HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Sometimes a reintroduction is necessary.
For Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star power forward Kevin Love, who went off for 31 points and 17 rebounds in his team’s 120-115 OT win over the Orlando Magic Wednesday night, the season-opener was a reintroduction and a reminder that he’s among the NBA’s best players at his position and overall, too.
Love has been a forgotten man of sorts in the lead up to this season. When injuries limit you to just a combined 73 games in each of the past two seasons, you are the mercy of the what-have-you-done-lately crowd. Aside from some stellar post-work for the gold medal-winning U.S. Team at the London Olympics, we haven’t seen a ton of the Love we saw against the Magic.
The fierce rebounder, inside-out scorer and clutch performer who was on display at the Target Center is a different monster than the Love we saw a couple of seasons ago. He’s older (if 25 counts as older), wiser and much more in tune with not only his own game but with the Timberwolves will need from him if they are going to give serious chase to the playoff bid they’ve been talking about in the Twin Cities all summer.
The supporting cast finally looks solid with Ricky Rubio, Dante Cunningham, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, Derrick Williams, Alexey Shved, Corey Brewer and J.J. Barea, to name basically the entire core group, helping fight the playoff-chase fight.
Love will be the workhorse, of course.
But he’ll need each and every one of those other guys to deliver the Timberwolves from the lottery perch they have occupied for years. Because if we’ve learned anything from observing Love and his All-Star peers in recent seasons, we’ve learned that it takes a small village of stars and quality role players to raise a franchise out of the abyss.
It’s funny, though, how quickly people tend to forget. After the 2011-12 season, there was a healthy debate about whether Love, the L.A. Clippers’ Blake Griffin or the Portland Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge — all of whom are All-Stars — would be the best young power forward in the game by now. They have all accomplished a great deal, individually, the past few seasons, solidifying their positions at the position for the foreseeable future.
But I’d argue that Love, when healthy, eases ahead of both Griffin and Aldridge with a complete game that the other two are still working to polish. He rebounds better than both, scores in more ways (courtesy of range that extends well beyond the 3-point line), while stepping up in clutch situations like a player who has spent twice as many seasons in the league than he actually has.
As long as Love stays healthy, the Timberwolves’ playoff dream lives on!