"A source familiar with Love's thinking [said] it's not just L.A. that is appealing to Love," ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin wrote. "He's enamored with the idea of being 'big time in a big city,' and that list of potential places he'd seek includes New York and Chicago, as well."
Small-market superstar craves major-market home. I think I've seen this Craigslist classified ad before. That's why we can be more than a year away from Love having the option to leave Minnesota and already have an idea of what's going to happen next.
From Chris Paul (New Orleans to Los Angeles) to Carmelo Anthony (Denver to New York), LeBron James (Cleveland to Miami) to Dwight Howard (Orlando to Los Angeles to Houston), we've all gained a new understanding of the NBA's "superstars' league" tag.
Love has been long rumored to be the apple of the Los Angeles Lakers' eye.
A former star of the UCLA Bruins and the son of a former Laker, Stan, he's an all-too-obvious target for the legendary franchise. Even if he's done nothing to fuel any fire to that story.
"My parents lived there and they had me there, so it's not my fault," Love said of his constant links made between him and L.A., via Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press. "I don't really care about that right now. I just go out there and play and don't really worry about it."
The writing of his future has been on the wall for years—even in Minnesota.
"You continue to hear that Wolves owner Glen Taylor remains determined to try to convince Love to stick around and will keep resisting trade offers until, as one insider puts it, he 'has no choice,'" ESPN's Marc Stein wrote.
Notice the word choice there. Stein could've written "if" Taylor runs out of options. He went with "until" instead.
Why? Because history tells us that the Wolves will eventually have to go down that path.
"Timberwolves president Flip Saunders will do everything he can to keep Love," McMenamin wrote. "... But if Love makes it clear that he has no intention to re-up with the Wolves, Saunders will be forced to shop Love or risk seeing him walk for nothing in return."
Sure, some thought (or hoped rather) that winning could save Minnesota—even though a Western Conference Finals appearance couldn't keep Anthony in Denver, and an NBA Finals berth didn't stop the departures of James and Howard.
Even that fingers-crossed narrative has run out of steam, because the Wolves aren't winning. Not as often as they need to, at least.
Sitting six-and-a-half games out of the playoff race with 11 games left on its schedule, Minnesota is about to go 0-of-6 in its attempt to bring Love to the postseason. This despite the 25-year-old's nightly assaults on the stat sheet (26.3 points, 12.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game).
The Wolves had a $68.1 million payroll for this season and have $66 million on the books for 2014-15, via ShamSports.com. Barring a trade, they'll surround Love with the same supporting cast next season that couldn't scratch his playoff itch this time around.
Of course, even if the Wolves had cap space to burn over the summer, that's no guarantee there would be an effective way to use it.
"A market like Minnesota just isn’t going to attract a top-10 player in free agency unless it already has one heading up a very appealing roster," Grantland's Zach Lowe wrote.
The Wolves have the first part of that equation in Love but fall short when it comes to the latter.
Any activity this offseason could change these figures, but as it stands now, the Lakers ($25.9 million), Chicago Bulls ($43.2 million) and New York Knicks ($1.7 million) are all looking at a flexible financial picture for the 2015-16 campaign (note: salary figures given without contract options).
Throw in their inherent market advantages, and Love's future may well come down to a three-team race—a race that leaves another small-market franchise in the cold.
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