Partly because general manager David Kahn and the organization actually believe Love isn’t a superstar because he hasn’t led his team to the playoffs, but mostly because there seems to be a mutual animosity that exists between either party.
Love has publicly criticized and questioned his future with the organization, a byproduct of the franchise’s seeming doubt in him and his abilities. And the tenuous nature of this pairing has only been perpetuated courtesy of Love’s losing battle with a hand injury.
The power forward has appeared in just 18 games this season, a span in which Minnesota is 9-9. That the team is .500 with Love in the lineup is fitting, because the ambiguous nature of such a record accurately reflects the ambivalence of Love’s standing in Minnesota.
Lost in all the hoopla and speculation, though, is the fact that the Timberwolves and Love need each other. Minnesota needs a player of his caliber to build around while Love needs to prove exactly what Kahn has publicly attempted to disprove.
Such give-and-take is hardly indicative of the union between Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks or even Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics. These are relationships built on simultaneous commitment and faith in one another; a belief that each party will do right by the other.
In Minnesota, this type of public discourse is nowhere to be found. Instead, we’ve been subject to what appears to be an internal chess match, the Timberwolves slighting Love in hopes of downplaying his importance and Love threatening to move on as soon as he can. For what seems like far too long, it has been Love vs. Minnesota, not Love and Minnesota against the world.
But, as is the case with everything in the NBA, nothing is as it seems. At least on Love’s part.
Per Joan Niesen of Fox Sports North, Love remains devoted bordering on content with his role, with his standing in Minnesota:
“I just think that they need to realize that I love being here,” Love said. “I don’t know where the misconception came along, but I love this team. I love this organization, and somewhere along the line it went the other way. I think that wholeheartedly they need to realize that I do want to be here.”
After signing a four-year, $60-plus million extension with the Timberwolves last year, that Love’s desire to be in Minny is even a question is unsettling. Yet unlike most franchise cornerstones, his tenure is one marked by intrinsic doubt. The Timberwolves have doubted their ability to build around him, while he has doubted Minnesota’s ability to win at all.
To that end, you can at least see this team and player share a common goal—winning. Which is a start. But that “start” is all they have; Love hasn’t been on the court long enough to help build upon it.
Without results, concessions on someone’s behalf is going to have to be made. Either Love must welcome the opportunity to prove himself to his own team, or the Timberwolves must fully commit to a player they just don’t seem entirely sure about.
Love’s comments imply the former. His attempt to downplay his purported unhappiness is not to be misconceived as a response to an initial misconception, rather it is a readied admittance of his continued commitment to Minnesota, and his willingness to try and prove what it doesn’t know.
Perhaps watching the deteriorating relationship between Dwight Howard and the Lakers has changed Love. Maybe witnessing the dealings between Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks—as similar a situation as there is—has opened Love’s mind to the idea that he still has something to prove. Maybe his time on the bench left him humbled, and therefore, more accepting of criticism.
Whatever the reason, Love and the Timberwolves have finally seemed to reach the mutual understanding that has eluded them.
“Winning solves that,” Love had said.
Winning solves everything, actually.
A view that Kahn, Love and the Timberwolves as a collective all seem to share.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.