It was contrived. It was in front of a national radio audience. It was cheesy.
But for a fan base yearning for any positive inkling to cling to, it sounded great.
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Flip Saunders calls into ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike,” which Minnesota Timberwolves all-star forward Kevin Love co-hosted Thursday morning.
Love, who at 24 appears to have his pick of media affiliates available when he retires from hoops, pops the first question.
“There’s been a lot of speculation out there, and just so we’re clear: I am not getting traded.”
Saunders responds flatly, with that hint of dry sarcasm he tends to emit: “You are not getting traded.”
Love: “Thank you.”
Flip, the mock seriousness and concern out in full force now: “Does that make you feel better?”
Love, Saunders, and show hosts Mike Golic and fill-in Ryan Ruocco, all bust out in laughter.
This was no earth-shattering, news-breaking radio moment. Rumors of a Love trade to Cleveland for the NBA Draft’s No. 1 overall pick or any other Love smatterings are nothing more than a ridiculous web of Internet gossip, Saunders has said repeatedly.
But what the first of Love’s three Thursday radio appearances did provide, albeit superficial, was a small window into a relationship that could make or break the franchise’s future.
Saunders and Love have communicated regularly since the former was hired to replace team president David Kahn, with whom Love allegedly had a broken go-between. Both sides maintain the new team foundation-personnel leader connection’s in great shape.
Each used a connotation of the word “energy” when describing his offseason.”There’s nothing holding me back right now,” said Love, who missed 64 games last season with a hand injury, in an interview with KFAN 100.3 in Minneapolis.
“The biggest thing is the energy I feel toward getting my body right, finally getting healthy. … After last season a lot of things have been put in perspective on and off the court. I need to stay humble and do the right things.”
Saunders, too, said he feels refreshed following a year-and-a-half away from a team’s office, most of it spent as one of Golic’s colleagues at ESPN.
“When you take time off, what happens a lot of times is your philosophies and your vision are reinforced,” Saunders said on “Mike & Mike.” “So when you come back into something, you have almost a clearer picture of what you need, what you want to do, how you want to accomplish it and how to go about it. So it’s reenergizing maybe is part of that because when you have a clearer focus and a clearer vision, it’s easier to go about what you need to do.”
A primary need is to solidify Love’s future with the team. The two-time all-star and 2012 Olympian has three years left on his current contract, the last of which contains a player option. He didn’t receive a maximum deal from Kahn before last season and addressed his feelings once again on the “Dan Patrick Show” on Thursday.
His response revealed that while his short-term commitment is clear, he’s not exactly making Timberwolves Captain for Life claims.
“I know that there’s a lot that goes into it, especially … the new CBA,” Love told Patrick. “I think it’s just the way it goes sometimes and that I’ve got to really put it behind me. But it also really gives us more space to sign guys like … (restricted free agent) Nikola Pekovic this summer, so I think it’s gonna be good for us in that at the end of the day, I have a fourth-year player option myself, so I think I have a little bit of flexibility whatever I decide to do.
“But I think as far as heading in the right direction and re-signing Pekovic and Ricky (Rubio) finally being healthy, Rick Adelman coming, Flip Saunders being on board now, I think it’s gonna make for a great number of years.”
The most concrete takeaway from Love’s Thursday radio mini-tour tells is a reinforcement that he’s not afraid to remain in Minnesota’s brightest spotlight. He introduced Twin Cities fandom to that fact when he represented the team at the NBA Draft Lottery last month.The ultra-competitive kid who once ran away from home because his father beat him in the finals of a neighborhood tennis match wants to win. And he wants to win in Minneapolis.
Hence the radio and television appearances and get-togethers with players like point guard Rubio to train and Andrei Kirilenko and wife to gauge the free agent’s thoughts on returning. Love’s trained diligently, too, to rehab his injured hand and knee that required surgery near the end of the season.
For the time being, at least, Love’s fully embraced the role fans hoped he would when the Timberwolves traded for him in the 2008 draft.
Today, June 6, during a hugely pivotal offseason, he’s the foundation. It’s up to Flip to build around him to keep it in place.And it’s up to Love’s own actions to keep the structure firm.
“I think there’s gonna be a lot more brighter moments than down moments,” Love said on KFAN, “especially in the near future.”