahn’s roster upheaval the first three years on the job, Love said he was very pleased with the additions that have been made this year. Andrei Kirilenko, Dante Cunningham and Alexey Shved have made the Wolves deeper than they have been in years and also came partly at the behest of Love, who campaigned for more veterans to be added at the end of last season.
Love has always used perceived slights and doubts as fuel. He is constantly working on his game and his body to prove to anyone who thought otherwise that he can be an elite player in the NBA. He proved as much last year by averaging 26 points and 13.3 rebounds per game, then becoming one of the most important players on Team USA’s run to the gold medal in the London Olympics.
So in many ways, Love will never forget the contract issue. That’s what stars do. They search for motivation wherever they can find it.
“In some people’s mental makeup it’s just not in them,” he said of forgetting. “Just moving forward is the biggest thing. That’s the same thing I talked about with coach and with David yesterday. I just need to move forward and hopefully this thing won’t keep coming up. I’m done talking about it, really from here on out after today. I’m hoping we can just move on and winning will take care of everything.”