HANG TIME, Texas — Kevin Love has lost 25 pounds since he played for Team USA at the World Championship in Turkey two years ago and now he could be in danger of losing his role as a significant member of the playing rotation.
That is, if the Timberwolves’ All-Star power forward doesn’t start throwing his weight around and playing more physical when the Americans face off again their prime gold medal challenger Spain in Tuesday’s final tuneup before the Olympics.
According to our good international traveling buddy Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops, the powers-that-be at USA Basketball are not at all happy with the less-aggressive Love who has been outworked and outhustled so far in the lead-up to the Games. Seems that while Love has developed a harder body, they think his game has gone soft.
As it is, Love is the 10th man in the Americans’ rotation, watching Andre Iguodala take what could be his minutes. The reason? Iggy makes things happen on the defensive end, poking balls away, disrupting penetration and creating the transition opportunities that Team USA thrives on.
“Obviously I’d like to go out there and be playing with these guys, I really feel like I can help. I know my abilities and know what I’m capable of,” Love said Monday. “You know, Coach K and I have talked about it — this isn’t 2010. I obviously played more in 2010, but I’m a completely different player now and a far better player. So we’ll wait and see what happens. I worked into my playing time in 2010, and hopefully that’ll happen here. I just need to find a way to get into a rhythm in limited minutes, which is tough.”
Love logged only 5 minutes of burn in the American’ 11-point victory over Brazil a week ago, played garbage time minutes in Manchester, England, against Great Britain after picking up three quick fouls without accumulating any other statistics in the first three quarters of that 40-point victory, then logged only 7 minutes against Argentina with two rebounds and an assist, and no points.
He is being asked to play out of position at center, but pretty much everyone outside of Deron Williams and Chris Paul is playing outside of the normal positions they play in the NBA.
On a team that is playing without Dwight Howard and is lacking dominant size in the middle, the U.S. needs everyone to rise to the occasion and lift his game in order to thrive, maybe even survive, in an Olympic tournament where there is not much margin for error in a potential medal round where a Spanish team with Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka will be plenty big across the front line.
If Love doesn’t start to measure up soon, there is even the possibility that rookie and No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis of the Hornets could chip away at more of his time.
It’s time for some tougher Love.