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Wolves’ Saunders hesitant to talk about Love

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Wolves’ Saunders hesitant to talk about Love
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

By Andy Greder

St. Paul Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Flip Saunders said he talks to NBA teams from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day. That included Tuesday morning, when the Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations was on his way to speak with reporters.

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Three more calls came in, he said.

“It’s like when I throw those pellets out to the catfish,” Saunders said. “There is a feeding frenzy the closer they can see the pellets.”

As the NBA Draft approaches Thursday night, Saunders was asked if the lines out to other teams pertained to trades involving disillusioned star forward Kevin Love, who has reportedly had his fill of losing in Minnesota.

Saunders wouldn’t bite. The calls, he said, are “about our players.”

But no player on the roster matters more than Love, a special talent who averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds last season. And no person matters more to the franchise than Saunders, who will decide when and with whom to deal.

Love, who can opt out from his contract next July, has not told reporters he wants out but has also conspicuously avoided announcing he wants to stay.

Saunders’ options are no limited, but neither are they optimal. Does he trade his best player this summer, or coach him for one more unseemly season before moving him at the February trade deadline?

Both are preferable to losing him for nothing next summer as a free agent.

With that blood in the water, piranhas have begun to circle. Potential trade partners rising to the surface in recent weeks are Golden State, Boston, Denver and Chicago.

When asked Tuesday if he has spoken to Love recently, Saunders chose his words carefully.

“I talk to all of our players,” he said.

And that coyness set the template for Saunders’ answers to Love questions. Other teams, he said, “are the ones trying to make trades.”

Saunders knows he has the best asset — Love is a three-time all-star who, at 25, is entering his prime — and said he won’t be pressured into brokering a trade before the “artificial deadline” of draft night.

He also maintained the stance he’s had since he officially returned as coach on June 5: He is comfortable with the current roster, including Love.

“I don’t know about the prospects of us trading anybody by Thursday night,” Saunders said. “I feel comfortable with the guys that we have. If we can get something that makes our team better, we’ll do it. If we don’t, we’ll stay pat and move forward and enter into free agency on July 1.”

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas believes this could be the best draft class in the last decade. With that, Bilas believes the Wolves should leverage the best deal “with whatever assets you have.”

“If Kevin Love is indeed going to be moved, and you can package him with draft picks to move up, to get more picks or get more picks in another year, I think you do it,” Bilas said in a conference call Tuesday.

But as Wolves general manager Milt Newton said in May, if the team must trade Love, “You best believe that we will be a better team.”

If the Wolves were to move Love for a package heavy on draft picks from, say, Boston or Cleveland, they likely wouldn’t be better in the short term. The best player mentioned in trade rumors is Golden State off guard Klay Thompson, who helped the Warriors win 51 games last season. His father, former Gophers and Lakers star Mychal Thompson, let that one out of the bag last week.

So draft picks aren’t essential, if even coveted, and in that case, Thursday really is an article deadline.

“I think you sometimes have to be creative when you are a smaller market,” Bilas said. “You have to use some creativity, and I think Flip Saunders understands that.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

Bulls offering 4 players to Minnesota for Love

By Sports Xchange

Forward Taj Gibson and guard Tony Snell, former first-round picks of the Chicago Bulls, are part of the team’s offer to the Minnesota Timberwolves for All-Star Kevin Love.

According to reports, the Bulls would also include their pair of first-round picks in Thursday’s draft — 16th and 19th overall.

To sign Love to a long-term extension and complete the transaction, Chicago would need to use the amnesty provision in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement to terminate the contract of Carlos Boozer from the 2014-15 salary cap.

Love could stay in Minnesota until the All-Star break or beyond. The team holds his team option for 2014-15 and while Love said he wants to play for a contender, the Timberwolves are under no obligation to part with him at this juncture. It’s possible after talks broke down with the Golden State Warriors — who were willing to include shooting guard Klay Thompson — that the Timberwolves will hold onto Love and wait for a more desirable offer.

It’s also possible that deal will never arrive.

Denver contacted the Timberwolves last week hoping to entice them with forward Kenneth Faried and draft picks.

Another team prominent in the talks with the Wolves is the Boston Celtics. General manager Danny Ainge has two first-round picks and young assets including 2013 first-round pick Kelly Olynyk and former first-rounder Jared Sullinger.

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