Column: Love's Game Is Something To Marvel
When Sports Illustrated senior writer Alan Shipnuck spent time in Minnesota last month working on his latest story on Kevin Love, he talked with a collection of people around the Wolves organization about what Love means to the team and what he brings to the league. President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders, for one, said Love is the most unique player in the NBA.
It’s hard to argue against that.
Love has ascended to the top of his position over the past three years, and as we stand right now he’s doing things with the type of skill set that typically ranges from point guards all the way to centers. He’s scoring at an incredible rate—Love is currently fourth in the league with 24.7 points per game. He’s averaging 2.4 3-pointers per game—the third most out of any players currently in the top 15 in scoring. And he’s pulling down a league-best 13.8 rebounds per game.
He’s been particularly sensational over the past couple games.
Two nights ago in San Antonio against the defending Western Conference champions, Love put up 42 points, hit eight 3-pointers and collected 14 rebounds in a performance the Star Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda reported Rick Adelman said was one of the best he’s ever seen. It was Love’s fifth 40-point game of his career, making him franchise’s leader in that category. He passed Kevin Garnett in that department.
His eight 3-pointers tied Stephon Marbury’s eight 3s against Seattle on Dec. 23, 1997 for the most in a single game in franchise history. Not exactly a feat you generally expect of a power forward, but we’ve come to know Love presents that possibility any night he takes the floor.
And his 42 points and 14 boards marked the 21st double-double he recorded in 22 games. As far back as 1985-86, no other player in the league started out the season with that many double-doubles in 22 games. He did not record one tonight in the Wolves’ 101-93 win in Memphis, falling a rebound short with 30 points and nine boards.
In the two games this year he didn’t record a double-double this year, he still had at least 30 points and eight boards. Not exactly a night off.
Looking at the last two games combined, Love scored 72 points, hit 12-of-17 3-pointers as well as 8-of-8 free throws, grabbed 23 boards and added six assists. In Memphis, he also blocked three shots.
Love is able to do so many things on the court, and he’s getting better and better. Each night, you wonder what he might be able to accomplish next. I think back to that March 2012 run he had when he averaged 30.7 points, 13.9 boards and hit 44.9 percent of his 3-point attempts. That month, by points and rebounding standards, are unmatched by any player in the league in the past 15 years outside of Shaquille O’Neal.
This month, Love is putting together another memorable stretch. He’s averaging 27.5 points and 14.3 boards while shooting 59.3 percent from 3.
We’re seeing one of the best in the league play every single night here in Minnesota, and we’re watching him blossom into the prime of his career. When we look back on Love’s career years from now, you wonder what he will have accomplished and who we’ll be comparing him to. Maybe he’ll be in a category all his own? In any event, Love is putting together consistent performances that put him into a very rare category of players.
Embrace these games, and embrace his performances. We’re getting treated to some fantastic basketball courtesy of Mr. Love this season.
What will he have in store for us tomorrow?