If Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t careful, the ballyhooed trade that would sent the three-time All-Star to Northeast Ohio could fall through before it’s actually completed. Given a previous report that the agreed upon deal was contingent on a “firm agreement” that Love will re-sign in Cleveland next summer, ESPN reports that the NBA could veto the trade entirely if it believes such a pact – illegal under league rules – already exists.
The story is courtesy of ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein. In addition to the “firm agreement” on Love’s summer 2015 contract originally reported by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowksi, the 30-day moratorium on trading Andrew Wiggins that expires on August 23 makes it equally pertinent the Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves stay mum on the seemingly imminent trade.
But sources say the Cavs and Wolves, knowing that league officials are monitoring this transaction closely, have been careful not to make any public acknowledgments that trade details have already been agreed to. That’s because Wiggins remains ineligible to be moved until 30 days pass from the signing of his rookie contract.
The Cavs were granted permission last month by Minnesota to speak to Love and his representatives in an introductory fashion, sources say, while James and Love have also been in direct contact in recent weeks about their long-term intentions of playing together.
On Thursday, Yahoo! Sports reported that the Cavs and Wolves have agreed to a trade in principle and that Love has an agreement to re-sign with the Cavs next summer for five years, $120 million after opting out of his contract.
But sources insist that no agreement for Love to sign an extension in Cleveland next summer — when he can become a free agent — is in place.
In addition, under NBA rules, such an agreement would be illegal, and, if proven, it potentially could be grounds for the league to block this trade and dole out punishment to both teams.
LeBron James almost made that very error yesterday while discussing Love’s potential impact on the Cavs. He was careful to use qualifiers like “if” and “we don’t know for sure” when it came to his future teammate, though, avoiding potential tampering charges in the process. The safest route for LeBron – and all parties involved in the mega-trade – would be to entirely defer questions surrounding it until later this month when Wiggins is officially on the table.
The Love contract talks would be just as damaging if acknowledged publicly. It’s been widely known that the Cavaliers would be hesitant to trade for Love if he didn’t intend to re-sign with them next summer, so Wojnarowski’s report of a finalized trade that included an assurance from Love that was the route he’d take was hardly surprising.
But the diction matters here. A “handshake” or “wink-wink” agreement between Love and Cleveland on a longterm contract is much different than a “firm” one, and such understandings between team and player aren’t uncommon. The Love situation was already under the league’s watchful eye due to Wiggins’ current status, however, making a mere glimpse of the reported pact far more visible than normal.
Cleveland and Minnesota, then, have every incentive to float harmless misinformation until the trade becomes official on August 23. The report by Windhorst and Stein, you’ll notice, includes an insistence that no extension agreement between Love and the Cavs is in place. That’s surely the justification behind a similar report by CBS Sports’ Ken Berger from Thursday that contradicted Wojnarowski’s, too.
Frankly, history has shown there might not be two organizations less equipped to handle these delicate circumstances than Cleveland and Minnesota. The ‘Wolves were heavily sanctioned by the league in 2000 after agreeing – in writing! – to a contract with Joe Smith during a dead period, and the Cavs’ recent, all-encompassing ineptitude always makes the worst seem possible. But both franchises are under new regimes now, and terms of the Love trade seem a win for both sides – hopefully this summer marks the turning of a new leaf for each team.
But Cleveland, Minnesota, Love, James, Wiggins, and everyone else must exercise caution. As crazy as the build-up to this trade has been, its demise would be even worse.
What do you think?
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