By JON KRAWCZYNSKI
AP Basketball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Throughout most of last season, Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders and owner Glen Taylor remained steadfast in their stance that they would not consider trading Kevin Love.
They were determined instead to convince the All-Star forward that he should sign an extension to remain after next season.
With the NBA draft lottery coming up this week and an increasing concern that Love will leave for another team after next year, that stance has softened, two people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.
The Timberwolves are now open to the idea of trading Love if the right deal comes along.
The people requested anonymity because the team has not made any final decisions on Love’s future in Minnesota. A likely asking price would include a high first-round pick in this year’s draft and a solid veteran or two who would come in and contribute right away to a team that is lacking in veteran leadership.
If the Wolves do not get an offer they feel is worthy of parting with the second-best player in franchise history, they are content to move forward with a plan to show Love that Minnesota is where he belongs, much the way the Portland Trail Blazers did with LaMarcus Aldridge last offseason.
Love just finished the second year of a four-year deal that includes an option for him to opt-out in the summer of 2015.
The contract terms were the first signs of strife for Love and the organization when former basketball boss David Kahn declined to give him the full five-year maximum deal that Love wanted.
Kahn was fired in 2013 and Saunders has worked tirelessly to try to convince Love that he should stay in Minnesota where he can make about $26.5 million more than he can anywhere else.
But the Wolves have not made the playoffs in 10 years, including all six of Love’s seasons with the team, a lack of success that has one of the best power forwards in the game growing more and more impatient.
Neither Love nor his representatives have gone so far as to ask for a trade, but as the NBA draft lottery approaches on Tuesday, the trade market figures to heat up.
The Timberwolves are slotted to pick 13th in the first round.
But they are holding out hope that they get lucky for the first time in franchise history in the lottery and jump up. Getting one of the top three picks in a strong draft could be an encouraging sign for Love.
If that doesn’t happen, the Wolves could look at making a trade if they felt it had a chance to make them better in the long run.
Love has made three All-Star teams and helped Team USA win the gold medal at the London Olympics. He averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists last season, but the Wolves finished a disappointing 40-42 and missed the playoffs in the Western Conference.
While there remains some question whether Love can be the best player on a championship-caliber team, there figures to be a long list of suitors to line up for his services via trade this summer or free agency next year.
But Love would likely have to give any team that makes the Wolves an offer some kind of indication that he is open to signing an extension, much the way Chris Paul did when he was dealt from New Orleans to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011.
The uncertainty surrounding Love has also complicated the Wolves’ pursuit of a coach to replace Rick Adelman, who retired after the season.
Saunders has been in the market for a proven, experienced head coach who can come and command respect right away while also handling what most assuredly would be a difficult season filled with constant questions about Love’s status.
Not surprisingly, most of the names near the top of Saunders’ list have been reluctant to entertain the idea of taking the job without knowing what is going to happen with Love. Some luck on lottery night could also make the job more attractive for an incoming coach.
In the absence of any long-shot lottery luck, the Wolves will ramp up their coaching search after their draft position solidifies on Tuesday night.
Names such as Lionel Hollins, Sam Mitchell and Scott Skiles will all get consideration. And return runs at Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Florida’s Billy Donovan or Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg aren’t out of the question after all three gave them a tepid response early in the process.
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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.