The New York Knicks can't help but feel the Love.
Not after one-foot-out-the-door Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love waxed poetically about the franchise and team president Phil Jackson during an appearance on ESPN's SportsNation.
"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," Love said. "The Knicks are definitely a place where anybody would like to go."
If nothing else, Love definitely sounds ready to go somewhere. He's publicly weighing his options despite having another guaranteed year on his current contract with Minnesota:
That has to fuel the Knicks' fire—and that of Love's countless other suitors.
However, the number of potential landing spots for Love is problematic for New York. With demand for the double-double machine on the rise and Minnesota in ultimate control of the supply, the Knicks are likely to see his trade value rocket past anything they could afford.
It may have already reached that point.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne reported in mid-May that Love had "made it clear" that he plans to opt out of his deal next summer and "has no interest in a contract extension to stay in Minnesota." That report reverberated inside the halls of 29 NBA franchises, sparking the torrid Love Affair that has stretched across the basketball world since.
The ESPN scribes linked the Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns to the Love sweepstakes. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports added the Houston Rockets to the mix while hearing from a rival executive that Wolves president-coach Flip Saunders "sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option."
Interest in acquiring Love is through the roof. As it should be.
He's a unique weapon in today's game, a potent blend of throwback fundamentals and new-age ability.
The 25-year-old serves as the quintessential stretch 4, spacing the floor with a career 36.2 three-point percentage or bullying his way to buckets on the low block. He's a supreme scorer (26.1 points per game this season), rugged rebounder (12.5 boards) and savvy setup man (4.4 assists).
On the macro level, he's the type of player typically unseen on the trade market. He is entering the prime of his career and has already earned three All-Star trips and two All-NBA selections. If teams have the slightest chance of reeling him in, they have to exhaust those efforts to do so.
Not that anyone needs to tell that to the Knicks.
An NBA source told Marc Berman of the New York Post that Jackson "has been plotting" a trade for Love. Jackson's plan, via Berman, centers around shipping out the expiring contracts of Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert.
That hissing sound you're hearing is the air being taken out of the Knicks' sails. When Saunders sits down to weigh his best available offers, would a Chandler-Shumpert package even make it onto the table? Even if it did, what are the chances Saunders would deem it the best of the bunch?
Short on valuable draft picks and intriguing young prospects, the Knicks do not have the trade chips needed to pull off this heist.
The Timberwolves already have their centers of the present and future in Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng, so Chandler would simply be an expiring salary. The same could be said of Shumpert, who possesses some intriguing physical gifts but also owns a career 10.5 player efficiency rating, per Basketball-Reference.com.
If When the Timberwolves decide it's time to let Love go, they'll be looking to land several impact pieces in return. Pieces that have value inside the lines.
Pieces the Knicks do not seem to have.
"Just cap room in 2015 won’t entice Minnesota at all," NBC Sports' Dan Feldman wrote. "Know how else the Timberwolves can maximize cap room in 2015? Just keeping Love and letting him opt out. The Knicks need to offer something – likely much more – on top of that."
The Knicks can't move a first-round pick until 2018. Tim Hardaway Jr. had a decent rookie campaign (10.2 points on 42.8 percent shooting), but he's hardly a headline piece in a blockbuster deal.
Love can try to force the Timberwolves' hand if he's so inclined. As Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey noted, New York could scratch plenty of Love's itches:
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.
If Love really wants to find his way to the Knicks, though, he should play out the final year of his contract and bolt for the Big Apple in free agency.
By putting himself on the trade block, he's all but eliminating the Knicks as a potential destination:
The Timberwolves still have leverage with Love.
Even if he refuses to commit to a long-term extension, that doesn't appear to be an deal-breaker for some potential trade partners. Minnesota can wait for a team to meet its price or take its chances with Love in free agency, knowing it can offer a longer, richer contract than any of his other suitors.
Either option seems preferable to storing the contracts of Chandler and Shumpert for a year.
The Knicks need to give up on this pipe dream of trading for Love. Their efforts should be solely focused on securing the future of Carmelo Anthony, who has until June 23 to decide whether he'll opt out of his current contract, according to Stein.
With the Miami Heat reportedly added to the list of Anthony's suitors, via Stein and Brian Windhorst, the Knicks could have a steep uphill battle in front of them. The ESPN reporters noted that the Bulls, Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are also on Anthony's radar, "but it's believed the opportunity to join [LeBron] James in Miami would trump all other options."
It's fun to think about the Knicks chasing a second star, but it's vital to the future of the franchise to keep the current star around. That might not be easy, but, unlike the Love pursuit, it at least seems possible.
The best love stories don't always have happy endings. For the Knicks, this Love story might not even have a beginning.