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.

https://gyazo.com/13781ffa6943f7cd2585e252803c5ded

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.

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2 Responsesso far.

  1. Twist says:

    If we look around the league as a team desiring a PF who can play next to KAT, are there a lot of these guys around? Who are the top 10 Power Forwards in the league today? I suppose the list begins with Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Kevin Love, LeMarcus Aldridge (although boy was he lousy in the Playoffs), and Blake Griffin. But who else really is out there? I’m also curious to think of what you all believe in the idea of positionless basketball? A move to just Guard, Wing, Big Man. Just a curious thought to ask the very bright men who post on this blog.

  2. pyrrol says:

    I have to say, I was only a Kevin Love fan while he was here for lack of much else (other than Rubio) to cheer for. He’s alright… a good player, seems like a decent guy. But something about how he played the game and his personality left me cold. I kinda cheer for him in Cleveland, but I kinda smile with half my mouth when he struggles there too. It’s a story of hubris, and so for him to find out that he at times can be the weak link in a championship team is a kind of humbling that is hard not to enjoy a little, because therein lies a truth–Love is a flawed player who many, including himself, thought was better than he really was due to playing on bad teams and being high usage. Once he was on a good team, in the playoffs, not 1st or 2nd fiddle, it became remarkably clear that he wasn’t ‘the best power forward in the league’ or anything very close.

    Still, Love is an interesting and skilled player. And one wonders if Cleveland is the best fit. Cleveland could use size next to James to overwhelm teams, but instead lean on two 6’8″ guys (Thompson and Love). Love is rather like a slower, much less athletic version of James in skill set and there is quite a bit of overlap. In desperate games against good teams (playoffs) suddenly Love’s patented rebounding doesn’t look all that good. Over on Canis, someone pointed out that Love isn’t the same player he was in MN. This is mostly due to role and surroundings, but it was pointed out that he struggles to score in the post more than he did in our day even though he’s less of a priority for defenses in Cleveland. This seems to ring true and I’m not sure the cause, other than age. He also has a history of trouble getting good looks off in the post due to lack of height and length. He’s often listed as 6’10” but looks about the same height as LeBron when they stand next to each other. Thompson is also in that range of height but has much better length and athleticism. This brings us to D. Despite better effort in Cleveland and the clip above, Love is not a good defender. Thompson, with his length is a decent defender (though not very skilled on offense at all) but Love really has no average or above skill on defense. Individually, on a championship competing team does Love’s lack of D get offset by his skills on O? Maybe, maybe not. Seems to depend on the game and how streaky his shooting is. But the question is more specific really–how does the type of player Love is fit into Cleveland? What Cleveland needed more than anything to compete in the finals this year was D. This season, they were a pretty run-of-the-mill team defensively. They were elite on offense, but GS is a historically loaded team on O that also plays really good D. So the math just doesn’t add up at all if Cleveland can’t mount good D. And quite frankly, Love isn’t a two way player. Cleveland has a lot of guys that can score, and a few who can score a ton. What they need more than a third scorer is someone who can play D. Really the only good defender on Cleveland is Lebron and that isn’t enough. For his position, Love is quite bad although there is plenty of blame to go around. I just don’t think Love is a great fit because or redundant skills and role and perhaps most importantly, lack of D. With GS being their main rival, and the fact they now have two way Durant a top 5, perhaps top 2 player added on top of a Championship level roster, having a guy like Love as your 3rd best player might be an Achilles heel.

    I think positionless basketball is unwise. Specialization of skills mixed with varied skill sets make great team players and great teams. Guys who fit into specific positions well often contribute to a team with the largest variety of ways they can beat you. The ‘antidote’ to that under the rules and trends of our era is the 3 point shot. If you get to a certain level of three point shooting, you start being able to have positionless ‘bigs’ flourish, and guards with no specific job other than scoring and role players that fill needs on an individual basis. Weaknesses are covered and teams just can’t keep up. Still, would a team with great three point shooting and say a great pure center have a chance to dethrone GS? I think so. A Wolves example of this is Dieng. He’s clearly a helpful, if not spectacular player. But it’s hard to appreciate him and what he does for a team when he plays out of position all the time. He’s a slightly odd center, but a pure center and he was asked to play PF all season. And it made him look like a worse play than he is. This illustrates how certain players are very specifically one position, often, and how not having someone that fits the position (PF in this case) can harm the team. If you can shoot like GS you can be causal about positions like they are, but they are an incredible 3 point shooting team so it is like shooting for the stars (and misses such as Houston are pretty atrocious). And still, Curry shoots with skill and volume of the best SG’s but he does a spectacular job at PG stuff while he scores… Klay is a pure SG. Many guys on that roster are made for the position they play. I guess GS is a pretty hard mold to copy, and Love may be a key part of holding Cleveland back from finding a way to at least compete with GS next year. Other teams are miles behind—the Spurs need a PG and some upgrades, and Aldridge is an overrated player who doesn’t get it done in the playoffs. With a big offseason shake up maybe this plot gets more interesting, but right now the NBA playoffs were extremely dull and it was a forgone conclusion that GS would win, which is pretty lame. More parity is needed in the league, fast. And maybe Love would be better somewhere else. But where? His flaws are tough to work with for any team trying to be elite. Yet his skills seem highly useful. It’s interesting to consider…

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