Kevin Love Basks in the Warmth

Benjamin Polk —  August 11, 2010 — 9 Comments

Photo by dreamglow pumpkincat210

Some disquieting news out of the Team USA training camp. It appears that our own Kevin Love has discovered the green grass and deep blue skies of competent teammates and meaningful competition. John Schuhmann of NBA.com reports on Love’s epiphanic summer:

Love was asked Tuesday if he felt more appreciated with the U.S. Team than with the Timberwolves. “Yes,” he responded. “Just a solid yes.” But he was quick to clarify. “I don’t want to come off sounding like a prima donna or sound like I’m complaining or anything,” Love said. “I just feel like, since I’ve been here, it’s really been a great team atmosphere. We feel like we have a chance to win this whole thing. I think everybody is just coming in with a great attitude and appreciating everybody as a whole, and really becoming a family.”

“Just a solid yes.” That’s tough. First of all, I’m intrigued by the way that Kevin seems to have ditched the typical pro athlete non-speak. Want to know whether Rashad McCants is actually a terrible teammate? K-Love will let you know (he is).  How about whether its more fun to get love for your national team than pull reserve minutes for your 15-win employer? Kevin will set you straight.

In his piece, Shuhmann helpfully point out that last season Love “averaged fewer minutes than Ryan Gomes and started fewer games than Ryan Hollins. This was a below average rebounding team, and they couldn’t find more than 29 minutes for the best per-minute rebounder in the league.” True on all counts. Without a doubt, it was painful to watch Love sit out entire quarters while Darko and Hollins wandered in the wilderness.

But lets also remember a few things. First, on last year’s Wolves, the playing time was relatively evenly distributed; only Al Jefferson (32.4) and Corey Brewer (30.3) averaged more than 30 minutes per game. So Love’s court time (28.6 mpg), while certainly a little low for a rebounder of his stature, was roughly comparable to that of the team’s other starters.

Second thing: Kahn and Rambis have been widely ridiculed for the belief that Love and Jefferson could not coexist. But the fact is that the Wolves got murdered on defense when the two not-so-big boys played together. You could argue that a) Rambis was wrong to favor Jefferson over Love in crunch time, or that b) Love’s and Al’s rebounding and offensive production were more important than any defensive gains brought by Darko and Hollins (I’m probably more in this camp), but there’s no arguing that, last season, Rambis faced a lot of terrible options in his frontcourt.

Third thing: this may have been lost among all of the other bummers and depressives of the 09-10 season, but let’s remember that for much of the second half of the year, Love was not his normal ferocious, energetic self. He seemed lost, distracted and lethargic. His numbers started to slip. Even reliable Wolves cheerleader Jim Peterson commented on the air that Love “looks to me like he’s checked out.” For sure, much of this was frustration at his uncertainty within the offense, with his “promotion” to the second unit and with the team’s awful fortunes. But consider that players like Damian Wilkins, Corey Brewer and even Jonny Flynn and Big Al mostly managed to carry on with their customary intensity even as things got bleak. As Rambis himself offered, “if he’s not playing hard, then things aren’t gonna work out for him.”

The Wolves’ frontcourt situation is no less muddled this year than last. Love, Darko, Michael Beasley, Nikola Pecovic and Anthony Tolliver will all be competing for the two big man spots. But, as this national team experience has plainly shown, now that Al Jefferson has moved on (and maybe even before that) Kevin Love is clearly the Wolves’ best player. Lineup experiments and lessons in professionalism aside, its time for the kid to see some sunshine.

Benjamin Polk

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9 responses to Kevin Love Basks in the Warmth

  1. I want to like Love and get behind him as my favorite Timberwolves player, particularly b/c I like his style of play, but it’s tough when there are so many indications that he is going to bolt the first chance he gets. I don’t see him playing for this team in 3 years.

  2. Purely speculation… but I think that last year was nothing but a try-out for the coming years. Both Kahn and Rambis knew that Love was going to be a factor, going forward. So I think they were less concerned about having him on the floor, for purely evaluational purposes. Al was an obvious choice to be jettisoned, because of his inability to bring anything to an uptempo game, putrid defense, and sizable contract. So really the competition was between Dark horse and Hollins. And apparently the reward for such a competition, is a unsubstantiated contract, which in turn basically guarantees a spot in the starting 5.

    And, unfortunately for K-Love, this year projects to be a continuation of last. It will be a try-out for players such as Beasley, Webster, and Tolliver. And since two of the aforementioned are big men, Love’s minutes promise to be less than what they should be… again.

    I realize that Love is a level headed guy, and that he understands what the Wolves are trying to do… but after getting a taste of succesful basketball again, I just can’t see how he could stomach another year of underuse. Especially if he ends up playing a major part in the success of Team U.S.A. He is a tenaciously competetive baller, and will be running for the hills, the first chance he gets, if the Wolves continue to put him on a shelf.

  3. And I have a little pop quiz, that doesn’t really have anything to do with this article… but it is just something that I have been thinking about: Have the Wolves EVER had an Eastern European player, that lived up to expectations? I will let you answer that, because I honestly can’t think of one. My mind immediately goes to names like Nesterovic, Jaric, Pavlovic, Tskitishvili, and Vrankovic. Not exactly Divac, Stojakovic, or even Kukoc (and btw- Toni Kukoc and Drazen Petrovic {may he rest in peace} were two of my favorite basketball players, when I was growing up… so it isn’t like I am biased against these guys).

    All I am saying is that perhaps certain teams aren’t meant to have certain types of players. Maybe the Wolves aren’t supposed to have Eastern European players.

    I hope I am wrong, or we are SCREWED for a center (that’s right- Milicic, Pekovic, and even Koufos are ALL Eastern Euro’s)!!! Just sayin’.

  4. What would this team look like if you’d drafted DeMarcus Cousins to play Centre instead of Darko, traded Al Jefferson for a shooting guard such as (hypothetically) Kevin Martin, kept the far superior Ramon Sessions to start over Jonny Flynn and not signed the soon-to-be-washed-up Luke Ridnour?

    A line-up of Sessions, K-Mart, Brewer, Love, Cousins with Flynn, Webster, Beasley coming off the bench wouldn’t be so bad. Young, talented, cheap. Just musing. Of course, I’m no genius like David Kahn.

  5. I tend to agree with Matt. It seems to me that K-Love isn’t that interested in sticking around – as he noted in a recent interview with the Hoop Doctors his two closest ties to the Wolves were McHale and Big Al, and not only are they gone, they were dumped fairly unceremoniously. Whether deserved or not, obviously K-Love is going to think, “that’s what they’re going to do to me when the time comes” and will plan accordingly. I believe right or wrong, Kahn doesn’t think that highly of Love — honestly, how often does he mention Love except in some collective way, while he is effusive in specific praise for guys like Darko, Beasley and Rubio – the last, who isn’t even on the team! Kahn and Rambis clearly want to sink or swim with their own guys which is their right, but that isn’t going to make Love feel any better.

    Financially, what the Wolves are doing also has to be annoying to Love because other 2008 players are going to be signing big-money extensions soon. He hasn’t really established that kind of value, and if he feels like Kahn and Rambis aren’t going to pay him and aren’t going to give him the PT so he can put up numbers so someone else will, that’s money out of his pocket.

    I don’t know, I don’t see this really going anywhere other than K-Love leaving town in the next two years, and it seems like the team doesn’t want to give him up or commit to him in the meantime, all in the vague name of “collecting assets” and “seeing what they have”. Hard to argue with him being frustrated.

  6. I realize minutes aren’t the only measure of a player’s value, but it is interesting to note that among the 14 lottery picks in the 2008 draft, K-Love ranked only 10th in mpg (28.6) last season, barely ahead of Jerryd Bayless (27.7) who doesn’t really project to more than a second-unit scorer, Anthony Randolph (22.7) who missed most of the season due to injuries, and two busts, Joe Alexander and D.J. Augustin. Everybody else including guys like Jason Thompson and Brandon Rush got more PT which seems crazy to me.

    If K-Love is really the best player on a 15-win team, it’s not that clear to me why playing him wasn’t more of a priority. Darko got all the minutes he wanted while the team went 2-24 with him and Flynn got all kinds of minutes (28.9, also more than Love!) while struggling mightily at times, so it wasn’t because the team was putting winning at all costs ahead of individual player development.

  7. I just want to say that whomever comes up with the pics that go with these posts is brilliant. They slay me.

  8. Yeah, I read this article too on NBA.com and it really didn’t surprise me.

    I agree with Matt about him leaving in a couple of years too. It’s a trend that reaching new points this year – the trend of moving on to winning teams. Yeah, it’s always been there but I’ve never quite seen it to the level since Kevin Garnett started it in the summer of ’07 and really urged the top players to move on to the best possible situations so they can snag themselves a championship. K-Love has now seen the greener pastures and he likes it, as he should!

    Also, the reason why he would make a comment like this, other than it being true that winning is the answer to happiness in this league….. MINUTES! This guy was truly the best player on the team last year, Big Al didn’t look the same the way he was in ’08! Kahn wasn’t in favor of him as well, remember he was a McHale guy. The team was looking to move one of them, they just needed to know how fit the team the best…. looking at the obvious with the settled, peaked game and bloated contract of Al Jefferson, they chose to move him but if he isn’t averaging the minutes he wants…. it shows he isn’t part of this five year plan the Wolves have and Love will leave in the drop of the dime.

    One more thing, Mac you made me think of something about Love I haven’t really assessed about him before. What really is to come of him. Looking back at that 08 draft, Love is the one I would feel most undetermined about how his future will turn out in the league and I think Kahn thinks that way about him too! It’s settle to me that Rose will be a multiple All-Star and in the upper echelon of the league. Beasley, sad to say, will never amount to be a impact player in any way but could be a nice role player. Westbrook will be a tag-team tandem with Durant for years to come and will fair well with him but never a top 20 player. Mayo and Gordon could probably make one All-Star appearance but never will be seen a great or anywhere near that! Lopez has a ceiling that I really don’t know how high it could get but I don’t think it’ll be in a legendary status….. Gallo is the only other guy I’m uncertain about like Love but to a lesser extent because with more minute for Love means more baskets to add to his scorecard!

  9. Hayden says:
    August 11, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    What would this team look like if you’d drafted DeMarcus Cousins to play Centre instead of Darko, traded Al Jefferson for a shooting guard such as (hypothetically) Kevin Martin, kept the far superior Ramon Sessions to start over Jonny Flynn and not signed the soon-to-be-washed-up Luke Ridnour?

    A line-up of Sessions, K-Mart, Brewer, Love, Cousins with Flynn, Webster, Beasley coming off the bench wouldn’t be so bad. Young, talented, cheap. Just musing. Of course, I’m no genius like David Kahn.
    _________________________________________________________________

    About this? You know what I learned about the NBA last season – NBA Teams and GMs are looking for the home run hitter and not a petty two to three years fifth seed playoff team! Presti has shown it with OKC, Pritchard did it with Portland, and I’m starting to see Bird conjure it up a bit with the Pacers.

    God forbid you let your team end up like Charlotte where they had enough pieces to get by but where are they going to be in three years? My guess is the lottery unless the get a steal in the draft or a nice free agent! Even Atlanta is like that team, it got real good getting Joe Johnson but it’ll never be a championship team unless the get a player on his caliber or higher!

    So I’m going to wait for Kahn to find his guy in the draft….. There might be a Durant, Rose, or Evans in there

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