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Why Kevin Love can't publicly demand a trade

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In case you're wondering, Kevin Love can't come out and say he wants out of Minnesota. That's why we keep having these awkward star exits.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

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Kevin Love's weekend expedition to Boston to see the city (wink wink) has many in Minnesota frustrated. In response to the weekend flirting, Chip Scoggings of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune makes a point that surely many others are also making: If Kevin Love wants to leave the Timberwolves so badly, why not just say it already?

Love's silence speaks volumes, though. He's done nothing to knock down reports and rumors about his desire to leave. Instead, he's allowed the fire to rage, quietly watching from afar, surfacing long enough for everyone to see him having a ball in Boston.

He seemingly wants it both ways. He reportedly wants out of here, but he doesn't want to request a trade and use the kind of strong-armed tactics that earned Dwight Howard scorn in Orlando. As if this passive-aggressive approach is going to make fans feel better, or less angry.

There's a reason why Love hasn't, though: it's illegal to publicly demand a trade. The NBA's constitution authorizes the commissioner to fine or suspend any player up to $50,000 for conduct that is "detrimental to the Association." That has been the justification used in the past to fine players or their agents for publicly demanding a trade before their contract is up.

The rule has not always been perfectly enforced. As noted, Howard was more outspoken about leaving Orlando, though most of that maneuvering came in the form of behind-the-scenes leaks rather than any specific Howard public comments. But the Magic granted him permission to seek trades elsewhere, which is something the Timberwolves have yet to do with Love. From all indications, Love is strong-arming the Timberwolves behind the scenes.

Of course, Love could publicly deny that he wants out. That might assuage Minnesotan fears now, but those comments will only look worse if and when he is dealt. He'd run the risk of lying and turning himself into even more of a pariah locally.

Thus, if Love truly wants out -- and all indications say that he does and that he's informed the Timberwolves in advance that he won't re-sign after next year -- it does him no good to speak up. Either he risks a fine or he says something he doesn't mean that can be used against him later. The best way to handle the situation is to inform the Timberwolves of his plans not to re-sign privately and then let the process play out. That's what he's doing, even if a weekend vacation to the same city as one of the many Love Affair suitors raises eyebrows.

This is the side effect of the anti-trade demand enforcement. By and large, it's a good rule: you wouldn't want every player frustrated with their current situation to proclaim that they'd rather be somewhere else. But when a star makes it clear he wants to be elsewhere when his contract expires, it requires him to tap-dance around the issue instead of addressing it head on. It's the same reason we had Melodrama and Dwightmare.

Don't blame Love for that. Blame the system.