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NBA AM: Wolves Still Confident In Keeping Love

Team president Flip Saunders will coach T’Wolves and believes Kevin Love has $27.5 million reasons to stay in Minnesota.

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Minnesota can offer the most money, but Kevin Love wants to win at a high level

The Minnesota Timberwolves are at a pivotal cross roads. The team hasn’t reached the playoffs since the 2004 campaign and enters the offseason with their franchise player Kevin Love pondering the greener grass on the other side of the fence.

On Thursday the T’Wolves announced team president Flip Saunders would also take command of the club’s head coaching duties. Love and Saunders have a solid relationship, but the executive’s descent back into the coaching ranks isn’t thought to move the needle enough for the All-Star forward to soften his stance about opting out of his deal in 2015.

Saunders readily admits the uncertainty surrounding Love has led to the T’Wolves receiving plenty of calls from opposing general managers looking to pry the forward away via trade.

“Probably have 16 teams that have called us,” Saunders said according to Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “We haven’t called anybody.”

Minnesota may not be actively looking to deal Love, but the fact remains his agent has been extremely vocal in letting teams know the forward will undoubtedly be testing free agency next summer.

Regarding Love’s recent weekend visit to Boston, Saunders said he didn’t know if it had any connection with basketball.

While one of Love’s feet may already be out of the door in Minnesota, Saunders says the team still possesses some financial leverage when it comes to how much money they can offer compared to potential suitors in the marketplace.

“We can sign him to a five-year deal, the last year of his contract would be $27.5 million,” Saunders said. “Anybody that is his number of years serviced in the league, that’s what their contract is. To go sign as a free agent anywhere else, he can only sign for four years, so you’re not getting that fifth year.”

The T’Wolves can offer close to $30 million more in salary if the forward elects to stays put, but Love has been adamant about his desire to play at the highest levels of competition year in and year out. Up until this point, Love has yet to reach the playoffs despite posting gaudy nightly box scores year in and year out.

Love averaged 26.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists on 46 percent shooting from the floor. The T’Wolves finished the season 40-42 (.488 winning percentage) which was only good for tenth place in the competitive Western Conference.

For now, Minnesota is banking on Saunders headed back to the bench will be a positive influence on Love and his future with the T’Wolves.

Saunders has compiled a 638-526 regular season winning percentage as a head coach with stops in Detroit and Washington and also previously coached the T’Wolves from 1996-2005.

Sources: Knicks Officially Discuss Head Coach Position With Derek Fisher

The playing days for point guard Derek Fisher may be coming to end, with five titles hanging on his mantle. The new chapter will likely be as a head coach as the veteran continues to receive plenty of interest from league executives entering the offseason.

The most aggressive pursuer is believed to be the New York Knicks with newly hired team president Phil Jackson leading the charge. Jackson coached Fisher on all five of the guard’s championship runs with the Los Angeles Lakers.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Fisher and Jackson talked briefly on the phone this week about the Knicks’ vacancy with a follow-up call scheduled for next week.

According to the report, Fisher is expected to take the weekend to discuss the potential opportunity further with his family. However, the veteran could opt to continue his playing career in pursuit of one more title.

From a financial standpoint, it may be more lucrative for Fisher to pursue the coaching ranks. Recently hired coaches Stan Van Gundy (Detroit) and Steve Kerr (Golden State) both signed deals with annual salaries over $5 million per season.

Jackson was fined $25,000 for making public comments about Fisher and the role while the guard was playing in the Western Conference Finals with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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