All of the Lights: Kevin Love’s All Star bid

Myles Brown —  February 3, 2011 — 8 Comments

It was just another Tuesday night in Los Angeles. The Lakers and Rockets were engaged in a mildly entertaining matchup and we were all probably searching for something better to watch while they delayed the inevitable. But those who couldn’t find the remote were treated to a noteworthy showing from Lamar Odom.

As it has for quite some time, Odom’s game defied definition. His elongated frame swept through the lane with a preternatural grace, each step too casual to have been calculated. On the defensive end, opponents were denied and rebounds were snatched with an aggression that belied such finesse, each board leading to a magnificent whirlwind of versatility. He conducted fast breaks, dished with a captivating flair, calmly pulled up in transition, and spotted up expertly from three. Of course this wasn’t anything we haven’t seen from him before, just more of it. Kobe Bryant’s theatrics may have dominated the nightly recaps, but the W was primarily thanks to Lamar’s 20 points and 20 rebounds.

Meanwhile up north, LaMarcus Aldridge was having the night of his life. Tugging at our heartstrings with a promise to his cancer stricken mother and torturing the Spurs, Aldridge pivoted, hooked, swatted, poked, leaped and slammed his way to an eye-popping box score: 40 points (a career high), 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, a block and one well deserved handshake from Gregg Popovich. San Antonio suffered just their second loss in 13 games and only their eighth loss of the season as the depleted Blazers improved to 26-22, in no small part due to L.A.’s averages of 25 & 10 since December.

With both players striving for the first All-Star appearance of their careers, these were timely performances. If the ballots hadn’t already been submitted, that is. But let’s assume they weren’t. Could one night really make all the difference?

Lamar’s 20/20 was the second of his career, which under any other circumstances would be worth a lot more than just a pat on the back. Kevin Love, however, has six 20/20 games this season and in case any of you in warmer locales forgot, it’s only February. As for Mr. Aldridge, beating the Spurs is an accomplishment in itself these days. Doing so to the tune of 40 points is almost impossible. But if LaMarcus deserved a handshake, Popovich must’ve sent out a ballot and a valentine with Love’s name on it after our pups pushed San Antonio to the brink of defeat on three separate occasions in which Kevin averaged 25 & 19.

Or so we hope. As my friend Ben will explain below, despite the numbers, the cologne and all the national attention, our hopeful is still fighting against his own limitations, conventional wisdom and an endless array of highlights from Blake Griffin. For someone not exactly known for his vertical, this may be quite the leap.

Minneapolis is just two watered down drinks, a short nap and an in-flight movie away from Los Angeles. But Kevin Love’s trip could take much longer. Years longer. And it’s a damn shame.

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For Wolves fans, anticipating the All-Star selection process with a combination of shame and muted optimism is becoming a seasonal tradition. We were willing to go along with Mike and Natalie’s exhortations to flood the ballot box with Al Jefferson votes because we really wanted to believe that the best player the Wolves had to offer deserved to stand with the Association’s finest. Deep down, though, we knew it wasn’t true.

But things are different this year. This year we’ve got a guy who is capable not only of distinguishing himself on one of the league’s worst teams, but also of capturing the attention of observers and colleagues around the country. This year, as Myles has thoroughly pointed out, our guy is actually good enough to be there.

Kevin Love has the highest PER of any power forward in the league. He leads the whole show in rebounding rate. His true shooting percentage is inching ever closer to 60%. But there’s still a pretty good chance he won’t get in.

Is this because he is the poorest defender of all of the players he’s competing against? That would actually be a solid reason; defense is the weakest link in Love’s game, by far. But that’s not it.

There are certain things we seem to really want to believe in as basketball fans. Primarily, we want our star players to score, and to score in a way that constantly reminds us of those stars’ supernatural capabilities. We want our star players to thrill us with their majestic skills and post-human athletic ability. We want them to move in ways that call to mind the movements and attitudes of our own bodies, but that transcend them–in beauty, in style, in speed and strength.

But we also want to believe that those beautiful, transcendent things lead to wins. And Love fails on all of these counts. Here’s how John Hollinger puts it:

Since I presume most of you don’t regularly talk with scouts and assistant coaches, I can’t emphasize this enough: It is shocking how dismissive virtually every old-school basketball type is of Love. Most personnel types grudgingly admit he’s a spectacular rebounder before adding that he’s unathletic, struggles on defense and basically doesn’t fit their prototype of what a star big man ought to be.

Its alarming that basketball people would choose to ignore Love’s stunning contributions to his team (although, again, that defense is problematic). But a debate about the relative merits of Love’s offense and defensive effectiveness are essentially moot here. Because when we look ourselves in the mirror and face reality, we know that the All-Star Game isn’t really about who contributes the most to his team’s success; it’s a lot more about spectacle, about fulfilling our desire for the beautiful. And although even some casual fans may be captivated by Love’s fluorescent stats, I think it’s safe to say that nuanced rebounding stylistics and transcendent outlet passes haven’t yet caught up to acrobatic, high-volume scoring in the dialectics of stardom.

Of course, the irony is that it’s just this very lack of Love’s brand of rugged competitiveness, this excess of unguarded dunks and untamed spectacularity, that generally makes the All-Star Game such a monotonous snoozer. So Kevin Love just may not make the All-Star game. And I guess that’s ok; we can’t really expect to have our definitions of stardom changed by one doughy, earthbound 22-year-old. But the game itself could probably use him.

Myles Brown

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8 responses to All of the Lights: Kevin Love’s All Star bid

  1. K Love is as suitable to build an NBA championship team as Joe Mauer is suitable for building a World Series championship team around. I think K Love, Kahn, and Wolves fans may have the last laugh.

  2. I’m guilty of this: “There are certain things we seem to really want to believe in as basketball fans. Primarily, we want our star players to score, and to score in a way that constantly reminds us of those stars’ supernatural capabilities. We want our star players to thrill us with their majestic skills and post-human athletic ability. We want them to move in ways that call to mind the movements and attitudes of our own bodies, but that transcend them–in beauty, in style, in speed and strength.”

    In spite of that, I do want to see new blood in the All Star game. I don’t care if Player X doesn’t make his 7th consecutive game or whatever. I want to see Monta Ellis, Josh Smith, Lamarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and other good young players. I don’t think Kevin Love will make it, especially not if it comes down to him and Blake Griffin. Blake is HOT right now and he has so many things working in his favor. He’s on a losing team as well, but he’s must see TV. Love won’t be the only player watching the game who probably deserves to be playing in it. He’ll get there, just not now.

  3. If he doesn’t make it in then I hope it fuels him to be even better next year. He is only 22 years old. What will he be like in 5 years in the midst of his prime? Better defender, better post game, and a nightly average of 25 and 15?

  4. This is Great. Thanks.

  5. Monta, Love and Blake should all make it. Lamarcus deserves it, but he might need to be on the outside looking in because it’s still a numbers game.
    Here is a question. Are Love’s physical limitations that much more severe than Zach Randolph’s? I say that to note that Randolph has always been able to get buckets on the block against anybody despite having zero hops and a pudgy frame. Is it simply that Z-Bo’s longer arms make him a better scorer, or could Love incorporate some of Zach’s tricks into his own toolbox.

  6. Love is such a bad defensive player. I think that should be part of All-Star players, since we know it’s not, I figure he is probably stats wise an All-Star

  7. Do they still have an all-rookie game?

    Maybe they should have a 25-and-under game. It would probably be more exciting than the A-S game itself. I mean Duncan? This year? Really? Nash? Really? Hall of Fame yes, but does every future HOFer deserve an invite to the All-Star game EVERY year? If that’s the case, and it’s all about giving the fans what they want, then send Al Horford home and invite the Diesel. As for selection, It would be nice to have more players who are ascendant (like Love), and fewer players whose best years are behind them.

    The All-Star game is K Love’s chance to get seen. I don’t live near Minnesota, and my chance of seeing K Love play is next to zero, unless he plays in the All-Star game. That’s the case for much of the country.

    It’s a shame that Kevin wasn’t selected, and it’s a shame that the country isn’t getting to see him sooner. His next decade could be incredible. More importantly, he is one of the NBA’s best right now.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. 2011 All Star Snubs: Love, Aldridge and More | Stacheketball, an NBA Blog - February 4, 2011

    [...] Kevin Love (PF, Timberwolves): This is the first name I think of for this year’s snubs. This might go down in history as the worst snub, ever. Love is averaging 21.4 points per game (16th best in the NBA) and a league leading 15.5 rebounds per game. Sure, his team is awful. They have only won 10 games this entire season. But according to Win Shares, Kevin has been responsible for 7.8 of those 10 wins.  No one in the NBA is responsible for a greater % of their teams wins in terms of Win Shares. For more, read this great piece by Myles Brown. [...]

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