Snapping Necks and Cashing Checks
...For everyone else still stunned over the Minnesota Timberwolves' owner and general manager downright daring the franchise's best player to leave for free agency in two years, Kevin Love promises to be a professional, promises All-Star performance and productivity. Over the organization's refusal to designate him as the cornerstone, though, there come no promises of forgiveness from Love. No assurance it won't chase him out the door and out of the franchise forever someday.
"I don't know who labels people stars, but even [T'wolves owner] Glen Taylor said: I don't think Kevin Love is a star, because he hasn't led us to the playoffs," Love told Yahoo! Sports. "I mean, it's not like I had much support out there.
"That's a tough pill to swallow."
No, Kevin Love isn't over Taylor and GM David Kahn refusing him what he had earned. He isn't over Kahn marching into the trainer's room after a loss and thrusting a contract offer sheet into his hands. Where else does it work that way in the NBA? "I'm not the one to always follow professional protocol – but I do know what it is, even at 24 years old," Love says.
Perhaps those issues wouldn't still be so raw had the franchise responded differently when Love broke his hand in a preseason workout. In a regimen he's done most of his life, Love fractured a bone thrusting himself to his feet upon completion of a round of knuckle pushups. He missed a month on the floor, but his ears missed nothing from those in management whispering that maybe the injury didn't happen the way Love insisted it did.
"Even people in my own organization were asking if it was a legitimate injury, people calling my honesty and integrity into question," Love says. "And that's what really hurt me."
Across a table in a downtown Philadelphia steak house recently, Love digs into a shrimp cocktail and considers the futility of the regime that passed judgment on his future, the power it holds over his championship aspirations. As much as Love believes strongly in the greatness of coach Rick Adelman, Kahn has offered no reason for faith in his own wayward vision.
"You walk into the locker room every year, and it's completely turned over," Love says. "There's new guys everywhere. And then it happens again and again. You start to wonder: Is there really a plan here? Is there really any kind of a … plan?"
Love doesn't want to sound "bitter over it," he says, because he understands that no one wants to hear him unhappy over a four-year, $62 million contract. In so many ways, the contract is beyond his wildest dreams. Yet the five-year, $80 million maximum designation the franchise could have given him represented the commitment he wanted to make to Minnesota, the way with which a first-team All-NBA player and Olympian should stand shoulder to shoulder with a city, an organization.