Kevin Love showed off his gold medal today during a press conference at the Target Center. He broached many topics from what the experience meant to him this summer to how he feels about the team heading into this year, Pekovic’s new look, and his nerves for throwing out the first pitch of the Yankees-Twins game at Target Field Wednesday night.
As per usual with Kevin, he was incredibly candid and had no problems expressing his thoughts on the subjects he was asked about. Here is my transcription of today’s presser and discussion afterwards along with some photos from myself and Steve McPherson (guess which ones are taken with his nice camera and which ones are taken with my iPhone):
Opening thoughts before the questions started
“It was a great experience for me. It was something I always grew up dreaming of playing in. I feel like with the Olympics, you don’t really have to be a fan of sports to really tune in and check out all the things that are going on, so for me it was very special. I think that being an American, no matter where you’re from, people from in respective sports and respective countries get to just put on for their country and feel patriotic and have a sense of pride. So it was definitely a tremendous summer for me and a tremendous summer for our team. I think heading forward, we’ve got a number of guys that are going to help us, especially in relation to last year, guys who are really going to help our team and help our locker room. Guys like Andrei, guys like Brandon Roy among many others.”
On getting to experience a playoff-like atmosphere for the first time with his Olympics experience
“It was an unbelievable atmosphere. Just being around guys that excel and have a tremendous amount of success. We just got along on and off the court, and being able to have a really great locker room, a really positive locker room.
You know a lot of people got on me with ‘How is Kevin Love going to say the Timberwolves are going to make the playoffs?’ Well why wouldn’t I say that? Why wouldn’t I come out and have positive reinforcement in the locker room. Looking at the players that we have and looking at the success we had last year before we fought that battle of attrition… why wouldn’t I come out and say we’re going to make the playoffs? I have faith in this team; I have faith in what we’ve done this offseason. If you look at Nikola Pekovic coming back in shape, look at Andrei Kirilenko and the success he had in the Olympics, Alexey Shved is going to be great for us, I think Ricky coming back is going to be great for us. So I really do think we have a good shot to make the playoffs and if anybody else says otherwise, I think we have to go out there and prove what we’re made of.”
On growing up and wanting to play in the Olympics as a kid
“Yeah, maybe shot put or something like that. I wasn’t going to be high jump; I wasn’t going to be triple jump. I wasn’t going to be in the 100-meter dash; I wasn’t going to be in the relay. No, basketball was always going to be my sport. Growing up, I grew up watching the swimming events, the gymnastics events and the volleyball events, and track and field – just all of the primetime events that were always running. I was a big fan of all sports. Being a part of that whole thing and getting to go through the opening ceremonies, the different athletes in their respective sports for their countries, it was unbelievable and a dream come true.
At the end of the day, my favorite part and most surreal part was being part of that 2012 team, getting to compete and winning a gold medal.”
On life being different because of his experience this summer
“It’s a thing I’ll look back at and say in 2012 I got to experience that team – it might be the best team I’ll ever have a chance to play on. Being a part of that team and playing with the different players that make their mark on this league in a very positive way, it was really unbelievable. Moving forward, I have to have a short-term memory because right around the corner, I thought I was going to take a vacation and ended up being in the gym three days later. For me it was an unbelievable experience I got to share with my family and some of my closest friends.”
On whether he got to interact with his new Russian teammates, Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko, during the Olympics
“I didn’t get to interact with them too much. I obviously got to say ‘hello’ in passing. I got to watch the bronze medal game and got to see a number of games they played in. We’re very fortunate to have those players. I think seeing Alexey’s game he holds nothing back. Playing with him yesterday, he goes out there and tries to make plays and does all the little things. Even at his size, he plays almost like Ricky does.
I think a guy like AK, we all know what he’s capable of. We saw him in Utah for many years. At his size he’s able to defend and he’ll be able to help us on both ends of the floor.”
On if his busy summer makes him change how he prepares for the upcoming season
“In some ways, yes. I think I’m going to use training camp a little bit more this year to get in shape. It’s not so condensed as it was last year. I can’t really empathize with four of my players with had on the team – in Harden and Westbrook and James and those guys were essentially back in practice and playing 2-3 hours a day a week and a half later. I think those are the type of guys – it’s definitely where I want to be. But hopefully they’re a little more fatigued than I am. They said you have to find ways to rest and try to perform at your best, especially in an 82-game plus season.”
On how different this team is this year from last season
“I had mentioned earlier in the summer that some veteran players would really help our team. Getting guys like Brandon Roy who has been one of the top players in the league. Everybody knows what he brings to the table and everybody has questions about his health. From what I saw yesterday and what he’s been telling me, he feels great and hopefully that will hold through the next few seasons with him.
Kirilenko is a guy that’s been there and done that. Was coached by a hall of fame coach. He’s a guy that defensively can defend guys one through five. You know, we have a bunch of guys like Lou Amundson and Dante Cunningham who can really change the landscape of the team and organization just by the little things they do to help a team win the game.”
On what it meant to be in during crunch time moments for Team USA
“I think in 2010 I was able to play quite a few minutes and was able to be productive while I was out there but I only played 8 to 9 minutes per game. I think having the past few seasons under my belt, showing what I can do throughout the entire summer and throughout the entire season last year, it gained a lot of trust in me and trust in my game. Being in there in crunch time with Paul and James and Bryant and Durant, I think it spoke volumes to where my game has come and my respect. But I still have so much to prove; I still feel like I haven’t really made my mark in this league for what it should be. I know for a fact I’ll keep working and I’ll do it for the fans of Minnesota, this team and this organization.”
On what he learned most from being around guys like Kobe and LeBron
“Just a lot from what I learned in 2010. It’s different being around guys who were on the 2008 team. Just what makes them great all the way down through – from what makes Anthony Davis the first pick, what makes Kobe great on a day to day basis, what he does on the court, what he does off the court, and how he interacts with people. I think that’s what I took away from this. From every different player, I can probably take something and apply it what’s applicable to their life and their game.”
On how good Team USA was
“It was a very good team. Granted we were missing guys like Dwight, Derrick Rose with injuries. But we went over with that team and still were able to get the gold. It might be the best team I ever get to play on. Also, being coached by Coach K was very special in both years I was able to play with him. Hopefully in 2016, 2014 as well I’ll be able to play for him again.”
On being vocal about the offseason moves this summer
“Yeah, I think we definitely added value to this team. I think the locker room is really going to be great. I think the players we added to this team can make an immediate impact all the way down through our new guys, even Alexey with this being his first year. I just think AK will bring so much to this team. Brandon Roy having been through the league a number of times. I think those guys are really going to add a lot to this team.”
On the new Nikola Pekovic
And Pek yesterday… coming back yesterday as my first day, I’m in good shape now and I’m going to use training camp to get into better shape. I had to guard him for five games yesterday. And in the second game I was already tired. My shots were short and my shots were long. I mean he’s really in shape. He’s running the floor and having to guard him… I think he’s really going to have a tremendous year.
If anything he’s stronger, more agile. It’s just crazy watching him do workouts down there.
I don’t know what he’s on but… first of all, it’s not illegal substances. But whatever they’re lifting over there in Montenegro, he’s unbelievably strong. I don’t know what he’s eating either.”
On the construct of this team and being thin with big men depth
“Yeah, it’s a little bit thin. I think we have definitely workhorses on this team that are willing and able to get the job done. But you know we’re going to face some problems. I mean obviously everybody knows the Lakers have added a tremendous amount of size but I think there’s different intangible things, there’s different things we can do out there on the court and come together as a team, run different teams that are going to help us have success against teams that have a bigger front line. It remains to be seen and when we face those situations, we’ll have to deal with it then. But I’m sure Coach Adelman will have something to have success over those lineups.”
On his nerves throwing out the first pitch of the Twins-Yankees game Wednesday night
“A little bit. People were mentioning this morning you don’t want to screw that up. You don’t want to end up on YouTube; you don’t want it to be a viral video sensation. I’ve mentioned in a number of times that baseball was my sport growing up, maybe even a better sport. But I haven’t thrown a baseball – especially what is it, from 60 feet for them? – 45 in little league, I only pitched through my freshman year in high school. It’s been eight or nine years, so hopefully they’ll let me get a few warm-up pitches in and then I’ll go out there. But what… 40,000 fans out there? Give or take. You never know what’s going to happen in front of that many fans, especially when the Yankees are out there, most storied franchise and Target Field. I just hope I don’t throw it over the catcher’s head or I don’t leave it five feet short.”
On if there is more pressure throwing the first pitch than blowing the Viking horn
“Far more pressure, a lot more room for human error. A few more nerves there.”