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The Minnesota Timberwolves Are Playing Timely Hardball

Flip Saunders has miraculously transformed an unfortunate situation in Minny into a salvageable one.

Andrew Wiggins
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Kevin Love

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Losing a top-10 player is never heaven, but a timely dose of hardball has the Timberwolves coming out on top as they escort Kevin Love out of Minnesota. Head coach, President of Basketball Operations, part-Timberwolves-owner, and “hardballist” Flip Saunders has miraculously transformed an unfortunate situation in Minny into a salvageable one.

Dealing with a discontent that stretched back to refusing to sign Love to a max, five-year deal, the Minnesota organization has known its prime star was darting first chance he got. Other teams were aware of this as suitors like the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and Golden State Warriors pulled out the sales pitches.

Though the Wolves were fielding solid trade offers from suitors, they were at a slight disadvantage as news that Love wanted out of town lightened their willingness to splurge.  But every time an offer came in, Saunders seemed reluctant to bite. His reluctance, many ensured, would eventually tire potential trade mates and Love would ultimately be lost for the value of a sack of regret. There was just no way that the Wolves would win the Kevin Love standoff.

How wrong they were.

As has been confirmed by Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, and later Adrian Wojnarowski, details show that Minnesota played just the right kind of hardball (given, of course, the sad situation they put themselves in to begging with).

Through a three-team trade, the Cavs get: Kevin Love

76ers get: Luc Mbah a Moute, Alexey Shved, and the Miami Heat’s first-round draft pick that Cleveland currently owns.

And the Wolves, once expected to come out of this rather empty-handed, end up with: Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young (courtesy of Philadelphia), a first-round draft pick from the Cavaliers, and a trade exception worth nearly $4 million.

Through a timely game of hardball, Flip Saunders just lived up to his name, flipping a situation that should have ended in buckets of tears into one with the potential to end in buckets of the basketball kind. A Rubio, Martin, Wiggins, Young, Pekovic starting five isn’t one for the ages but one that can age well if made sturdy by a defensive-minded bench. One can only imagine what Saunders could have managed with an ounce of leverage.

Love has found himself a cushy home in Cleveland but Saunders has proved his worth, with the very act of losing Love, as the type of negotiator Love was desperate for all of these years. Yet, now both parties must make do without the other in their quest for wins. If this whole Love ordeal is any indication, however, Minnesota might not be many years away from racking up the wins to the level Love hopes to find alongside LeBron.

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