Saunders expects Love with Timberwolves next season

Saunders expects Love with Timberwolves next season
June 1, 2014, 8:30 pm
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Numerous rumors and reports have Kevin Love playing anywhere but with the Minnesota Timberwolves next season. The All-Star forward added to the speculation with a recent trip to Boston. The rumor mill even made a stop in Washington, mentioning the Wizards as a "stealth candidate" for the double-double machine.

Flip Saunders isn't buying any of it, so he says. It's actually rather important what he says seeing as the former Wizards coach is the Timberwolves team president. Since Love is under contract for the upcoming season with an opt-out option the following summer, Saunders would have to approve a trade for the playing elsewhere angle to matter. 

"The last I knew Kevin was under contract with us, and I expect him to be playing for us next year," Saunders told the Associated Press on Sunday after a workout of draft prospects. "I don't really dictate where guys go on vacation or what they do. They can go wherever they want to go."

Love averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and shot 37.6 percent on his 3-point attempts last season for Minnesota. All of that production led the Timberwolves right back where they have always landed during Love's six NBA seasons: the draft lottery. Minnesota finished 40-42, a record good enough to reach the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Alas, the Timberwolves play in the loaded West.

The league-wide belief is that Love, who will make $15.7 million this season according to the basketball website Hoopshype, will exercise his contractual option and leave for another team following the 2014-15 season. Seeing as the 6-foot-10 power forward could be the final piece that puts a team into title or deep playoff contention, it's understandable why some want to make a move on Love sooner than later.

"I know there's a feeding frenzy out there from a lot of teams," Saunders said. "Unfortunately, they have no say. I plan on Kevin being here."

[MORE: Temple would love to be back with Wizards]

Saunders might simply be biding his time about making a trade until the June 26 draft or when free agency opens on July 1.  Should Love leave, the Timberwolves would almost assuredly enter rebuild mode. If Minnesota does nothing this year, they risk losing Love without receiving anything in return. 

Perhaps Saunders is simply busy looking for a new head coach, having just missed out Memphis' Dave Joerger. However, he doesn't seem terribly motivated to make a quick move on this front either. Per the AP, Saunders was asked if he would have a coach ready by the June 26 draft. "There's probably a better chance that we would than we wouldn't," he said. "We're not going to put a time frame on it."

One way or another, the clock is ticking on Kevin Love's time in Minnesota. Just ask the rumor mill.