“It was more like KG tanked it. I think the other guys still wanted to play. But it sure changed the team and didn’t make us [as good].”
–Glen Taylor, March 2008
“I question Kevin if this is going to be the best deal for him because I think he’s going to be the third player on the team. I don’t think he’s going to get a lot of credit if they do really well. I think he’ll get blame if they don’t do well. He’s around a couple guys that are awful good…
I think where maybe he got away with some stuff not playing defense on our team, I’m not sure that’s how it’s going to work in Cleveland. I would guess they’re going to ask him to play more defense and he’s foul prone…
If they sign him to a five-year contract like they’re thinking about, that’s a big contract on a guy that’s had some times he’s missed games. The only thing I still have a question mark about is health. I had that concern then (when they negotiated his previous contract) and I still have that concern. I think Cleveland should have that concern too.”
–Glen Taylor, August 26, 2014
Five quick thoughts about Glen Taylor’s now-public thoughts about Kevin Love:
1. On the part about “credit” and being a third option, I tend to agree with him. Love’s reputation is established as an individual and he has yet to fit into a successful team framework. On the Cavs, where a there’s a star point guard and greatest-of-his-generation forward, it’s reasonable to wonder exactly where Love falls on the pecking order. In his past two healthy seasons, Love has averaged over 26 points per game. Now, in a winning environment, that may drop 5 or more points per game. (Chris Bosh saw a 5.3 points per game drop when he jumped from Franchise Raptor to LeBron & Wade Sidekick in 2010.)
In regards to credit and blame, consider the win totals of teams LeBron James has played on over the past six years during Love’s career:
46 (in 66-game season)
It is well understood by now that, in the NBA in 2014, if you have LeBron James you are going to win a bunch of games. You’re going to make a deep playoff run. You might win a championship.
How then, can Love prove that he has any effect?
It will be difficult and it will probably require bigtime performances in big playoff games. While this is not exactly what Taylor said, I think he would agree with what I’m saying right here. Had Love gone to a different team — one that was still good, like Golden State, but did not have LeBron on it — he would have a better opportunity to boost his “legacy” for whatever that is worth. And in Love’s case, I think the impression that many have — certainly Taylor included — is that legacy and individual recognition are important to him.
2. On the part about not playing defense and being foul prone, there are two possible ways to interpret this.
The first is that he is just plain wrong. Love’s poor defensive play is sometimes overstated and he is certainly not “foul prone”:
That is certainly possible.
The second is that he did not explain his point the way that he meant to, and that he was only referring to “rim protection” type defense. Which Love does not play. Wolves fans are well familiar with the scenario of a guard breaking down the defense with Love positioned for a potential rebound on the opposite block. While most NBA big men would slide over and contest the layup, Love stays where he is. He (seemingly) purposefully avoided taking fouls and he allowed layups to go in uncontested.
There is some positive effect from this calculated decision. It prevents the team’s best player from getting into foul trouble, and it keeps Wolves opponents from entering the bonus earlier than they otherwise would. (Part of the Wolves’ surprisingly-competent defense last year was due to their very-low foul rate.)
But it also looks really bad, and from Glen Taylor’s courtside seat he probably got tired of watching it. The Wolves had no “extra gear” defensively last season that other teams seem to hit when the chips are down. Love’s defensive style was sort of the opposite of modern greats like Kevin Garnett and Joakim Noah who set a tone for the entire team. He is not a leader on that end of the floor and he does very little to help his teammates contest shots. He concerns himself with rebounding only. If David Blatt and LeBron demand a change in this regard — and Taylor seems to expect that they will — it will naturally follow that Love will pick up more fouls if he begins contesting layups and dunks at the rim.
3. The expressed worries about Love’s health are interesting. They could mean that Taylor knows something about Love’s body that the rest of us do not. (Degenerative knees?) Or they could just be a general worry that Taylor has about committing long-term dollars to big men. Consider what David Kahn told Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune after he was let go as the team’s president:
We handled it the best way we can, and of course I handled it per instructions from the owner. Glen and I talked about it at length. I think it actually took me some time to tell Glen it was imperative he receive max money. The only issue, the only quibble came down to that last year and as I’ve said countless times, for us the danger was if you commit for five years, you’re really committed for six because of the lockout year, which he was playing. It’s an awfully long time to string a contract out with all the variables that can occur mostly due to injuries and oftentimes to big men. That was it. I think Kevin really had his heart set on a fifth year. I think his friendship with Russell Westbrook (who signed a five-year deal with OKC) made it difficult to accept, but that’s why I also prevailed upon Glen that we should relent and give him a third-year option so he felt like he was winning something too. In every compromise it’s important for both sides to walk away with something that was valuable to have. That’s what that was all about. I never had any problems offering that third year option. I thought it was the right thing to do.
4. Or, they could be a reference to the hand/knuckle injuries, the most serious of which occurred under unusual circumstances away from the team and playing floor.
5. More than anything, this was just a stupid thing for Taylor to do. Yesterday was supposed to be a celebration of the exciting #EyesOnTheRise collection of young players that the Wolves just brought in. It seems to me that most Minnesota sports fans are excited about this trade; not upset. Now, one day later, the national media is focused on these statements from the head of the organization that come across equal parts whiny, bitter, and delusional. It’s not a good look.
I also hate the general tendency of organizations to rip on the guy who just left as part of the celebration of something new. The same thing happened when David Kahn took over for Kevin McHale, and again when Flip Saunders took over for David Kahn. It’s so easy to talk big at times like this when nothing has happened yet.
In the end I don’t know how much, if at all, these occasional moments of Taylor Oversharing even matter. I doubt any free agents would look at them and decide to play somewhere else because of them. But rather than cause a specific negative effect, they might be more reflective of problems that exist in the inner workings of the franchise. If Taylor says this stuff publicly, what sorts of things are said privately, behind closed doors, when big decisions are being made?
It’s just poor judgment and low class. Like an ownership version of Lance Stephenson blowing into LeBron James’s ear during a free throw. Sure, nothing *actually* resulted from it, but just about everybody thought it was stupid and reflected poorly on Lance, who now happens to play for a different team.
There, I just compared Glen Taylor to Lance Stephenson. To quote Jay Bilas, “I gotta go to work.”