Love frustrated by lack of love
Hardly anyone seems to understand what's going on in Minnesota with Kevin Love. Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis continues to limit the double-double machine to reserve's minutes, and most everyone is baffled by it.
After Love played just 24 minutes in Minnesota's season-opening loss to Sacramento, the Timberwolves received roughly 100 emails and phone calls from angry fans complaining about Love's lack of playing time, according to sources.
The typically media-friendly Love was clearly frustrated after that game and left the locker room without speaking to reporters. After practice the next day, Love and Rambis said they're on the same page, but sources tell me that privately, Love is still very frustrated.
After Minnesota traded Al Jefferson to Utah last summer, GM David Kahn sold Love on the idea that he was now the franchise's cornerstone player. Love bought it and entered the season expecting big minutes, which has only added to his bewilderment about what's transpired over the first five games.
Love's not the only one who's confused. Some members of the Timberwolves organization are baffled that Rambis has limited Love to just 26.4 minutes a game, according to sources, and many executives and scouts throughout the NBA are stunned by Love's lack of playing time.
"You have to be on crystal meth not to give Love more minutes on that team,'' one scout told me. "It makes no sense.''
Love's 26.4 minutes per game is a team-high, but it's far below the playing time his production would seem to demand. The third-year power forward leads the Timberwolves with 16.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game and ranks third in the NBA in rebounds per 48 minutes.
Love's less-than-stellar defense is the reason most cited for his reduced minutes, but while he'll never be Dwight Howard, that argument doesn't seem to hold water.
In his career, the 22-year-old Love has played 30 or more minutes in 52 games, averaging 17 points and 12.3 rebounds while shooting 48 percent from the floor. The Timberwolves' record in those games is 14-38, a winning percentage of .269. That's far from a great clip, but it's better than the 40-128 mark (.238) Minnesota has when Love plays fewer than 30 minutes.
Executives around the league are keeping an eye on Love's situation and many would love to pry him away from Minnesota. The Timberwolves have given no indication they're willing to trade Love, and he has not requested a move.
But if Love's minutes remain limited over the next six weeks or so, don't be surprised if his frustration and unhappiness becomes a bigger, more volatile issue.
Ellis and Curry on same page
There's a widespread belief that Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry don't get along, but sources tell me that's far from the truth. In fact, Curry was one of the few Warriors players who attended Ellis' wedding this past summer.
Ellis was certainly unhappy in Golden State last year but that was because of owner Chris Cohan and coach Don Nelson, not because of Curry. Ellis never got over Cohan's desire and push to void his six-year, $66 million contract after Ellis injured his ankle in an off-season moped accident a couple years ago. And like many players, Ellis spent significant time in Nelson's doghouse.
But now that Cohan has sold the team and Nelson's been replaced by Keith Smart, Ellis is "happy playing basketball for the first time in a long time,'' according to a source close to him.
His numbers suggest as much as he's averaging a league-best 30 ppg to go along with 6.0 assists on 55 percent shooting. Plus, the Warriors, with one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league, are off to a 3-1 start.
While rumors of an Ellis trade were rampant last summer, sources tell me the Warriors have no intention of moving Ellis. While some raised their eyebrows when he signed his contract two years ago, now a deal that averages $11 million per looks like a bargain.
For more than a year there have been rumors that Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince would be traded from Detroit, but even though the Pistons are 0-5, their two vets may be staying put.
The perimeter-heavy Pistons would love to move Hamilton - for their sake and for his - to a contender, but with two years, $25 million left on his contract after this season, takers for the 32-year-old are few, if any. Hamilton might be a nice fit in Chicago, but the Bulls would only take on that contract if they could get rid of Luol Deng, which is a near impossibility. Plus, Hamilton's production has dropped to just 10.7 ppg this season.
There's far more interest in Prince, but since he's in the final year of a contract paying him $11 million this season, the Pistons may just keep him. With Prince's deal having value on the open market, Detroit will listen to offers but it will only move him for a player it sees as a future building block.
Interest in Varejao
With the Cleveland Cavaliers looking to move on from the LeBron James Era, clubs are calling about Anderson Varejao, an energetic role player who would help any contender. Portland has interest, and San Antonio, with ex-Cavs GM Danny Ferry now in its front office, is also a team to keep an eye on. After contending for titles the past few seasons, Varejao wouldn't mind being dealt to an elite club either, according to sources. So stay tuned.