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Sources: Sam Mitchell emerges as Minnesota candidate with Kevin Love's future undecided

Adrian Wojnarowski
Yahoo Sports

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Sam Mitchell looks on during a New Jersey Nets game in 2011. (Getty file photo)

As the Minnesota Timberwolves consider the future of All-Star forward Kevin Love, Sam Mitchell has emerged as a serious candidate for the franchise's head coaching job, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Mitchell left a good impression with Wolves president Flip Saunders in a recent meeting and has moved himself into consideration for the job, league sources said.

Beyond the coaching search, the Wolves are under pressure to start considering trade scenarios for Love, who's anxious to exercise his early termination option (ETO) in the summer of 2015 and leave as a free agent, league sources said.

"For the first time, [Saunders] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option," one rival executive told Yahoo Sports.

The Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are among many teams determined to make hard runs at trades for Love, league sources said. Boston and Los Angeles plan to make high-lottery picks in the 2014 NBA draft available in offers for Love, sources said.

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Will Sam Mitchell be able to keep Kevin Love in Minnesota? (AP)

No team is likely to trade for Love without an assurance that he'll commit to a five-year, $100 million maximum contract extension. Despite a belief that Love prefers Los Angeles or New York as a potential destination, he's open to deals in other markets where he can be part of an immediate contender, sources said.

Nevertheless, Saunders has made finding a coach to help convince Love to reconsider free agency as a top priority, but the bigger issue for the All-Star forward comes with a roster that hasn't been talented enough to make the Western Conference playoffs.

Minnesota probed several top college coaches, including Florida's Billy Donovan, Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg, sources said, but those coaches weren't inclined to seriously consider the Wolves job. The broad belief that the Wolves will have to trade Love has made coaches leery of the franchise's future.

Mitchell has a strong history with Saunders and Minnesota, where he had two stops as a player -- 1989-1992 and 1995-2002. Mitchell played for Saunders in his second stint.

As the Toronto Raptors coach for parts of five seasons, Mitchell reached the playoffs twice and won the NBA coach of the year award in 2007. After his firing into Toronto in 2010, he spent a season with the Nets as an assistant coach. He's been a television analyst and radio host since leaving the Nets in 2011.

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