Love declining Team USA could signal Wolves trade on the horizon

Kevin Love has declined to participate in USA Basketball's summer training camp in Las Vegas and likely will not play at this year's FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

"Current status."

That’s the reason USA Basketball cited for Kevin Love’s declination to participate in the organization’s summer training camp in Las Vegas. That likely rules the Timberwolves power forward out of this year’s FIBA Basketball World Cup, despite his passion for international competition.

But the current status is that there is no status.

With each passing day, a trade involving Love appears more imminent. This latest development stems from the risk of injury Love would’ve faced if he’d joined Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose and others at the UNLV campus to prepare for international hoops’ version of the World Cup.

The Wolves don’t want their indignant superstar to get hurt and dissuade his suitors from inking a deal this summer. Said wooers, the Cleveland Cavaliers chief among them, don’t want their prized target nursing an injury when — and, technically, if — he receives his new uniform.

And Love, who’s dealt with debilitating injuries before (see 2012-13), doesn’t want to lessen his chances of leaving the Twin Cities behind.


The framework for a Cavs transaction is in place. The Bulls, reportedly, have thrown an enticing offer Minnesota’s way. Love’s shown interest in signing a long-term extension in either market — Cleveland in particular, after LeBron James’ free agency concluded when he returned there.

But NBA trade rules and a lack of urgency on the Wolves’ part ensure this process will remain as knock-down and drag-out as possible.

No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, the absolute-must return chip for Minnesota head honcho Flip Saunders, signed his four-year rookie deal on Thursday and thus can’t be traded until Saturday, Aug. 23. Reportedly offered to the Wolves alongside Taj Gibson and perhaps European sensation Nikola Mirotic, Bulls first-round pick Doug McDermott inked his rookie deal last Tuesday.

NBA regulations stipulate players may not be traded within 30 days of signing their rookie contract. McDermott is trade-eligible starting Aug. 21.

The Summer of Love, then, has been funneled into the Month of Love Limbo.

It’s only appropriate. The seeds of a messy separation were planted more than two years ago when former Wolves president David Kahn withheld a maximum contract extension offer from the three-time All-Star. A lost season and a sixth straight playoff-bereft campaign later, Love purportedly plans to opt out of that same deal next year.

In theory, Minnesota and Cleveland could agree on a deal today; it just can’t be made official until the league’s mandated moratorium is up.

But a lot can happen between now and then. Saunders could make one last push for Golden State to include Klay Thompson in a proposed trade; the two-way shooting guard hasn’t been offered yet, and Saunders won’t consider a deal with the Warriors unless he is.

Other teams could make a last-ditch run at Love, too. Perhaps the Bulls come up with a draft pick or two to add to the puzzle. Just Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported the New York Knicks had offered an outlandish swap: Love for Amar’e Stoudemire and his gigantic expiring contract, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and swingman Iman Shumpert.

That one’s not happening. But it does illustrate there are other interests in play.

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The frontrunning Wolves-Cavs deal has some loose ends that require tying up, as well. A large part of the holdup to date is including Minnesota guards J.J. Barea and/or Kevin Martin while making sure the trade’s salary sums would be in accord with NBA trade rules.

Meeting that goal could involve bringing in a third team.

But for now, only one thing is definitive: Love’s offseason competition regimen will be limited to whatever trainer Rob McClanaghan throws his way out in California.

That has to sting. Love, who hasn’t played in a postseason tournament since his one season at UCLA in 2008, called his Gold Medal experience at the 2012 London Olympics the high point of his career to date.

For that reason, he and close friend Durant announced early on they’d be joining Team USA’s 2014 World Cup endeavors. Love still could participate if he’s traded before then, but likely only as an injury replacement.

He’s not the only superstar who won’t be in Spain from Aug. 30-Sept. 14. LeBron James is taking the summer off to prepare for the upcoming NBA season, along with Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, Blazers four man LaMarcus Aldridge and Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard.

But only one of them will be sitting and waiting on his future, not just his body.

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