While some of the NBA's top stars are fighting for the Larry O'Brien trophy, one marquee name is instead headlining the rumor mill.
Kevin Love is the latest star permanently attached to every hot stove report. If the Minnesota Timberwolves don't move him, he'll likely run for the hills after the 2014-15 season. So let the trade talks begin.
The players aren't getting all the spotlight, as a couple squads still have coaching vacancies to fill after laboring through lackluster seasons. One squad has the market, while the other has young star power to entice all the unemployed skippers.
Let's look at the latest buzz around the league.
War Imminent for Love
Now that the door is open to the Timberwolves parting ways with Kevin Love before he hits free agency next year, the chatter won't halt until the issue is resolved.
He has yet to play a playoff basketball game in six years, but the 25-year-old is nevertheless a superstar toiling away in a bad situation. He registered 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per contest last season while ranking third in player efficiency rating (PER) and estimated wins added (EWA), trailing Kevin Durant and LeBron James in both categories.
He can make a max salary and post gaudy numbers in Minnesota, or he could follow Kevin Garnett's path of escaping to a winning organization. If that's his goal, he probably doesn't care for the Suns' rumored interest.
According to Yahoo Sports' Marc Spears, the Suns, who also missed the playoffs despite winning 48 games in a loaded Western Conference, are willing to assemble a mega-package for Love's services.
Either way you look at it, that deal makes little sense. Minnesota gets two incredible players, but both of them are locked in at point guard, a position Ricky Rubio occupies. And if Eric Bledsoe gets the star treatment he's seeking, the Timberwolves are unlikely to match and have a guy making the max on the bench.
As for the Suns, that leaves them with little but Love, a formula that has failed for Minnesota. Among all guards, only Stephen Curry, James Harden and Chris Paul amounted for more EWA than Dragic, who broke out with 20.3 points per game with a 60.4 true shooting percentage, per Basketball-Reference.
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While big-market teams such as the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers figured to make the most noise, some unexpected contenders are emerging in the Love sweepstakes. Last week, FOX Sports' Sam Amico touted the Sacramento Kings as the front-runner.
The Kings would presumably tempt them with Rudy Gay's massive expiring contract, and they hold the No. 8 pick in this year's draft. Pairing Love with DeMarcus Cousins would certainly create a dominant duo.
Two of the league's most enticing coaching gigs have recently been awarded to former players changing to a suit and tie. Steve Kerr spurned the New York Knicks to replace Mark Jackson as the Golden State Warriors head coach. Phil Jackson then went to plan B in Derek Fisher, his longtime pupil on the Los Angeles Lakers.
While Fisher's old squad was initially in play, the team cooled off on his pursuit, seemingly to land a more experienced leader to fix the carnage left behind after Mike D'Antoni's tenure.
But a report from USA Today's Sam Amick indicates they have a much longer end game in mind.
The slow pace of the Lakers' coaching search that began April 30 when Mike D'Antoni resigned has been timed deliberately with the upcoming free agency period in the NBA, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Specifically, the idea that the Lakers could beat the odds and land the likes of the Heat's LeBron James, the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony or any of the other superstars who may be free agents on July 1 has led the Lakers to plod through their process so as to not limit their potential options. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the search.
If that's the case, the Lakers will be waiting a while before filling their coaching vacancy, keeping the open position unfilled during the NBA draft. They have already interviewed Lionel Hollins, Mike Dunleavy, Byron Scott, Kurt Rambis, Alvin Gentry and George Karl, which points to them wanting a more tested coach with a keener eye for defensive fortitude.
Gentry may find employment before Los Angeles makes up its mind. According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, he's among two men who received a second meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The job became much more intriguing after the Cavaliers jumped up to the No. 1 pick in this year's draft lottery, receiving the top pick for the third time in four years. They can now pair Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker with Kyrie Irving to amend last year's disappointing 33-49 finish.
Tyronn Lue would continue the trend of pro players getting their first crack at head coaching, but he at least offers some experience as the Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach. Gentry replaced D'Antoni in Phoenix, where he went 158-144 with one playoff appearance before getting dismissed during the 2012-13 season.
Considering Cleveland's burning desire to make their first trip to the postseason since losing LeBron James, someone with a deeper resume is a better bet to land the position.
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