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Updated: April 21st, 2014 10:19pm
Zulgad: Flip Saunders not consulting Love may mean one of three things

Zulgad: Flip Saunders not consulting Love may mean one of three things

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

Flip Saunders returned to the Timberwolves as president of basketball operations last May with a lenghty list of items that needed to be fixed following David Kahn's atrocious run in the same role.

Near the top of the list was Saunders' need to repair the relationship between superstar Kevin Love and the organization. While the forward had great respect for coach Rick Adelman, it was clear he had none for Kahn.

The animosity was justified.

It was Kahn, with the blessing of owner Glen Taylor, who decided that Love wasn't worthy of a max deal in January 2010, and offered him a four-year, $62 million contract. Love signed the deal and things haven't been the same sense.

Once a gregarious and engaging person to interview, Love has grown incredibly distant. This petulant act is prelude to Love opting out of his contract on July 1, 2015 and never looking back.

The majority believe this is destined to happen.

This is where Saunders is going to have to make a crucial decision about Love, long before he can attempt to engage in contract negotiations with him in January 2015.

Adelman's decision to step down on Monday, leaves Saunders having to make the call on how he approaches his first head coaching hire. One of the most important questions: How much say does Saunders plan to give Love in the process?

Saunders said Monday that he won't consult with Love. This is means one of three things:

1) Saunders is determined to draw the line on just how far he thinks he should go to appease Love.

2) Saunders has determined that there is nothing he can do to keep Love around.

3) Saunders has no intention of telling the media, "Heck, yeah, Love's going to have a say," and instead quietly will talk to the player in confidence.

Involving a superstar player in such an important move isn't unheard of, but often that player is the face of the franchise and isn't going anywhere. If reason No. 2 is indeed why Saunders is going to cut out Love from the process that means he almost certainly will be traded sooner rather than later.

No matter how the process plays out, Saunders' hire is going to be an important indication of the direction for an organization that appears to long ago have given up on having any type of mission statement. This franchise has not made the postseason in 10 years. Think about that. You have to work to not make the NHL or NBA playoffs for that many seasons.

Adelman got the Wolves back to being mediocre and the sad thing is that was an accomplishment.

So does Saunders see his next hire as a guy who will build something, and hope that Love sticks around as the key figure, or does he go for an immediate fix and hire a guy like George Karl or Jeff Van Gundy?

Love wants to win but at what price? His temperament this season left one with the impression that he wants to win but also wants to do it on his terms.

A coach who demands he plays defense and gets in his face is what Love, and this entire team needs, but could Love even stomach that treatment?

And how much is Saunders going to care about what Love can stomach? If he was being honest Monday, maybe Saunders has seen enough.

Saunders, of course, could attempt to hire a coach who is going to coddle Love, keep him happy and keep the superstar in Minnesota. That might make Love less petulant and help him return to being the guy that made himself so likeable on and off the court.

But that coach's potential ability to get production out of Love wouldn't guarantee the Wolves would turn into a winner and that's the thing that has to happen at Target Center.

Your move, Flip.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Kevin Love
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