In an offseason without games to report on, every Wolves-related event that might affect the course of the future–whether in a small or large way–gets reported.
One event that might affect the Wolves’ decision of if, when, and where to trade Kevin Love is Love’s recent trip to Boston. Love reportedly went to Boston just to learn more about the place. From Jerry Z’s story:
“I’m here to just check out the city and see what it’s like,” when asked why he was in town.
When a Boston Globe reporter approached him Saturday afternoon at a Boston hotel, Love said, “I’m sorry man, I can’t do nothing, I can’t.” He was referring to his inability or unwillingness to talk publicly about the purpose of his visit.
(Eds. Note: I wonder if K-Love took the Freedom Trail tour that every other citizen-tourist who travels to Boston because he wants to learn more about the place ultimately takes. If so, he could’ve got a lot just from this Lonely Planet vid.)
Given all this, some issues emerge from Kevin Love’s little offseason getaway..
What was Love Doing in Boston?
So what was Kevin Love doing in Boston? Whether intentional or inadvertent–and it seems that nothing Kevin Love does is inadvertent–this has to be read, in some way, as a signal from Love that he’s looking toward a post-Wolves future.
Love can opt out of his current deal after next season and become a free agent. After having invested a bit in the Wolves’ forward-looking projects, like the team’s collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, Love now has an incentive to send the Wolves–and other teams–a signal about the teams he might be interested in joining. Visiting Boston, getting your picture taken with a kid wearing a Harvard sweatshirt, and talking cryptically to the media there suggests three possibilities:
- Kevin Love is genuinely interested in Boston
- Kevin Love might be interested in Boston, so he decided to go there and see the place for himself
- Kevin Love isn’t really very interested in Boston, but he’s interested in other teams believing he’s interested in Boston
Let’s walk these through:
Possibility One: Kevin Love is genuinely interested in Boston
If this is the case, then Love is sending a clear signal to the Wolves to think hard about trade negotiations with Boston. Essentially, it would be Love saying to the Wolves, “Hey, I’m interested in Boston, and I know you might be taking offers from other teams. Since I [in all likelihood] have veto power over any trade because no team is going to give you value unless I asset to signing a long-term deal with them, I’m telling you now to find out what you can get from Boston because it’s a locale I might consider, long-term.”
There would be some likely ripple effects from this move, including the following: (1) Flip Saunders is going to end up on the phone with Danny Ainge more than he’d previously expected to. There’s a chance Saunders ends up chatting with the Celtics on Love-related issues as Kevin McHale used to in order to stay abreast of the happenings of his former team; (2) Other teams that might be targeting Love start calling Flip earlier/more often than they’d expected to. They don’t want to lose out on Love because they weren’t proactive enough.
Possibility Two: Kevin Love might be interested in Boston, so he decided to go there and see the place for himself
If this is the case, it means Love is just doing basic recon. He knows there’s a possibility the Wolves might end up wanting to deal him to Boston–they have assets. Boston may not seem repugnant to Love, but he might be skeptical. Things worked out well there for former Timberwolf Kevin Garnett, maybe they could for Love, too? Still, Boston is in an uncertain place right now. They’ve traded or lost the core of the teams that were perennial competitors in the Eastern Conference. Instead of Garnett, Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo (not to mention Ray Allen), you’ve got Kelly Olynyk, Brad Stevens, Jeff Green, and Rajon Rondo (not to mention Avery Bradley). Rondo is the only piece that’s still in place. And Olynyk and Green are candidates to come back to the Wolves in a Celtics-Wolves trade involving Love.
If you’re Love, do you really want to be there? How would you know?
As a young NBA coach, Stephens is still building his reputation. He is still unproven at the NBA level, but is thought of a strong, agile, young coach. The team could look different, depending on how it uses the picks it got back when it traded Pierce and Garnett. A Rondo trade could also bring back different pieces. If you’re Love, a future in Boston might be bright. Then again, it might not.
In this case, you visit Boston and check the place out. No, you don’t have any (reported) contact with the Celtics. That’s off-limits.
But if you’re looking at spending the rest of your twenties and probably your early thirties in a place, don’t you at least want to see if this is a place you’d be interested in living in?
Possibility Three: Kevin Love really isn’t very interested in Boston, but he’s interested in other teams believing he is
In this situation, Love’s trip was a bluff. It’s a signal to the Wolves that he’s actively looking at other places, and perhaps more importantly, it’s also a signal to other teams that Boston is a player in the competition to get him. Love wants maximum control over any trade scenario. Thus, to avoid an awkward scenario where a team that isn’t among his preferred destinations makes the highest bid, the Wolves want to accept the offer, and Love has to kill it by saying he won’t play there, he tells other teams (either through the signal, private channels, or both) that they need to get into the race, because Boston is a viable destination. These teams thus have a stronger incentive to make the Wolves an acceptable offer, and with that offer in-hand, Love has an easier time getting to where he wants to go.
Any of these scenarios could be true. So could a combination of them. It isn’t possible to discern the true reason Kevin Love decided to go to Boston, get some pictures taken, and talk (cryptically) with the local media.
But one truth is self-evident: Love’s visit wasn’t random. His going to Boston was a sales call (Eds. Note: See “Every Call is a Sales Call,” in the Glossary). This is what that means:
So what we can deduce from Love’s trip to Boston is that a signal was made. Love is bargaining at least with the Wolves, possibly with the Celtics, and possibly other teams, even if passively. The visit makes everything just a bit more urgent for all parties involved–or potentially involved. The Wolves need to consider all possibilities, not just abstractly, but in practical, and realistic, terms–terms that might need to be considered sooner rather than later.
No, Love doesn’t have leverage to force a trade before the upcoming draft. He’ll have a lot more as the trade deadline approaches. But his visit to Boston appears to be one step that will likely involve many in laying the groundwork for his shaping the route to his next destination.
Stay tuned to see if he continues his summer tour at destinations still to be determined.