For followers of the Timberwolves, there is a point in the future that is fixated in the back corner of the mind: repressed, but never forgotten. As the Timberwolves prepare for another offseason and begin their search for the ideal compliment to Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and Nikola Pekovic, fans begin forming trade scenarios and free agency talk begins in earnest.
But behind all the talk, one thought remains: three more years.
When David Kahn signed Kevin Love to a four-year maximum deal, the contract included a player option after three years, meaning that in the summer of 2015, Love can choose: play another year at maximum money for Minnesota or test the waters of free agency. Not so conveniently for the Wolves, Ricky Rubio’s rookie contract is up at the same time, meaning he too will be a free agent that summer.
To make a long story short, the Wolves have three more years to convince Kevin Love that they are a franchise worth sticking around for. Next season will be the first of the three year window.
Several factors may be involved in Love’s decision. The new restrictions on other teams chasing high profile free agents will make it more difficult for a larger market to steal Love from the Timberwolves. But undoubtedly, Minnesota’s success on the court in the next two years will play a huge role in Love’s decision, which is why this offseason is so crucial.
The Wolves need more than a flashy signing; they need one that will help them continue to turn their franchise around. And they need to accomplish this turnaround as soon as possible.
Minnesota isn’t exactly getting a lot of help from their original franchise player. When LeBron James was considering his free agent options in 2010, Kevin Garnett had some advice for him.
“Loyalty is something that hurts you at times, because you can’t get youth back,” Garnett said. “I can honestly say that if I could go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know now with this organization, I’d have done it a little sooner.”
Not a ringing endorsement for Love’s future in Minneapolis. He still has his youth.
Garnett, eventually fed up with continually missing the playoffs with the Wolves and desperate for a chance to contend again, finally requested a trade. It seems he would advise Kevin Love to do the same.
The part that really turns the stomachs of Minnesota’s long suffering fans is that Love actually wanted a five year deal. But the Wolves were offering him four years, presumably to leave room for a Rubio contract, and without knowing what the new CBA would look like, Love took the safe money. Wolves fans now have to hope that Love’s displeasure with the negotiations doesn’t last until 2014.
A winning season and a playoff appearance would go a long way toward convincing Love that the Wolves have a bright future, and that if he stays, he will be a part of a franchise that is committed to winning.
Otherwise, Garnett’s latest quote on the state of the Timberwolves franchise might be most poignant Minnesota’s fans: “It’s always special to come back to true fans…But as far as that franchise, I have nothing positive to say.”