The Kevin Love rumor mill has been at peak production for the better part of two months now. And it’s about to ramp up even faster.
During an interview on ESPN’s SportsNation, Love—who has hinted he will not sign an extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves (per ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne)—had this to say about the prospect of playing under Phil Jackson's supervision with the New York Knicks:
"I think any time you have Phil Jackson involved in any organization, you're going to definitely look at it and it's definitely intriguing. The Knicks are definitely a place where anybody would like to go."
Love also managed to hit on a familiar trope—reiterating that, after so many playoff misses, his chief concern remains that most universal of basketball bottom lines: championships.
"No matter what the outcome is, I just want to end up in a great place where I can win," he said. "At the end of the day, I've played six years, haven't made the playoffs yet, that burns me and hurts my heart, so I really want to be playing."
While this is the first time Love himself has commented on playing for the Knicks, CBS New York reported in May that a source close to Love confirmed New York was on the short list of desired destinations for the All-Star forward.
All the same, it’s not like this is the first time we’ve heard a big-name free-agent-to-be wax poetic on potential landing spots. Really, how many times have you heard an NBA player respond to questions about playing in a particular city with, “Nah, I don’t think so. I really hate that place.”
Now, the Knicks do stand to have more than enough cap room following next season to give Love the full-blown maximum, although New York is by no means alone on that front.
The headliner at Madison Square Garden 41 nights a year? Talk about an opportunity to build the brand of Kevin Love.
And if it's more about winning than becoming a bigger star, who better to work for than Phil Jackson?
His system won six titles in Chicago and five more in Los Angeles. Granted, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant had a lot to do with that, but Shaq's the only one who's snagged a title without Phil.
The Knicks are no strangers to this phenomenon.
Four years ago it was a little-known small forward from Akron, Ohio, who had the whole of New York in a towering tizzy over the prospect of finally landing its long-desired basketball savior. I believe his name was LeBron James.
Jackson’s hope may be to wean his newfound franchise off its addiction to quick fixes, but let’s not pretend like a palpable part of the job’s appeal didn’t lie squarely in the summer of 2015, when the decisions of Love, James and a slew of other big names have the potential to completely upend the league’s power dynamics.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, meanwhile, have a tough strategic decision ahead of them: Do everything in their power—through the draft and savvy trades—to convince Love you're serious about taking the next step, or cut your losses completely and deal him for whatever picks and parts you can get.
At this point, Love’s remarks about playing under Jackson amount to little more than innocent flirting. The Knicks, on the other hand, are no doubt hoping that this glance across the bar top turns into something a bit more memorable.