Why Kevin Love as Lakers' Next Superstar Makes Too Much Sense Not to Happen

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Why Kevin Love as Lakers' Next Superstar Makes Too Much Sense Not to Happen
David Sherman/Getty Images

Kevin Love and the Los Angeles Lakers seem destined for each other.

The former is a 25-year-old superstar just coming into his own, still chasing that first playoff berth, while the latter is a storied franchise known for getting what it wants and only now coming to grips with Kobe Bryant's vulnerability.

Nearly two years in advance of when the Lakers and Love could officially sync up, a future union feels inevitable as Love's Minnesota Timberwolves prepare to journey westward to the Land of Make Believe.

No, I didn't teach divination at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Yes, my crystal ball is still on the fritz. And no, I don't have a license to read minds in the state of California. 

But my spidey senses are tingling and this time, I don't think it's allergies. 

Something just feels right about Love to the Lakers. Imminent, even.

Almost as if it makes too much sense not to happen.

 

Face It: Lakers Need Someone Else

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I'm not one to say the Lakers need anybody. 

To be sure, I've definitely said it before. Most definitely about Kobe. Probably even about Dwight Howard, way back when. But I've never been the over-emotional artist who paints a dark outlook on Los Angeles' future if it doesn't land Player A, B, Q or Z. And I'm still not.

The Lakers need to move on soon, though. If Kobe's Achilles injury wasn't reminder enough that tomorrow is coming, the team's latest announcement most certainly is:

Let's get this out of the way: Kobe is an animal. He played on that injury in the fourth quarter against Memphis and everything. Pure diabolical, that guy is. Pain has never met more resistance than it has with Kobe.

But after 17 years of antagonizing Father Time and terrorizing fate, Kobe has fallen. Twice. And though he'll get back up, no one knows how much longer he'll remain standing.

Put it this way: If this six-week absence is the biggest obstacle Kobe must overcome between now and the end of his contract, the Black Mamba done good.

Tragedy tends to put things in perspective, and Kobe and the Lakers, with the help of time and age, are starting to understand they need someone else.

 

If Not This Year, Then...

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Part of the Lakers grasped such a concept when they traded for Howard with the sole purpose of ushering in the post-Kobe era with him. When that didn't work out, they regrouped, planned for this coming summer and ultimately gave Kobe a fat extension, essentially prolonging the inevitable for another two years. 

Through 2015-16, hobbled or upright, the Lakers will have Kobe. After that, what's next? Retirement presumably for Kobe, but the Lakers? To be determined.

Or has it already been determined?

Kobe's contract is the only guaranteed deal on Los Angeles' books for 2015-16. Sums of cash ripe for spending will be at the Lakers' disposal, provided they don't splurge this summer—which they won't.

Dreams of pairing Kobe with LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony will have to wait, or die out altogether.

LeBron is unlikely to leave a winning culture with the Miami Heat just to bolster Kobe's banner count, and Vino's latest injury is hardly a ringing endorsement for 'Melo, who is a bigger flight risk, to abandon the New York Knicks in favor of Los Angeles.

David Sherman/Getty Images
Love is a far more realistic option than anyone the Lakers could pursue in 2014.

Anthony has found himself the lone superstar in Denver and New York—he won't want to risk a similar fate in Hollywood. I mean, would he really want to be the guy who couldn't win in New York and Los Angeles? Didn't think so.

Once you move beyond Miami's Big Three and 'Melo, this summer's free-agency pool isn't all that and a bag of chips. It's not even all that. Just the bag of chips.

Summer of 2015 is teeming with more talent.

LeBron could be a free agent if he decided to simply opt into another year with the Heat (possible) and after him, names like Kyrie Irving, Marc Gasol and Rajon Rondo stand out most.

Oh, and Love too. He'll hit free agency the year before Kobe's contract expires if he doesn't exercise his player option, just in time reach out and grab the torch Vino will be preparing to pass.

 

California Ties, Minnesota Heartbreak

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Love was born in Santa Monica. Attended college at UCLA. His facial forest makes it seem as if he's fresh off a month-long trek in the Mojave Desert. 

Need I say more?

Actually, yes.

We know why Love would want to join the Lakers. The city, familiarity, rich history, sun and absence of belligerent snowfalls are all sound arguments. But why would he leave the Timberwolves? 

Because once upon a time, they did some things and said some stuff.

When the Timberwolves gave him four years and $60 million, they made him a rich man. But they could have made him an even richer one. 

Minny could have given Love a fifth year, but it didn't. And in a December 2012 interview with Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, he made it clear he's not one to forget:

I have a very, very good memory, and I always remember the people who have done right by me, and the people who have done wrong by me. It will be embedded in my brain, and something I won't forget about. There's no telling what will happen. I would love to compete for a championship in Minnesota, but …

Those who believe the drama ended with David Kahn's departure could be right. Or they could be wrong.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Playoffs, anyone?

Love discusses at length in that same interview how T-Wolves owner Glen Taylor didn't consider him a superstar. And about how those within the organization questioned the severity of his injuries. Compelling stuff; it really is.

It could also be a driving force behind an eventual departure of his own. Time doesn't heal all things in the NBA—winning does.

Minny has yet to reach the playoffs with Love as its focal point, and it's currently outside the Western Conference's playoff picture now. If it cannot clinch its first postseason berth in a decade this spring, or next spring, the now-obvious superstar may not want to stick around.

Doesn't help that Nikola Pekovic negotiated a five-year deal with the Timberwolves this offseason, either. That had to rehash some unpleasant memories, past experiences that could resurface once again in 2015.

"And that's what really hurt me," Love told Woj.

It hurt then, it may hurt now. More importantly, it could still sting later.

 

There's Something Here

Jordan Johnson/Getty Images

Patience, Lakers fans.

Love won't be a Laker before 2015. The team simply doesn't have enough assets to strike a trade, and the Timberwolves are the most relevant they've been in 10 years, so they're not going to deal their best player.

But there was a certain aura surrounding Los Angeles' last matchup against Minnesota, when Love torched the Lakers for 25 points and 13 rebounds while leading his 'Wolves to a 113-90 victory.

You saw Love drill threes and crash the glass, and dominate inferior competition. You saw how versatile he was; how perfect a fit he'd be in Mike D'Antoni's flooring-spacing offense.

You saw, and the Lakers saw. And they'll remember.

Which team will Kevin Love sign with in 2015?

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Come 2015, they'll wine and dine Love, reminding him how uncertain life is with Minny. They'll gesture toward their 16 championship banners (yes, the count will hold at 16) and Kobe's oncoming swan song, promising him future success and the chance to court Kevin Durant in 2016.

They'll do all this, because that's what makes sense. All of this makes sense. 

So much sense that it feels inevitable. Etched in stone. The product of premeditated tampering. 

If allowing destiny to run its course qualified as tampering, that is.

 

*All salary information used courtesy of ShamSports.com unless otherwise attributed.

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