Posted Aug 11 2010 10:24AM
NEW YORK -- Is it possible for a player to be more appreciated by the U.S. National Team than by the second worst team in the NBA?
Yes, it is.
You would think that a team that was out of the playoff picture before the season even started would want their young, talented big man to play as many minutes as possible. But Kevin Love started just 22 games for the Timberwolves last season and logged just 28.7 minutes per contest.
Love, a guy selected with the No. 5 pick in the 2008 Draft, averaged fewer minutes than former second-round pick Ryan Gomes and started fewer games than former second-round pick Ryan Hollins. Minnesota was a below-average rebounding team, yet they couldn't find more than 29 minutes for the best per-minute rebounder in the league.
Countless people around the NBA were baffled by the lack of love for Love in Minnesota last season. Count USA center Tyson Chandler among them.
|Top rebounds per minute, 2009-10 (Minimum 200 minutes)|
"I can't speak for their organization, but I definitely know when we play against them, he's almost No. 1 on the scouting report, as far as big guys go," Chandler said Tuesday. "[The coaches] definitely pay attention [to him]. They talk about him being the first player on the floor."
Meanwhile, with the U.S. Team resuming training on Tuesday at John Jay College, Love looks to have a prominent role on the squad that will play in this summer's World Championship, which begins Aug. 28 in Turkey.
With 15 players currently on the roster, three cuts will need to be made before the tournament. Love will not be one of the three. He was one of the top performers in last year's mini-camp, and he has stood out again this year.
After the first week of training camp in Las Vegas, USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski called Love "very consistent" and "easy to play with."
"He comes, definitely, as advertised," USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said of Love Tuesday. "He knows how to play. He does all the little things and he's physical. He's very much like a European player."
Maybe it's just the international style of play that makes Love more valuable to this team than to the Timberwolves. He has a high basketball IQ, solid fundamentals and excellent passing skills. With the 3-point line at a shorter distance, he's a threat from long range. And with the U.S. short on big men, he will be needed at center, too.
Love was asked Tuesday if he felt more appreciated with the U.S. Team than with the Timberwolves.
"Yes," he responded. "Just a solid yes."
But he was quick to clarify.
"I don't want to come off sounding like a prima donna or sound like I'm complaining or anything," Love said. "I just feel like, since I've been here, it's really been a great team atmosphere. We feel like we have a chance to win this whole thing. I think everybody is just coming in with a great attitude and appreciating everybody as a whole, and really becoming a family.
"I'm just saying in a 15-win season, last year with the Timberwolves, a lot of stuff happened...a lot of new players...we had blown up that team. Heading into this year, we need to just start becoming a family, kind of like it is here, and integrate that family atmosphere into the Timberwolves."
Winning certainly breeds a better atmosphere. And that will be for Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis and his staff to work on in October. For now, Love is focused on doing what Krzyzewski wants from him: to grab every available rebound.
"For me, it's going to be really attacking the glass on the offensive and defensive end, getting put-backs, getting extra possessions, knocking down the three ball, getting to the free-throw line and really being that international presence at the four or five spot," Love said.
In a scrimmage against the Select Team on Tuesday, Love played exclusively at the five, alongside Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala in the frontcourt. That lineup not only requires that Love grab more than his share of boards, but it also needs him to take up space in the paint defensively.
Playing the five, Love's pick-and-roll defense will be critical -- one thing he knows he needs to keep working on. Still, it's clear he feels more confident with his place on the U.S. Team than with the Timberwolves.
"I really do believe that I fit in this game well," Love said. "Hopefully, that will carry on to the World Championship, and hopefully, to 2012 and the Olympics too."
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