NBA: Timberwolves ‘expect’ Love next year, Saunders says
MINNEAPOLIS — While his star player vacationed in Boston over the weekend, Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders was hard at work Sunday morning, working out draft prospects at Target Center.
Saunders also sounded bemused and defiant about Twitter reports and photos with fans when three-time All-Star Kevin Love visited Boston from Friday night through at least Sunday afternoon, presumably checking out the city in case the Celtics trade for Love this summer.
“Last I knew Kevin was under contract to us, and I expect him to be playing for us next year,” Saunders said. “I don’t really dictate where guys go on vacation and what they do. They can go wherever they want to go. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Love was spotted at Boston nightspots on Friday, had a Twitter-bound photo taken with a Celtics fan on Boylston Street on Saturday, and with his agent attended Sunday’s Red Sox game at Fenway Park, where he was photographed shaking hands with Celtics star Rajon Rondo.
Red Sox slugger David Ortiz later posted to Love on Twitter, “if you need advice on moving from Minnesota to Boston just let me know #CityOfChamps”.
Saunders shrugged Love’s travels off.
“I’ve got enough to worry about where my kids are at, let alone worry where my players are at,” Saunders said.
Love can opt out of his four-year contract after three seasons in July 2015 and become an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any other team without any compensation given to the Wolves, provided Love is willing to turn down
$26.5 million that only the Wolves (or his current team at the time) can pay him.
The Celtics are one of many teams expected to make a pitch with young players and/or multiple draft picks to acquire an All-Star who purportedly has decided his future is not in Minnesota.
“I know there’s a feeding frenzy out there from a lot of teams,” Saunders said. “Unfortunately, they have no say. I plan on Kevin being here.”
With nearly a month remaining before the June 26 draft, there’s already plenty of speculation in media reports and on social networks about where Love inevitably will end up.
“I really believe anybody looking into that, those are pipe dreams,” Saunders said. “It has no bearing on where anyone’s at and what’s happening because nobody has any idea what’s going on.”
Celtics fans were all, uh, atwitter over Love’s weekend visit to their town and instantly put 2 and 2 together, envisioning their team will acquire yet another star named Kevin from the Timberwolves, as the Celtics did with the 2007 blockbuster trade that brought them a guy named Kevin Garnett.
Saunders was asked if Celtics fans should calm down.
“I’ve been there; they’re never going to calm down,” Saunders said. “They’re the same fans that thought they had Tim Duncan (in the 1997 draft). I think they still think they got Tim Duncan in that draft. Last I looked he was playing in San Antonio.”
Meanwhile, Saunders also addressed the team’s search for a coach to replace retired Rick Adelman when he was asked if he expects to hire a coach before the draft.
“I’d say there’s probably a better chance we would than we wouldn’t,” he said.
He said he plans to meet owner Glen Taylor in Mankato this week to evaluate a search in which they pursued Memphis coach Dave Joerger and college coaches Tom Izzo, Fred Hoiberg and Billy Donovan without success and have interviewed Sam Mitchell, Vinny Del Negro, Lionel Hollins and Scott Skiles, among others. Saunders could end up taking the job himself for a season or two as well, if Taylor approves him holding two jobs at once.