Flip Saunders doesn't seem to have much sympathy for his team's star player.
During a radio appearance on KFAN 100.3, the new Minnesota Timberwolves head coach, who previously coached the team for a decade and most recently worked in the front office, was asked about Kevin Love's frustration levels. As has become common knowledge at this point, Love doesn't seem long for Minnesota, as an offseason trade is looming in the not-so-distant horizon.
Why? Presumably because he's tired of losing after six seasons of missing the postseason festivities to start his career.
But Saunders doesn't think he has the right to any upset feelings. Here's the end of the exchange, as transcribed by NBC Sports' Dan Feldman, when the new coach compares Love's situation to the one experienced over a decade earlier when Kevin Garnett was in Minnesota:
I tell a story. I tell a story about – we were in the locker room when KG was in like his third year in the league, and Sam Mitchell was sitting in the locker room. KG was in there, and we had lost a couple games, and we were all sitting there talking. KG started going, "Hey, you've got to start doing more." And he’s talking to some of the bench guys. "You've got to start doing more." And Sam said, "Hey, hold it, hold it. Let me tell you something. You're making all the money. Hey, it's your responsibility. You make the money, you've got to live up to that." So, that was the mentality, and from that time, KG never ever from that point, he always took responsibility.
As Saunders noted, there's a difference between a team being frustrated and an individual feeling the same way, so it's Love's choice to decide whether he wants to help solve the problem or make it worse.
When asked point blank by Dan Barreiro if Love had a right to be frustrated, Saunders' answer was only one word—no.
Out of curiosity, though, how can Love possibly take more responsibility?
He might not be a stellar defender, but he's established himself as one of the 15 best players in the NBA for a few years now. His combination of offensive and rebounding numbers he puts up is virtually unmatched.
Last season, the power forward averaged an insane 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 37.6 percent beyond the arc. That's a historically great season, but Love got to sit at home and watch the postseason festivities.
Is it his fault that Timberwolves management has been unable to provide enough scoring help or perimeter defense? Is it his fault that Ricky Rubio still hasn't fixed his shooting woes? Is it his fault that Rick Adelman waited until the end of the season to play Gorgui Dieng and provide some semblance of rim protection, only doing so because injuries forced his hand?
No, no and no.
At this point, I feel as though I've beaten this argument into the ground, but it remains valid nonetheless. You could replace Love with Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dirk Nowitzki, Anthony Davis, Tim Duncan, Chris Bosh or any other power forward in the league, and Minnesota would not make the playoffs.
So again, how is this his fault?
Does Love have a right to feel frustrated?
Plus, he's expressing his frustration—his deserved frustration, I might add—in completely valid and professional ways. As Feldman points out, "If Love is throwing his teammates under the bus, I haven’t heard it."
The only way he's made his feelings with his current situation clear is by showing no indication that he wants to remain in Minnesota. If these comments from his new coach are any indication, that friction isn't going to go away anytime soon.
An end to Love's frustration is looking increasingly likely, but only because he'll likely have his wish to depart granted at some point during the offseason. Whether Saunders agrees or not, Love has a right to feel frustrated.
It's completely justifiable at this point.