My interview with Kevin Love was another treasure trove that I couldn’t really find a place for. Picture: an insanely cold day. Me drinking tea at the Starbucks across from the Target Center. A very tall man sitting across from me at an embarrassingly small table answering my questions–about his role on the team, his relationship with Kurt Rambis and the entire controversy over his minutes–with candor and good humor. I appreciate that.
Last year I remember you once mentioning after a game that you and a lot of the other guys were frustrated by their roles in the offense. Has that changed since then?
Yeah I think that even with the new guys that we have on the team, I think everybody’s kind of accepted their role. But I feel like this really being Kurt’s first year–and all the coaching staff back and still together–I feel like they’re explaining stuff better and guy’s are starting to understand where they’re getting their shots throughout the offense. Plus I think we’ve put in different sets this year that have helped different guys get different shots. But also with Big Al, he was the type of guy that ran to the left block–I mean, his offensive repartoir was unbelievable, maybe the best in the league still in the low block [trails off]…
But if you look at guys like Mike, he opens up so much stuff for other guys especially when he learns how to find open guys for shots. And with me too being able to play the inside-out game and with Luke playing as smart as he does, I feel like the offense doesn’t always have to be the triangle. We can go out there and run other stuff too.
After the Detroit game I think Luke was saying that it’s just nice to have some pick-and-roll to run once in a while.
Yeah that was great. Luke and I were talking after the game that we should just run that a lot. If we need to get things going, especially in those third and fourth quarters when we have droughts, I think that that’s something that could be deadly for us. And I think [that’s true] with me and Mike and I too, once we figure out how to run that pick and roll.
Last year when you were “promoted” to the second team, it seemed from the outside that you were really frustrated with that and with the lack of minutes. How true was that?
Yeah I was definitely frustrated. I know it wasn’t a secret. Talking to David Kahn and Kurt that I felt that I had a bright future in this league and on a team that was a 15-win team and that wasn’t gonna make the playoffs, I felt that I was a starter and someone who was very valuable to the team for what I could do. And the more you’re out there on the floor the better you’re gonna get. And I think that people are seeing that now. Just getting into a good rhythm and knowing where my shots are coming from and knowing when I’m gonna come out of the ballgame.
When Darko came around I understood more. And with Al’s injury you knew he wasn’t gonna come off the bench and he was the highest paid player on the team and an All-Star caliber player. So I understood that. But before that, in the 20 or 30 games before Darko came, I didn’t really understand that. That was a little frustrating to me.
Did Kurt ever explain to you what was going on?
Yeah he did and I did agree with this too, that I could be effective coming off the bench. Just from an ego standpoint—I don’t believe that I’m egotistical or anything like that, but I’ve said before that I’m confident in myself, I’m a self assured kind of guy. I just didn’t want to think of myself as a role player. I wanted to be bigger than that. It’s not that I’m gonna be the best player on the team, maybe not even the second best sometimes, but am I gonna try my damn best to be? Hell yeah. So I felt like I was definitely being demoted in that situation even though Kurt said that it’s not really a demotion, it’s more of a promotion, that you’re gonna be the guy sparking that second unit. But, you know, I was 21 years-old, hard-headed, snot-nosed type of guy. I wanted more.
But everybody wants more, right?
Everybody wants more. We’re a greedy country.
What’s your relationship with Kurt like now?
It’s great. It’s better than it’s ever been. I think that after the first game this year, everybody was like “they’re hitting another rough patch,” that sort of thing. But we talked after that first game and we mentioned to each other that we’re not going down that road. We didn’t even think twice about it. You know, eventually, as we kept seeing eye-to-eye, things just started working out.
What is the mood of the team? Are people optimistic?
I think people are more optimistic because we’re playing better and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I think last year I was thinking to myself “there’s no light at the end of this tunnel.” I think that I can confidently say that things are definitely looking up. And I think that the city and the people that have watched us play know that. We’re probably a player or two away and us getting older and the maturation of our team and then we’re right there. It’s a bright future.
Kurt has said that when you get frustrated with how the game is going you’re effort level can kind of waver. Is that something that rings true to you?
It definitely did last year, because of being frustrated. Especially coming off the bench—and I wasn’t playing necessarily that well; that kind of brought my energy level down. A few things would go wrong and…[I’d feel like] “oh no, the whole world’s gonna end.” But if you think of this year, like in the Detroit game I didn’t have a good first quarter, maybe like one point and no rebounds. You know I just kept myself going, I didn’t get down. I know that from this point and probably for the rest of my career, this team is going to need me to play well.
Do you feel like guys on the team have a good understanding of Kurt’s rotations?
Yeah I think so. I think the guys on the team have great character. We have character people on the team that understand what it’s gonna take to win. You look at a guy like Anthony Tolliver. If he goes in for two minutes and I’m subbing in for him, he’s never like, you know [mumbles something like “aw muthafggga”].
But he’s an easygoing guy…
…yeah, these guys are very willing and understanding. Now I know that me in that type of situation…you know like I said, I was pretty hardheaded when it came to that. But I think as far as rotations go most guys are figuring it out. But obviously we haven’t had everybody healthy so some guys are playing extended minutes, maybe more than they would’ve played if guys had not been hurt. But you know at the same time there’s always guys that will talk to their agent or the coaches or David Kahn and that, you know, strive for more playing time. But you know there’s nothing wrong with competition in the workplace. That only makes people better.
I was talking to Tony Ronzone the other day about all the wings on the team and he was like “we want competition. We want to see who the best one is.” Are those guys understanding that this is the way it’s gonna be?
Yeah I think so but there’s no edge or animosity that we can see on the surface. I think that everybody’s working very hard. We see that every day. And everybody’s so young, we don’t have an excuse not to. But I think Tony’s exactly right, it should be that way.
Do you think that you and Beasley and Darko can be the frontcourt going forward? Do you think that that’s a trio that can work?
I think we’re still very young but yes I do. I mean Darko’s what 25, 26? This year we’ve seen flashes of brilliance, like what they said about him coming out of the draft. As long as he’s happy and having a positive attitude, he’s gonna play awesome. He doesn’t even need to score or necessarily even rebound at a high level to be effective because he changes so many shots at the defensive end.
With Mike and I we know [defense] is where we need to get tremendously better. Our defense between Mike and myself the biggest thing as far as how far this team is gonna go. And part of being a little young and hardheaded is energy and effort defensively. But as far as young players go, from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen, I think defense is one of the last things that picks up.
Why is that?
I don’t know. For me it’s just figuring things out, different matchups. I can’t say that it’s effort for me because I’m trying to go 110% every time that I’m out there. A lot of it is rotations a lot of it is knowing personnel a lot of it is game planning. But we’ll definitely get there. As far as us being a formidable frontcourt we can definitely be that. Because we haven’t played together very long and once we do, we could be very, very good.
What’s your sense of David Kahn.
I don’t really talk to him at all. If I have a problem or if I have anything to say I usually go to Kurt and we work it out…He’s a guy that I work for. He’s my boss so I have to respect him. But as far as the decisions he made [makes a funny face], that’s his job not mine. I make decisions when I stop on the court and off the court I either keep my mouth shut or say the right things.
That’s what you’re doing now, right?
This is apropos of nothing, but do you ever miss college?
Yes. Yes. That’s funny, I must say that a couple times a week. Every time I see my buddies who are still in college now who are in their senior year, or people who are a year or two ahead, or people graduating from other schools who I went to high school with. So I do miss it, yes, but from where I was as a freshman in college to where I am now, it’s a totally different world. I mean, everything. Not just off the court, but on the court as well. Just the whole perspective on life has really changed for me. But I miss it, definitely.
Did you get into any classes or academic stuff when you were there?
Well, my major was gonna be communications so like Com. 101 was my favorite. We had to give a speech every day in class, so I got to go up in front of the class and talk about whatever I wanted to talk about. So that was a lot of fun to do. But I almost knew I was gonna be one-and-done. So I was put into…you know, they were still hard classes but they weren’t the top-notch classes that were really gonna make me struggle.
But actually I still miss going to class. I mean that was fun. You got to, you know, meet girls and interact with people. It’s not something you get to do everyday now. Because people didn’t look at me like I’m in the NBA or anything. I mean, I played for the UCLA Bruins and they still looked at me [as a basketball player] but they were all still real close friends of mine.