MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Love said he and Flip Saunders shared a good chuckle when they arrived at the Target Center on Thursday morning.
A report that Love told Saunders he plans to opt out of his contract after next season is absolutely false, Love told reporters after practice.
It’s long been rumored the All-Star Timberwolves power forward will do just that in the summer of 2015. He still could, or be traded before then so Minnesota can get something in return.
But it hasn’t happened yet, Love said.
"No," Love said sharply when asked if the exchange reported by longtime New York sports columnist Peter Vescey actually took place. "I got a slew of those questions at All-Star (weekend) and basically said I’m done talking about (my contract situation).
"Then Peter Vescey, who I don’t think I’ve really ever talked to, comes out with a story, and me and Flip are laughing about it this morning, but the worst part is that it takes away from the team, and I have to be here answering questions about it today after a great performance from us last night."
Vescey tweeted at 10:06 p.m. CT on Wednesday — about an hour after the Timberwolves’ 104-91 victory over Indiana — that "Wolves fans’ nightmare has come true" and Love was "forcing premature exit." He followed up with a tweet claiming "Prior 2 (All-Star) break, KL alerted Flip he’ll exercise summer ’15 out & sign elsewhere. Expect him 2B moved B4 deadline or off season."
Saunders responded from his own Twitter account at 11:43 p.m. Wednesday: "Rumors of Love telling me he’s opting out & wants 2 b traded r false. Last convo I had w/ him was him telling me how bad my sports coat was."
Indeed, Love said he gave Saunders guff for the garb he sported while watching his prized player score 42 points against the NBA’s best defense. "Anyone who saw him last night knows it was pretty bad," Love said.
Vescey’s tweets also made mention of Love’s ties to Los Angeles and longstanding rumors he wishes to become a Laker after his Minnesota contract expires. The former tabloid writer also mentioned Boston and Chicago as potential landing spots.
But Love said in a GQ article published Wednesday morning he’s "having fun" here and praised the franchise’s foundation. Love reiterated those comments Thursday as the trade deadline came and went without him or any Timberwolves player being shipped out.
"Our foundation right now and our team is better than a lot of the teams that you guys and Peter Vescey or whoever the hell else says I’m going to," Love said.
Deadline passes: Despite the annual few days of wildfire speculation and conversation, Minnesota’s roster will remain unchanged as the season’s stretch run continues.
Thursday’s 2 p.m. NBA trade deadline passed without Saunders making a move. In addition to rumors involving Love, multiple media reports saying the Timberwolves were attempting to trade J.J. Barea and Chase Budinger to the Grizzlies in exchange for Tayshaun Prince and possibly Tony Allen surfaced earlier this week.
But the two sides couldn’t work out a deal that involved both Prince and Allen.
A few reports also listed Minnesota as a frontrunner to deal for banished Denver point guard Andre Miller, but he was sent to the Wizards in a three-team trade that also involve the 76ers.
It stands to reason the Timberwolves wouldn’t have seriously considered Miller unless they were able to trade away Barea and avoid a logjam behind Ricky Rubio at the one position.
Barea’s name surfaced in one other report. About an hour before the deadline, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer tweeted Minnesota and the Cavaliers were discussing a Barea swap for Jarrett Jack.
That deal didn’t materialize, either.
Turiaf out, but progress for Pek: The Timberwolves are running out of big men.
An MRI performed Thursday on Ronny Turiaf revealed a right knee bone bruise, and the veteran center is listed as out indefinitely. He’d been playing in place of Nikola Pekovic, who’s missed 10 straight games with bursitis in his right ankle.
Turiaf left for the locker room with 7:15 remaining Wednesday after trying to block a shot and coming down awkwardly on his right leg. Coach Rick Adelman said there’s no timetable for his return.
Turiaf averaged 27.5 minutes, 5.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game while starting in Pekovic’s absence.
"We’ll just have to adjust," Adelman said. "It’s unfortunate at that spot.
"You can only play the people that you have."
But there was some good news from Minnesota’s frontcourt Thursday. Pekovic participated in team drills for the first time since his Jan. 27 injury — a necessary step before he can return to game action.
If Pekovic isn’t able to go by Saturday’s road date with Utah, Adelman will turn to a mix of rookie Gorgui Dieng and power forwards Love, Dante Cunningham and Luc Mbah a Moute in the post.
If that proves disastrous, the Timberwolves could sign a free-agent or NBA Developmental League center to a 10-day contract, depending on the projected extents of Pekovic and Turiaf’s ailments.