Before the D-League, there was the Continental Basketball Association. Like the D-League, the CBA gave a platform to some of the less-heralded players out there to show their stuff and earn NBA deals. In the case of Flip Saunders, the CBA was a springboard to a successful NBA coaching career. This week, the head coach/president of basketball operations/part owner of the Timberwolves spoke with Zach Lowe of Grantland about Kevin Love, Kevin Garnett, his journey, and much more. Here’s a look at some of the highlights..
On Kevin Love:
I didn’t have a problem keeping Kevin into the final year of his deal and coaching him. Guys just don’t turn down the extra year and $30MM. Even though he maybe wanted to leave, I thought we still had an opportunity to re-sign him. When you are patient, you can say, ‘This is what we need to get something done, and if we don’t get it, we’re keeping him.’
Then things kind of fell into place, with LeBron going to Cleveland and [Andrew] Wiggins becoming available…People thought it was [bluster when I said I wanted to keep him]. Thoughts might have changed when I announced I would coach. Because what coach wouldn’t want to coach a guy who was All-NBA? Coaches want to win that night. I’m in a unique situation, because as the coach, I live in the present, but as the GM, I look into the future. I try to steer both courses. But people believed I would coach the guy.
On balancing roles and whether he watches college game film to scout draft prospects:
I do watch a lot, actually. You also have to trust people you hire. I’ve been in the league for 18 years. I have an understanding of players. I have a wide base of college coaches I talk to, so I know a lot about guys before they even come into the league. Look, there are positives and negatives to it. You need checks and balances. You can’t make snap decisions. What helps is, I came up in the CBA, where you did everything. I was president, GM, coach, everything, for seven years there. You get to understand the intermingling of the business and basketball sides, because they both have to be successful. You learn how to deal with agents. Building trust with agents is as important as anything in our league now.
On Kevin Garnett‘s role:
He’s gonna start. That’s who he is. KG is a starter. He’s the best power forward on our team, actually. No one rebounds better. He’s the best help defender. No one communicates better. He knows the offense, and he can pass it.
On whether he’ll exercise Anthony Bennett‘s fourth-year option:
We’re going to evaluate him over the summer. He played a good Pan American Games. There is no question about his talent. It’s about getting in shape. He’s in shape now. But it’s going to be competitive with all those guys, and also Nemanja Bjelica, who no one talks about.