Photo by Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
After several unhappy seasons and a month-long purgatory stint in which he was a halfway-Cavalier, Kevin Love has finally, officially left Minnesota.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor has taken this as an opportunity to vent. Chatting with reporters on Tuesday, Taylor passive-aggressively disparaged Love on several fronts, from the forward's injury history ("the only thing that I still have a question mark about is his health"), to his effort ("he got away with some stuff, not playing defense on our team"), to his apparently not being better than Kyrie Irving ("he's going to be a third player on a team").
Some of what Taylor said is true, but a person possessing a whit of self-awareness would have clammed up when asked about Love, wishing him the best of luck and quickly pivoting to Andrew Wiggins and the Wolves' bright future. Doing so would have shown that Taylor understands his place in this story. But he clearly does not. Like so many owners, he thinks he's more important than he is.
In his most famous speech, the great Donald Sterling incredulously asked, "Who makes the game?"
Here's a brief thought experiment that solves Sterling's quandary. Take away the 50 best players in the NBA and imagine the on-court product. Now, instead of removing players from the league, replace each owner with a Dietz & Watson ham that has a net worth of $800 million. The management structure would be a bit out of whack—I'll concede that a ham makes a marginally less competent owner than Glen Taylor, because Taylor has arms with which to sign checks—but with LeBron James, Chris Paul, et al. still around, I'm pretty sure everyone involved could figure out a way to make a lot of money.
Sterling got the answer to his own question wrong. Players should make whatever career moves they think suit them, and owners should be grateful to reap the financial rewards of athletes as talented as Kevin Love. That Taylor feels like he can publicly bash the second-best player in Wolves history because Love wanted out of an organization that blew four consecutive lottery selections and never gave him a bona fide running mate demonstrates an ass-backwards grasp of who's indebted to whom.
What's additionally nettlesome about this saga is that it's not as if Love has spurned Taylor to play for some enlightened franchise. He's now under the employ of Dan Gilbert, the loan shark par excellence who met his famous player's departure with a comic sans temper tantrum.
When LeBron announced he was coming back to Cleveland, he threw Gilbert a life preserver: "I've met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We've talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I've made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?" It's conceivable that LeBron has in fact forgiven Gilbert, but he returned because he wants to win a title for northeast Ohio, which is his home. Similarly, Love is focused on winning a championship, though he's not picky about the uniform in which he celebrates it. Gilbert was never a primary consideration in either player's decision. He's just along for the ride.
Players have a limited degree of agency in the NBA. In the middle of their careers, they can move wherever they want, but it seems they're always choosing between greater and lesser monied jerks who look at a basketball court and see something that belongs to them. It doesn't, but that won't stop them from saying so.
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