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Indiana Pacers Are For Real/ Everyone Loves Kevin Love

The about face from the talking heads covering the NBA playoffs has been fast enough to make anyone’s head spin. All of a sudden, the first place Indiana Pacers might be good enough to challenge the Miami HEAT – shocking! Then one little news story about Kevin Love being unhappy in Minnesota out of New York and nearly every media outlet in every NBA city is thinking up ways their team can steal one of the most productive power forwards in the league from the Timberwolves – well it wouldn’t be the first time.

The Pacers made a statement in last year’s playoffs by taking the HEAT to seven games and despite a rather crappy second half to this season – by the Pacers current standards – Indiana is a better team this time around and an objective view of the HEAT is they are not any better and might have gotten worse.

Going back to last year, the Pacers have shown an inability to get up for lesser teams, a trait they showed in spades during the playoffs this year. However, since last year’s playoffs, getting up for a challenge hasn’t been a problem.

The top teams in the NBA haven’t changed from a season ago. It’s still Miami, San Antonio and the Thunder with the Pacers in the East and a handful of teams in the West making moves to challenge them. After going 2-5 in 2012-2013 against the HEAT, Spurs and Thunder during the regular season, this year the Pacers were 4-4. Between their regular season head-to-head record against the best teams in the league and their first place finish, this team has earned a lot more respect than they have been getting.

It’s only one game and the changing of the guard doesn’t happen until the challenger puts the champion away, but the Pacers deserve a lot more respect as a legitimate threat. They earned it.

That Kevin Love isn’t happy in Minnesota is old news. This story goes all the back to Love not getting a maximum five year deal out of the Timberwolves back in 2012 and the player option for the 2015-2016 season that put the team under the break the playoff drought or else hammer. The ‘or else hammer’ is starting to drop and it’s hard to see how Minnesota could convince anyone that this team is ever going to be more than a threat to eighth place in the Western Conference as currently constructed.

Whether ‘Love’s people’ are demanding a trade or not, the premise of the rumors about Love not wanting to stay on a team that has spent a decade in the NBA lottery isn’t hard to believe. The sharks are circling and if Love will agree to pick up his player option for 2015-2016, he is a very trade-able player.

Don’t look for verifiable confirmation of Love’s desire to leave or the teams he might want to play for. The NBA has rules about players making open trade demands. However, if there is one thing that fits with this situation, its Love is sick of losing. Any trade that will see the cooperation necessary to extract maximum value in a trade will put Love into a winning environment. The likelihood of Love voluntarily joining another rebuilding team is somewhere between remote and are you bleeping crazy.

This will be fun to watch – if you are not a Timberwolves fan- and if Minnesota wants to extract maximum value they will be shopping Love now – even if it takes all summer to find the right deal. Love to your favorite NBA team will be a story that just keeps on giving until a deal gets done.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.