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Despite the recent news that Minnesota Timberwolves President of basketball operations Flip Saunders has made the decision to summon himself and coach the team next season, he needs to address the No. 42-wearing elephant in the room. Kevin Love has already made up his mind and Saunders’ decision will not change the fact that he is as good as gone. The sooner Saunders can accept that, the better off this franchise will be. Solving the coaching issue was priority number one for the Timberwolves, and Saunders will make fans happy by dialing back the clock to this franchise’s glory days. However, the onus now shifts back to Kevin Love.
It is troubling that Saunders still thinks he can convince Love to stay in Minneapolis. He has stated openly he will be opting out after this upcoming season and has no interest in re-signing with the Timberwolves, and it is very courteous of him to let that be known ahead of time so the front office can act accordingly. Sources have already indicated to ESPN that this move of Saunders hiring himself as coach will have no impact on his decision, and it is unlikely that he will be able to make any titanic splash in the draft or free agency to change his mind either. Kevin Love has got to go, and Saunders is delusional for thinking otherwise.
Rumors are spreading like wildfire, so everything is to be taken with a grain of salt. Logic says that Love has to be dealt, and it is likely that Saunders knows that. As teams continue to line up out the door for his services, the offers will continue to grow leading up to the NBA Draft. Love was recently spotted in Boston hanging out with Rajon Rondo and some New England Patriots players, further contributing to the whirlwind of rumors.
What Saunders moving down from the front office to coach team indicates is that he is not all that interested in rebuilding. Whether or not Kevin Love is in town, he intends on forging on and continuing to build a great team. That could mean that he will look harder at teams offering proven players and high-upside young talent as opposed to draft picks, because there are still strong pieces in place on the current roster such as Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad. A change in style and some differing pieces could conceivably make the Wolves better without Love, a la the Denver Nuggets immediately following their trade of Carmelo Anthony. It is also not as if the Timberwolves can suffer much without Kevin Love, as they have the league’s longest playoff drought and even in a season where mostly everyone stayed healthy, they proved they couldn’t get it done.
Saunders has to come to terms with the inevitable Kevin Love trade, if he has not already. Fans need not worry because Love’s value is sky high and it can’t possibly sting as much if he leaves since Love has been unable to get this team to the playoffs anyway. It is not outrageous to think that a motivated Saunders could provide the kick in the butt this team needed after playing last year under a visibly and understandably checked-out Rick Adelman. The Timberwolves also could greatly improve strictly by playing better defense and collecting more athletes to bring out the best in Ricky Rubio, which fans saw on a more consistent basis when he was running fast breaks with NBA also-rans like Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Derrick Williams and Anthony Randolph.
While fans rejoice the rehiring of Saunders as coach, it provides a nice little diversion from the Love saga. The day is going to come when Love inevitably gets shipped out of town, but as that day gets closer it will be more comforting to know that the franchise is in good hands with Saunders. He is going to think long and hard about what he has to do and make sure he brings in the proper pieces without shipping out his superstar for cents on the dollar.
Commentary by Justin Hussong
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer