“They’re in totally different positions,” Love said, pointing out that the Thunder and Bulls are both considered championship contenders while the Wolves haven’t been to the playoffs since 2004.
Even after all that he accomplished in his first three seasons _ the first 30-point, 30-rebound game since 1982, becoming one of the rare big men who can shoot reliably from 3-point range and finally giving the franchise a star player that fans could cheer for after Garnett was traded _ there still was some debate entering the season about whether Love deserved a max extension.
Skeptics noted that Love wasn’t the kind of player to create his own shot in late-game situations and struggled on the defensive end, which meant that all the gaudy numbers he was piling up rarely led to victories.
But as this season has opened, Love quickly showed that the only debate left about his value to the Timberwolves was the length of the contract. He showed up to training camp 25 pounds lighter and in superb shape, which has served him well.
He’s also added a step-back jumper and a turnaround bank shot that allows him to create space between himself and the defender and is improving as a help defender on the other end. He drilled a 27-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Clippers in Los Angeles and scored 39 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a loss against Houston on Monday.
The four-year deal gives the Timberwolves some flexibility going forward and keeps that “designated player” five-year option available for Rubio, No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams or another player down the road.
All three players, and Adelman, could have their contracts up in the summer of 2015.
“It’s good to have our centerpiece,” Williams said. “We need a guy like him to put up 25 and 10 every night. … I had a feeling he would stay with the fan base he’s built.”
Even though his play may not have indicated it, Love said the situation was wearing on him as the deadline approached. He said he was relieved that it was all over and would playing “with a chip on my shoulder” after not getting the five-year deal.
“I understand his position,” Kahn said. “It was a very close call. I don’t believe, however, that Kevin will be affected by it. I believe that Kevin, deep down, cares about one thing and one thing only, winning. And I think that he understands that, to the extent that this might help us achieve some team objectives, that he’s OK with it.”
“I was hoping for 10 years…for me,” the coach deadpanned. “I think he understands. You don’t want to be someone who signs a contract and immediately starts complaining. He sees the opportunity. I’m hoping he relaxes a little bit and we can start making him a more complete player.”
Freelance writer Amit Kaluskar in Dallas contributed to this report.
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