Kevin Love's Uncertain Future Highlights Dangers Faced by Small-Market Teams

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Kevin Love's Uncertain Future Highlights Dangers Faced by Small-Market Teams
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Love isn't happy. And, really, that's nothing new—not for him, not for the Minnesota Timberwolves and, in the bigger picture, not for any budding superstar stuck in a small market.

Love recently expressed his frustrations with T'Wolves owner Glen Taylor and general manager David Kahn in yet another enlightening profile by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. He discussed his distrust of Minny's management and their apparent lack of trust in him, once again citing Kahn's refusal to make him the organization's "designated player."

He wondered aloud about the constant roster turnover and the deleterious effect it's had on building a consistent winner. He questioned Kahn's reasoning behind the Al Jefferson trade and the bungling of the draft picks brought back as bounty.

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY

We've heard these and other similar complaints from Love back in January—when the T'Wolves signed him to a four-year extension (rather than five) over the summer, when Kevin opined about Minny's mediocrity while practicing amidst champions and playoff-tested veterans with Team USA— and in years prior when he was wasting away under Kurt Rambis.

Not surprisingly, Love has already had to explain his latest comments to the local media (per Jerry Zgoda of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune):

"I meant what I said, I told David [Kahn] there's nothing to apologize about. The only thing I was sorry about is that I did it in public and if there's a learning experience from that, it's not to do that again.

"A lot of athletes these days say the right thing and aren't outspoken. I happen to be in this article. I'm not going to go forward and say I have anything to apologize about. I said what I felt. I didn't mean to alienate my team, my coaches, the organization or more importantly the fans...I said a lot of things about the team and were we're at this point and I'll continue to say it throughout the year because that's how I feel."

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Truth be told, he has every right to feel the way he does. By all accounts, Kahn has done little more than stumble, bumble and fumble his way through his tenure in the Twin Cities. He's wasted valuable draft picks on Jonny Flynn, Wesley Johnson and Derrick Williams, traded away Ty Lawson and Chandler Parsons on draft day and traded for Darko Milicic and re-signed him to a four-year deal.

All of which has left Love wanting for something more, something better, somewhere else.

But Kahn's not alone in his incompetence. The New York Knicks have had a revolving door of managerial nincompoops since James Dolan fell into the top job. The Brooklyn Nets have shown some promise this season, though the shortsighted steps GM Billy King took this summer to get them back on track have left the team with few avenues for improvement going forward. Even the Los Angeles Lakers, long lauded for doing things the right way, have come off as cretins since Jim Buss, the son of long-time owner Dr. Jerry Buss, started calling the shots.

The difference, of course, is that those three teams play in the NBA's two biggest markets. Those teams can afford to make mistakes—to come out on the wrong end of trades, to overpay players, to drop the proverbial ball on draft day—because they have bigger budgets with which to work. Their respective television, licensing and merchandising deals allow them to paper over their pratfalls with greenbacks.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

And because these teams are located in such desirable destinations, big-name players aren't likely to shy away. The Knicks and the Nets have screwed the pooch on many an occasion, but free agents will still flock to their doorsteps because they play in the Empire City. The Lakers will always be the Lakers (i.e. the NBA's glamour franchise). Even the Clippers are starting to cash in on their LA cachet.

The Timberwolves have no such luxury. Free agents aren't clamoring to play in Minneapolis, a relatively small city wherein frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall are more the norm than the exception.

Frankly, most of the NBA's franchises are in the same boat as the T'Wolves. Only a handful can claim to be "destination franchises"—the two New York teams, the two LA teams, the Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls, the Boston Celtics (with their history) and the Dallas Mavericks (no state taxes, Mark Cuban's deep pockets), among others.

For just about everyone else, the principle is the same: the smaller the market, the smaller the margin of error. The importance of every roster move is magnified, the stakes of every success and failure are higher, because there's so little wiggle room on the financial and cultural ledgers.

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The Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs have managed to traverse the razor's edge rather successfully. Even OKC had to suffer James Harden's ouster after overpaying Kendrick Perkins.

The Memphis Grizzlies have made it work of late, as have the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets. But all three have had to push the reset button after trading marquee players to the big-market clubs.

The key, for these teams, is to be crafty and thrifty. Superstars aren't itching to play in Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Cleveland, Detroit or even Minneapolis. Hence, teams in less desirable locales have to build through the NBA Draft, develop their own talent in-house, gamble on other lesser-regarded players and hope for the best.

If it works out, then maybe you'll challenge the NBA's hegemony, like the Thunder, or even become an integral part of it, like the Spurs. But, more than likely, you'll end up like the Nuggets with Carmelo Anthony, the Jazz with Deron Williams or the New Orleans Hornets with Chris Paul—competitive for a stretch, but ultimately destined (if not doomed) to rebuild when the Big Man on Campus wants out.

If some of the maneuvers fail, you'll find your franchise in the midst of a vicious cycle of losing, like those in which the Sacramento Kings, the Detroit Pistons and the Washington Wizards have been trapped for some time.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

And out of which the T'Wolves are desperately attempting to climb this season. Another misstep or two along the way can only intensify Kevin Love's apparent desire to bolt in 2015 and, in turn, send Minny spiraling back into the basketball Stone Age.

Don't feel bad for the Wolves, though. Like so many poorly-managed franchises before them, they've made their proverbial bed and have no choice but to lay in it.

Except, for teams like Minny, the do-overs are fewer and far less frequent, and the superstars far less forgiving.

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