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NBA AM: Does Love Want Out of Minnesota?

Does Kevin Love want out of Minnesota, as reports suggest? … NBA interested in players returning from China … Evan Turner excited about trade

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Does Kevin Love Want Out of Minnesota?

Thursday came and went without any blockbuster deals and, overall, it was a relatively boring trade deadline. Perhaps the most interesting story came the night before the deadline, when longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey reported via Twitter that Kevin Love had demanded a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

According to Vecsey, Love talked with Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders before the All-Star break to inform him that he wanted a trade and that he would be leaving Minnesota as a free agent in the summer of 2015, when he can opt out of his current contract. Vecsey also predicted that Love would be traded over the offseason, so that the Timberwolves could receive something in return for their star player.

Almost immediately after the report surfaced, Saunders tweeted a denial.

“Rumors of Love telling me he’s opting out & wants 2 b traded r false,” Saunders tweeted. Last convo I had w/him was him telling me how bad my sports coat was.”

On Thursday afternoon, Love attempted to shoot down the report as well.

“It’s a media-driven story,” Love told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “For the past couple years, I can’t believe some of the stuff that has come out. We went out and played hard last night, great performance as a team. To see some stuff like that is just kind of disheartening. … The worst part is it takes away from the team and I have to be here answering questions today after a great performance from us last night.”

When asked directly if he made those demands to Saunders, he made it clear.

“No, no,” Love said, adding that he and Saunders “laughed about it.”

“It comes with the territory,” Love said. “I just don’t want to talk about it. It takes away from the team. It takes away from what Coach is trying to do. At the end of the day, I just want to play basketball. I don’t want to think about whether I’m going to be here or somewhere else in 2015, 2016 or whatever it is.”

In a recent interview with GQ, Love commented on his free agency situation, and the many reports that state he wants to join the Los Angeles Lakers when he can (and very likely will) become an unrestricted free agent.

“People think it’s so far-fetched that I would stay in Minnesota,” Love said in this interview. “And I’m not shitting on the Lakers, but we have the better team, the better foundation. I’m having fun.”

When asked about the comment to GQ, Love explained it by saying, “Basically all I said is our foundation and our team is better than a lot of teams that you guys and Peter Vecsey and whoever the hell else says I’m going to.”

Wolves head coach Rick Adelman was also asked about the report, and he clearly didn’t want to give it the time of day.

“Really? C’mon,” Adelman said. “You know, he got 42 points last night and we won the game. Some of this stuff comes out of nowhere. That’s so far in the future, I don’t even worry about that. It didn’t look like he was going anywhere last night. In this world today: ‘What’s LeBron [James] going to do next year? What’s Carmelo [Anthony] going to do next year?’ Who cares? [If] it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. In Kevin’s situation, he’s here with us. I’m glad as the coach that he is with us. I’ve never heard anything about that. He certainly hasn’t said anything to me.”

With the Wolves’ struggles and Love’s rumored desire to play with a large-market team, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if the report was true. The timing is the most shocking part of the report, as it was assumed that Minnesota had some time to build a winner and potentially salvage their relationship with Love. However, if Love got sick of waiting, nobody could blame him, as it’s possible he wouldn’t want to waste another year of his career.

Love has yet to reach the postseason in his career and it could be argued that Minnesota has failed to surround him with the necessary pieces to ensure success.

The relationship between Love and the Wolves also soured when the team decided not to give him the “designated player” five-year deal when he signed an extension in 2012, opting instead to give him a four-year deal. Minnesota reportedly saved the five-year deal for Ricky Rubio, which now seems like a huge mistake. Love was vocal that he wanted a five-year deal and didn’t hide his displeasure, most notably blasting the organization and vowing to remember the slight.

Minnesota is currently 26-28, which puts them in the 10th seed in the Western Conference. Love is averaging 26.2 points and 13.3 rebounds, with a 27.9 PER that ranks third in the NBA behind only LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

NBA Looking at Players Returning from China

Josh Akognon and Khalif Wyatt, two players who recently signed with D-League teams, are likely the first of many players who will be inking deals in the United States after returning from China.

The CBA regular season has ended, which means that many players are able to leave and sign elsewhere. Players who were on playoff teams will have to stay until their squad is eliminated, but they’ll also be trickling back to the U.S. in the weeks to come.

Every year, NBA teams account for the wave of players returning from China. There are talented players competing over there, and many of them choose to play in China because the short season allows them to sign a second deal with an NBA team before the end of the regular season.

Just yesterday, Brooklyn Nets GM Billy King told reporters that the team will consider signing a player returning from China as they search for an available big man.

Sometimes teams will pre-arranged deals with players before the sign with a team in China. That was reportedly the case with Wyatt, who played for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the CBA and recently signed with the Springfield Armor (Brooklyn’s D-League affiliate).

Some of the notable former NBA players competing in China include Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair, Donte Green, Dominique Jones, Shelden Williams, Hamed Haddadi, Lance Thomas, Darnell Jackson, Quincy Douby, Pooh Jeter, D.J. White, Josh Powell, Lester Hudson, James Singleton and Mike Harris.

Evan Turner Excited to Join Pacers

Yesterday, Evan Turner was traded to the Indiana Pacers along with Lavoy Allen in exchange for Danny Granger. The 25-year-old, who had been involved in trade rumors all season, is excited for the fresh start. He’s excited to join Indiana, currently the best team in the NBA, and contend for a title.

Turner was caught off guard by the news, because he thought that his chance at being traded had came and went.

“Definitely excited. Still shocked; I thought the trade deadline was over,” Turner told The Star. “I was actually setting up my postseason (vacation) with my agent’s assistant and pretty much when I was telling her the days I wanted to go. (Then) she said, ‘Well, no we can’t book (those days), you’ve just got traded.’

“Hopefully, I can play basketball while it’s nice out. That’s the best time to do it. I’m looking forward to the future and the next few months with the team.”

This season, Turner is averaging 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists this season. He’ll become a restricted free agent this summer if Indiana extends a qualifying offer. If they don’t, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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