Updated: February 12th, 2014 9:50am
Zulgad: Wolves should trade All-Star Kevin Love before it's too late

Zulgad: Wolves should trade All-Star Kevin Love before it's too late

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

Kevin Love took out a full page ad in the Star Tribune on Sunday to thank Timberwolves fans for helping elect him to the NBA All-Star Game this weekend.

"I'm looking forward to representing you in New Orleans, the second half of the season as we continue our push for the playoffs, and my future in Minnesota with the Timberwolves," Love wrote.

It was a nice gesture but on the last two counts one has to believe that even Love has difficulty buying the fact that his words are based in reality.

The Wolves' streak of non-playoff seasons appears more and more certain to reach 10 with each passing day.

A 107-89 loss to the Houston Rockets on Monday night at Target Center extended the Wolves' losing streak to four games and dropped them seven games behind Dallas for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a game left before the All-Star Break.

As for Love, it's hard to believe that his frustration level hasn't reached a breaking point.

Since then-Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn decided Love deserved a four-year, $62 million extension in January 2010, and not the max deal that Love wanted, there has been speculation that the forward will be departing Minnesota when that opportunity presents itself.

The reasons for this are multiple.

Love has made it clear he wasn't happy that Kahn, and owner Glen Taylor, did not give him the best deal available. Love also has been thought to desire a return to the West Coast, where he played college basketball at UCLA and could be part of an attractive rebuild with the Los Angeles Lakers.

With Flip Saunders taking over for Kahn last offseason, though, it appeared there might be a person in place to smooth things over and make Love a happy camper.

What couldn't be foreseen at that point was what a disappointment this season would be for the Wolves. Ultimately, that might be what chases Love right out of Target Center.

While it appears he might not be the leader off the court that the team would like, there is no questioning what he has done on the floor this season.

Love, who played in only 18 games during an injury-filled 2012-13 season, is fourth in the NBA in scoring this season, averaging 25.7 points, and second in rebounds with 13.3 per game. Double-doubles are commonplace for Love and he has played in 49 of 52 games despite taking a beating.

And yet it's not enough.

Love doesn't have the supporting cast around him that he needs and point guard Ricky Rubio, the player who many assumed would get the max contract from the Wolves, doesn't appear to be close to deserving that type of deal.

The Wolves had hoped that hiring Rick Adelman as their coach in 2011 would be incentive for Love to want to stay. Adelman and Love have a long history, dating to when Love played high school basketball with Adelman's son, Patrick, in the Portland area.

But the 67-year-old Adelman, who missed 11 games last season to be with his wife after she began suffering seizures, was absent again Monday for personal reasons and very well could decide to walk away after this season.

All of this, in Love's mind, likely adds up to starting things anew in 2014-15 without a cast that can allow him to at least reach the postseason for the first time in an NBA career that began in 2008-09.

A year after signing his last contract, Love reflected to Yahoo! Sports about his frustration regarding the Wolves' handling of the situation. He didn't put it all on Kahn either.

"I don't know who labels people stars, but even Glen Taylor said: 'I don't think Kevin Love is a star, because he hasn't led us to the playoffs,'" Love said. "I mean, it's not like I had much support out there. That's a tough pill to swallow."

At this point, Love has to feel as if the Wolves aren't even coming close to putting him in a situation to be able to get a team into the playoffs.

The Wolves have the ability to offer Love a two- or three-year extension this summer but that's going to be a non-starter. He won't take it.

The team can offer him the five-year max on Jan. 25, 2015 - that will be three years after he signed his last extension - but that would be dangerous because if Love turns it down his trade value will be limited by the fact he can opt-out and become a free agent on July 1, 2015.

All of this might mean that in typical Wolves fashion, the best play might be to begin shopping Love sooner rather than later and attempt to send him to a place where he could give them at least a season and then sign an extension.

To use Love's words, that would be a tough pill to swallow, but given how the situation is playing out, it also might be the best idea.

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, Ricky Rubio
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