Divorces are always nasty, even when they are necessary.
Kevin Love has been largely quiet even as everyone knew he wanted out of Minnesota or that his talent needed to escape the wasteland that has become the Timberwolves — no Playoff appearances in the last decade speaks for itself. It was time for both the player and the franchise to move in a new direction as Love was close to becoming a free agent.
The Timberwolves pounced on the absolute best opportunity they could to rebuild their franchise. The Magic, the Nuggets and the Jazz did not get quite the haul as the Wolves did, although they each got something of what they wanted without getting instant star power in trading their star players.
Minnesota could not have asked for a better situation in landing the most anticipated top overall pick in the league in quite some time in Andrew Wiggins thanks to LeBron James suddenly returning to Cleveland in free agency (and the Cavaliers improbably winning the right to take Wiggins with such a slim chance in the Lottery).
The parting seemed pretty mutual. But Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor still had some choice words for Kevin Love. Do not let the door hit you on the way out. . . (h/t Derek Wetmore 1500ESPN.com):
“I think Kevin, his offensive skills got better than I think we estimated. The only thing that I still have a question mark about will be his health. I had that concern then, I still have that concern and I think Cleveland should have that concern, too. If they sign him to a five-year contract like they’re thinking about, I mean that’s a big contract in a guy that’s had sometimes where he’s missed games.
“I question Kevin if this is going to be the best deal for him because I think he’s going to be the third player on a team. I don’t think he’s going to get a lot of credit if they do really well. I think he’ll get the blame if they don’t do well. He’s going to have to learn to handle that.
“I think he’s around a couple guys are awful good. Now I’m not saying that Kevin’s not good, but I think where maybe he got away with some stuff, not playing defense on our team, I’m not sure how that’s going to work in Cleveland. So I would guess they’re going to ask him to play more defense. And he’s foul-prone.”
A lot to take apart there in the complicated history between the Timberwolves and Love.
First, the whole consternation of Love leaving was set off when the Timberwolves inexplicably refused to offer the superstar Love a full max contract. He is only one of the most dynamic and versatile power forwards in the league, one of its top rebounders and an ace 3-point shooter. Many would say he is among the 10 best players in the league already. And, yet, he has zero Playoff appearances.
You could understand if Love got frustrated and desired to leave.
The plain fact, moving onto Taylor’s second point that the Cavaliers will not be a good situation for him, is Love had to carry an unfair burden. He averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. He had an astounding 29.5 percent defensive rebound rate last year even as he offensively started creeping more toward the 3-point line. Love is a truly unique talent.
His usage rate last year though stood at 28.8 percent. It has been around 29 percent for each of the last three seasons. The Wolves rely heavily on Love to do everything offensively. His defense suffered because of it. He just had too much to do offensively.
That is not to say Love should not be better at that end. But it has never been his focus.
In Cleveland, Love will obviously have the ball in his hands less with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James also on the floor with him. He, like Irving, will have to learn how to stay involved offensively without the ball. Love can certainly do that as a spot up shooter and pick-and-roll player. His post ups could very well go down. He will be relied on defensively to rebound too as both Irving and Love will have to increase their defensive intensity to contend for a title.
To call him foul-prone is a bit disingenuous. Love has fouled out of just one game in his entire career . . . in 2009, his rookie year. Love is certainly not foul-prone. Injury-prone? Yes. Love has dealt with a variety of injuries throughout his career (including a hard-luck year in 2013 when he broke his hand and missed all but 18 games).
Love might have summed up the feelings best in his response to his former boss [h/t David Zavac of Fear the Sword]:
“I think emotions are definitely running high right now,” Love told “Mike & Mike.” “For Glen to say that, I just think that he should be focusing on the players that he just received. I mean, he has two of the No. 1 picks in the last two drafts: Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. He has another guy who can really play in Thaddeus Young.”