It's no secret that Kevin Love is not thrilled by his current situation with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He very reluctantly signed a four-year contract extension with a third-year opt-out because he was insulted by the way general manager David Kahn handled the negotiations. He has stated publicly that the team needs to reach the playoffs and do damage once they get there soon, or else he will go elsewhere.
Nevertheless, Love's recent comments to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski are jarring, if only for their timing. The Timberwolves have hung in there despite some major injuries, and Love himself is now healthy and playing. Still, his anger toward the organization has only gotten stronger. In the story, Love repeated many of the same points he has made before, but he also accused the organization of privately questioning the severity of the broken hand that cost him the first month of the season.
"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."
Love suffered the injury while attempting knuckle pushups in training camp. He was expected to miss six weeks, but returned in a month. He has struggled to reintegrate himself to the team, though his play has improved more recently.
Reading between the lines, it appears the perceived disrespect the organization showed during Love's injury rehabilitation reopened old wounds and convinced him to speak out. I say perceived because we've only heard Love's side of the story here. Kahn is not quoted in Wojnarowski's story, nor are any Timberwolves team sources. Whether it's a fact that the Timberwolves questioned the legitimacy of Love's injury is not clear.
However, in this case, perception is reality. The operative question is this: can the Timberwolves mend fences enough with Love's past distrust of the organization to convince him that he should stay once his opt-out comes around in two years? Whether the Timberwolves really did question Love's injury is less important than if Love thinks the Timberwolves questioned the legitimacy of his injury. That perception needs to be cleared up if the Timberwolves want to earn Love's trust. Toss in everything that has happened with the past, and we're getting closer to the point where the Timberwolves must choose between Love and every upper-management employee other than Rick Adelman.
Two things can fix this problem. One is winning, of course. If Ricky Rubio comes back and the Timberwolves begin to surge, Love will start to realize that he's unlikely to do any better in another uniform. The other, more radical change is that the Timberwolves could fire Kahn and bring in a new general manager that can start fresh with Love. However, even that might not work, especially if the Timberwolves continue to struggle. Love did say in Wojnarowski's piece that he thinks the organization is unstable, and a new GM will only add to that instability.
That leaves winning as the only trump card for the Timberwolves, just as it was in January when Love initially signed that contract extension. No pressure, guys.