Kevin Love's Free Agency Hangs over Minnesota Timberwolves' Critical Offseason

D.J. Foster@@fosterdjContributor IApril 22, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - April 2: Kevin Love #42 and head coach Rick Adelman of the Minnesota Timberwolves stand on the sideline during a game against the Memphis Grizzlies on April 2, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Sherman/Getty Images

The retirement of Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman and the feelings accompanied with it hopefully won't serve as foreshadowing for what's to come with Kevin Love

Like Love, Adelman was one of the highest regarded men in the league at his position. His offense was brilliant, and his teams often put up big numbers.

But for one reason or another, whether it be injuries, terrible management or a mismatched roster, it never really clicked. The Timberwolves improved, sure, but the strides weren't big enough, both for Minnesota and Adelman alike.

SACRAMENTO, CA - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Rick Adelman and Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves in a game against the Sacramento Kings on November 27, 2012 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

There was clear mutual respect between employee and employer, but even the closing press conference was overshadowed with a sort of regret, an acknowledgement that things should have gone much better.

Here's what Adelman said, as transcribed by Steve Aschburner of

It’s time. It’s time for me to step aside. I think when we came here, we really tried to see if we couldn’t turn things around. I think we made some strides … not as much as we would like.

It’s time for someone else to come in.

It’s not that far away [in Minnesota]. Sometimes you want it to happen in a year, sometimes in two years. Sometimes it takes longer than that.

I wish I could have done more, but I really enjoyed my time. … There’s some sadness but I also think, some relief.

Love, of course, is nowhere near retiring, but he will come to a crossroads next offseason, where he has the opportunity to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. 

How will seeing a legendary coach walk out the door, defeated and unable to bring on major change during his tenure, impact Love's free-agent decision next year? Does this year's critical offseason and the impending coaching hire represent a new hope and one last shot to get things right?

It's hard to say which way Love views it, but you better believe that everything Minnesota does starting right now is with the intent of retaining Love. Here's Marc Stein at with more on that:

So the only certainty in 'Sota at the moment is that the Wolves are determined to do anything and everything they can muster to keep Love around for the long term. 

Given that the Wolves sport the league's longest active playoff drought, it's no stretch to suggest that they still haven't recovered from Kevin Garnett's departure in July 2007. So you can understand why they can barely bring themselves to talk about what it would be like trying to recover from the loss of two Franchise Kevins. 

And why the Wolves have to think as big as they can as the hunt for a new coach begins.

Maybe in other circumstances, a coaching hire wouldn't matter as much. But considering the fact that Minnesota has a talented (and expensive) roster, whoever comes in to replace Adelman will be charged with working almost solely with what's already in place.

The Timberwolves will have a lottery pick to play with, but beyond that and a mid-level exception in free agency, team president Flip Saunders is a bit limited in what he can provide his next coach. 

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12:  Phil 'Flip' Saunders, President of Basketball Operations of the Minnesota Timberwolves introduces newly acquired Kevin Martin to the media by on August 8, 2013 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  NOTE TO USER: User e
Jordan Johnson/Getty Images

Of course, not many available teams can offer a transcendent talent like Love, either, and that's what makes Minnesota so appealing. Wolves owner Glen Taylor is also notoriously loyal (sometimes to a fault), so there is some comfort in taking this job.

That is, of course, if the team can have success right off the bat and reach the playoffs. While that might not be an ultimatum for Love, you would have to think that Minnesota needs to have some substantial success in order for him to justify sticking around. 

That makes Minnesota's coaching hire all the more interesting. Who are the big names that might be able to have the kind of success that would make Love want to stay? Here's Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports with a few candidates:

A source told Yahoo Sports that the Timberwolves are interested in Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, former Orlando Magic and Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy, and former Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins to fill their coaching vacancy.

The Wolves will certainly have All-Star forward Kevin Love, who can opt out of his contract next season, in mind when their next coaching hire is made.

Really, there's no danger in Minnesota saying it is interested in the game's greatest college coaches and some of the best available former coaches in the NBA, even if some of those candidates might not be incredibly realistic. Minnesota needs to be established as a premium destination worthy of attracting the best talent, and that's a sort of indirect way to do it.

That's why you'll probably see a lot of big-time coaches linked to the Timberwolves before the decision is made.

Been discussing Izzo/Hoiberg for some time as candidates to replace Adelman, but here's a new name I'm told interests Wolves: Billy Donovan

— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 21, 2014

The list has been pretty extensive thus far, and we're only one day into Adelman's retirement. Here's Sam Amick at USA Today with a few more candidates to keep an eye on:

George Karl is another name to consider in this mix, as the longtime NBA coach and current ESPN analyst has the sort of credentials (1,131-756 all-time record) and reputation that may make Love feel more at ease about sticking around.

The notion of Saunders taking over the coaching duties is also a possibility. He has a strong relationship with Love and would be able to determine the team's fate on that front.

Minnesota's coaching decision will be the biggest of this offseason, and Love will certainly play a role in the process. It's important everyone is on the same page here, as no coach is worth what Love is to the franchise. 

There still might be some damage repair to do on that front because of the David Kahn era. Remember, the only reason Love can opt out next offseason is because Kahn failed to give Love a full extension, opting to save the five-year designation, presumably, for Ricky Rubio. 

Showing Love that he has ownership of the franchise is important. He wasn't treated like a franchise player before, but with every decision made this offseason, the Wolves have a chance not only to appease him, but to make him even more invested in making this work.

Now more than ever before, the Timberwolves can't afford to miss. After providing plenty of production on the court, Love is now providing Minnesota with something else: a real sense of urgency. 


    Jimmy Wore Jersey on Bench During Game

    Minnesota Timberwolves logo
    Minnesota Timberwolves

    Jimmy Wore Jersey on Bench During Game

    Rob Goldberg
    via Bleacher Report

    How Rockets Can Add LeBron to Current Core

    NBA logo

    How Rockets Can Add LeBron to Current Core

    Eric Pincus
    via Bleacher Report

    Love (Hand) Returns vs. Bucks

    NBA logo

    Love (Hand) Returns vs. Bucks

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: US Tax Bill Could Have Big Impact on NBA Trades

    NBA logo

    Report: US Tax Bill Could Have Big Impact on NBA Trades

    Timothy Rapp
    via Bleacher Report