So much for letting the debate linger or drama build. Only one day after the reserves were named for the All-Star Game, Minnesota power forward and league rebounding leader Kevin Love claimed the last spot on the Western Conference team.
While many praised the move, considering the season Love is having, one of the candidates for the final roster spot wasn’t too pleased. Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge went into Friday averaging 21.3 points and 9.3 rebounds. The Blazers are 26-24. Minnesota is 11-38.
“Now I know it’s about stats, not wins,” an upset Aldridge told The Oregonian after Portland fell to Indiana.
NBA commissioner David Stern tabbed Love to replace Houston center Yao Ming, voted by fans to the starting lineup but out for the season with an ankle injury. Yao’s absence opened the door for Love, a first-time All-Star in his third season and the first member of the Timberwolves to earn a spot in the showcase since Kevin Garnett four years ago.
“This is an incredible honor for me and I’m so proud to be able to represent the Timberwolves organization at one of the league’s premier events,” Love said. “I’m thankful to commissioner Stern for giving me his support, as well as to all the great fans in Minnesota who have been behind me and my teammates all season long.”
Love beat out a deep and talented field in the West for the last spot. Among those that had to be in the mix besides Aldridge were Memphis forward Zach Randolph, Lakers forward Lamar Odom and Phoenix guard Steve Nash.
Even though the Wolves own the worst record in the conference, Love is in the midst of an historic season. The 6-foot-10 UCLA product is averaging 21.4 points and 15.5 rebounds. No player has averaged 20 and 15 since Moses Malone in 1982-83. He’s also on pace to become the first player in league history to average 12 rebounds while shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc.
The league leader in double-doubles (43) has a current streak of 34, the second-longest in the last 25 seasons. Love is also one of just 19 players with a 30-30 game, which he accomplished on Nov. 12 in a win over New York. He’s the franchise’s second All-Star injury replacement, joining Garnett in 1997. That’s the first of K.G.’s record-tying 14 consecutive selections.
“I’m really happy for Kevin,” Wolves head coach Kurt Rambis said. “He worked extremely hard this offseason to elevate his game and learn how to consistently perform at a high level in this league. This recognition is well-deserved, and exciting news both for Kevin personally and our organization as a whole.”
The All-Star Game is Feb. 20 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. It will be broadcast live on TNT and ESPN Radio at 8 p.m. ET.