Not so long ago, Kevin Love didn’t seem like the happiest of campers regarding his whereabouts, present or future, with the Timberwolves of Minnesota.
Nothing against the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but Love was weary of playing for the Franchise of 10,000 Mistakes
In his five NBA seasons, Minnesota had lost nearly 74 percent of its games (104-290). He was the only member of Team USA this summer (newbie Anthony Davis excepted) who never has tasted the playoffs. The Wolves roster last season still looked like a halfway house for players of doomed potential. And Love wasn’t thrilled when owner Glen Taylor and basketball president David Kahn played hardball and held fast to a four- rather than five-year contract extension. That early-out after three years started looking good almost immediately.
But Love’s spirits clearly seemed buoyed Tuesday by his experiences at the London Olympics and some time away from the Wolves’ 2011-12 grind. He met with some Twin Cities media types sporting a fancy bauble around his neck and some sincere optimism for a team that largely has been made over. Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote:
On Tuesday, he showed off his Olympic gold medal at a summer-ending Target Center news conference and declared himself pleased with management’s moves that included adding veteran Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Lou Amundson as well as Greg Stiemsma and Alexey Shved while letting Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Darko Milicic and others go.
“There’s definitely a different feel going into the locker room, definitely a different feel just being down there playing with those guys,” said Love, who arrived back in the Twin Cities from Southern California late last week. “I’m really excited, I’m really excited about this team. … I think we’ve definitely added value to this team. I think the locker room is going to be great. I think the players we have on this team can make an immediate impact.”
Love can thank coach Rick Adelman for much of the overhaul – the veteran coach, who has known the 6-foot-10 power forward for years from their shared time living in Portland, was precise after his first season with the Wolves (26-40) about changes that needed to be made.
Adelman isn’t wasting any time this deep into his career building for some distant future. Both he and Love saw enough in Minnesota’s 22-21 record – before the 4-19 skid to the finish triggered by Ricky Rubio’s blown knee ligaments – to target a postseason berth as a legitimate and, frankly, mandatory goal.
Rubio is slated to be back in action sometime around the holidays and the other roster enhancements should make it possible for the Wolves to stay afloat while waiting. In particular, Love raved Tuesday about center Nikola Pekovic, who has shed weight, cut body fat and added muscle, making him leaner and still as mean underneath.
Then there’s Roy, Kirilenko, Shved, a recommitted Derrick Williams and the rest…
“A lot of people got on me and said, ‘How’s Kevin Love able say the Timberwolves are going to make the playoffs?”’ he said. “Why wouldn’t I say that? I have faith in this team, I have faith in what we’ve done this offseason. I do think we have a great shot to make the playoffs. If anybody else says otherwise … I think we have to go out there and prove what we’re made of. It was definitely a tremendous summer for me, a tremendous summer for our team.”
Love was starting to sound downright Minnesotan, in the tradition of Joe Mauer, Kirby Puckett and Jesse Ventura. He even went next door to Target Field Wednesday to throw out the first pitch at a Twins matinee and hoped to take a few batting-practice cuts.
Love played organized baseball into his early teens but he knew the dangers inherent when dabbling in a secondary sport.
“You don’t want to screw that up and end up on Youtube or be a viral video sensation,”said Love. “I haven’t thrown a baseball in eight, nine years. I just hope I don’t throw it over the catcher’s head or I don’t leave it five feet short.”
Look at it this way, Kev: Better to be embarrassed on a pitcher’s mound now than on a basketball court anymore.