This past week Kevin Love signed an extension with the Timberwolves. While the deal keeps him in Minnesota for four more years, it spoke a great deal to me about what the NBA is like in this post lockout era.
In the years leading up to the lockout, star players were starting to leverage their skill to get them in playing situations they wanted to be in. We saw this when Chris Bosh and LeBron James went to join Dwyane Wade in Miami. We saw Carmelo Anthony hold his team hostage until he got to New York. The thinking was, that the changes made in the new contract would try to prevent some of this power that players have accumulated. But, here we are in the first few weeks of the season and it seems that we are back at it. While the NBA middle class is taking a hit by this surge of power, rising stars are converting their on court success into success in leveraging their contract. Kevin Love provides the perfect backdrop.
I remember doing a scouting report on Love when he was coming into the league. I knew he was going to be good, but I did not expect him to be this good, this soon. He has been a very consistent player and the Timberwolves have rightly wanted to build around him. This brings me to my point. Because of Love’s success he was able to negotiate a contract extension and give himself an opt-out clause after the fourth year. This may seem like nothing at first blush, but after I thought further, this has put him in the driver seat. He has already established himself as a desirable player around the league. This year it seems like he is finally around some better talent and has a strong coach. He has a chance to be successful if the team makes smart choices and takes the steps necessary for greatness. However, if they draft poorly, sign bad free agents that do not make the team stronger, Love is able to walk away with plenty of years ahead of him to sign with a contender. He has put the onus on the Wolves to get better. He has started the timer and the Wolves are on the clock to keep the team competitive and growing if they want to keep him for longer then the four years.
The point of every season is to win the whole thing. Each year you want to grow and improve to reach that final goal. If you are lucky enough to get a top flight talent in the draft it is a blessing to the franchise. But, it comes with a catch – you have to grow the right way in order to maintain that success and keep that talent. This year we have already seen one of the best point guards in Chris Paul get traded because he wanted out of playing in New Orleans. We are also observing how Dwight Howard has let his displeasure be known. Deron Williams is also itching to move if he doesn’t get a playing partner that he likes by the end of this season.
Super stars are rare in the NBA and if you get lucky enough to draft one, you better know how to build the team to keep them because we are seeing players leave with no problem.
The lockout was about owners trying to get more power back. It seems though, the star players still have plenty to use.