Watching Kevin Love from Minneapolis in 2017
Covering the team you grew up idolizing is fun. You get to see the team in a perspective that you only read about before. You get to talk to players, coaches, and front office staff questions that you’re wondering about, and you get to share your thoughts and findings with others that share your interest.
Of course, there is another side to this. Writing for a blog like AWAW gives me, and the rest of the team, more freedom than your general AP style newspaper, .com or magazine, but critical thinking was nevertheless paramount.You have to be as objective as you can. In 2014, Kevin Love tested my objectivity.
I just saw Kevin Love play in his third straight NBA Finals. Three years into this saga, I wasn’t sure where I stood on how I felt about Love, his time in Minnesota, his departure, or his time in Cleveland. It felt worth exploring as I wrote.
As it stands right now, Love has the second best career for a player to ever put on a Wolves uniform. He averaged a double double every year he started in Minnesota, made x All-Star teams and got the Wolves as close to a playoff berth as they’ve seen since the Kevin Garnett era (you know, the first one). He was an incredible floor spacer, rebounder, and passer. On the floor, he was an unselfish guy with a clear drive to win, and the fans loved him for it.
But the wins hardly came while he was here, and eventually it got to him. Eventually, he wanted out.
I didn’t really say much when Kevin Love got traded, mostly because I didn’t know how I felt about it.
Of course, he’s an adult, a professional, and has the right to state unhappiness in a professional situation. In Minnesota, that’s what happened, and it appeared as though he did it in as professional a way as you can. With the exception to that Woj article from 2012, you didn’t hear him whining from him. As he officially went to Flip Saunders to say he wanted to be traded a year later, it was hard to hear from him. He kept things (mostly) to himself.
When he was traded for Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett in the summer of 2014, I was happy with the deal, but not terribly happy with how everything transpired. Throughout that summer, Love was virtually off the face of the earth. He privately asked for the trade and stayed out of it. Objectively, I knew that he did what he had to do, and he wasn’t doing anything new for a superstar.
To be clear, I wasn’t noticeably angry about this. I got over it quickly, if there was anything to get over at all. But something about the exit always bothered me. Maybe it was because I grew up with and watched Kevin Garnett enter his 30s in Minnesota. I was used to a superstar sticking around and WANTING to stick around, even through the tough times.
Kevin Love is, and was not that type of player, and it’s taken me watching him in three straight finals to finally figure out how I felt three years ago. Or, at least, it’s gotten me to the point where I can express how I felt.
Him leaving bothered me. Whether it’s justified or not, I will always be a bit bothered by a guy (not just him) not desperately wanting to find a way to win with a team that is fully invested in him. I know it’s irrational. It’s just ideological.
I found, and sometimes still find it lame when players ditch bad situations to form “super teams” and go for rings. Not immoral. Not illegal. Not wrong. Just, lame. I found what Kevin Love did to be lame.
But when Kevin Love joined Cleveland, and his numbers didn’t reflect his time in Minnesota, I found myself coming to his defense.
When articles were surfacing about Kevin Love’s struggles, all I could muster was frustration for how he was being used. Yes, LeBron James is/was there. Yes, of course Kyrie Irving needs the ball. But Love was the man in Minnesota, and he made an impact by being a focal point on offense. While he was usually the third option on offense in Cleveland, it wasn’t clear. Even rebounding the basketball wasn’t as common for him, due to rebounding aficianado Tristan Thompson taking much of the credit on both ends of the ball in that regard.
In short, Kevin Love was needed in Cleveland, but not necessarily the way some expected when he was traded over there. Eventually, Love found his stride and so did the Cavs. They went to three straight NBA Finals with him being a vital piece to the team. It took him two years, but he got his title next to LeBron and Kyrie. It took three years for him to get back to the All-Star game, but he got back there, too. He also had this great moment to help the Cavs win their first title.
Despite a great individual performance (by both Love and some dude named LeBron), Love and the Cavs couldn’t pull it out this year, and I’m not sure who I was rooting for team-wise. But at this point, I root for Kevin Love as a player. He annoyed me with his exit from Minnesota, but he clearly left enough of an impact during his time here for me to defend him when times got tough for him in Cleveland. From there on out, I knew I was a Kevin Love fan, no matter where he is, was, or will be going forward.