For months, the NBA has been preparing for the news that broke during the weekend: Kevin Love does not intend to sign an extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves and plans to become a free agent in 2015.
Love's move had been expected. It has predictably placed the Wolves in a familiar corner, where many teams have resided in the past five years of unprecedented superstar movement. Rival teams hoping for a chance at getting their hands on Love have been plotting strategies for this moment.
Executives and agents told ESPN.com they believe the Wolves have three ways they can handle this situation. Some of these scenarios could come into play immediately after Tuesday night's draft lottery.
Led by owner Glen Taylor, this is the path the Wolves have been openly posturing toward.
In 2007, Kobe Bryant famously and publicly asked to be traded from the Los Angeles Lakers because he was upset with the direction of the franchise. The Lakers, who had Bryant under contract, responded by rejecting the notion and telling him to trust their plan. Eight months later, they traded for Pau Gasol and made three consecutive Finals. Bryant has since signed two contract extensions.
The bottom line is the team doesn't bend to the pressure applied by the player, and stays the course with the belief that the star will choose to stay.
The Orlando Magic took this same route in 2011 with Dwight Howard. They rejected his preseason trade demand and made it known they would not be moving him, hoping that a strong season would convince him to stay. Late in the season, while the team was playing well, Howard elected to opt into his contract for the following year, relieving the pressure.
However, Howard's final season in Orlando ended poorly. The Magic cleaned house and traded Howard to the Lakers the following summer.
The Wolves have a head coaching opening and a lottery pick coming their way. They also may be able to make some other moves after a season in which they showed improvement but lost numerous close games.
Believing they are not far away, the Wolves could push back with strength and send a message to Love that he should prepare for another season in Minneapolis.
Trading a star under duress typically has not returned fair value, and waiting out the market often reduces a team's options even further.
But this strategy has worked in some cases, as mentioned above. If the Wolves believe they can have a turnaround season, they could go this route and shut down rumors and buy time to see if some big offseason decisions work.
If Minnesota comes to the conclusion that Love must be traded -- and this is what agents and executives think will be the ultimate reality -- they can involve Love in the process, much like the New Orleans Hornets did with Chris Paul in 2011.
Even if Love were completely happy, it would not make complete financial sense to sign an extension to his current contract. The rules favor his letting it expire next summer and starting with a new deal. The same goes with any team Love would be traded to. This unquestionably limits his trade value because teams will be wary of trading for a player on the last year of his contract.