Column: Talking Kevin Love With Current/Former NBA Players At All-Star
I’ve been impressed with the level of respect he’s gained from people all over the league through his play. It’s something that from this era and those from the past have grown to appreciate because of what he does on a nightly basis.
The one thing that is absolute about covering All-Star Weekend is you always have the chance to talk about current and former NBA players about pretty much anything. You’d be surprised the questions that come out of the media scrums from journalists all around the world.
What’s your favorite pregame music? If you could change a mascot, which would you change? If you could design a smoothie, what would you name it and what would be in it?
These all qualify as “Overheard in the Media Room” questions from Friday.
One thing I always try to do when I’m here is ask questions about our Timberwolves players to see what their peers—and often what the legends who came before them—think of their games. This weekend I focused on Kevin Love for obvious reasons, given he’s starting his first All-Star Game and he’s becoming one of the athletes at the forefront of the league. I was not joking around when I tweeted throughout the weekend that Love’s face is everywhere on All-Star signage around the city. He’s becoming a popular player because of how hard he works and the variety with which he scores the basketball.
Former NBA guard Dell Curry said when you think of new-age power forwards, Love comes to mind immediately.
“Kevin Love is the typical guy, the stretch 4,” Curry said. “When I was in the league we didn’t have a lot of those stretch 4s. It was 4 men who got into the lane, who beat, who banged, who fought for a rebound. Now the stretch 4 has developed the 3-point shot, they’re able to stretch the defense. And not only take them but make them. Kevin, he’s a wonderful player. For him to be able to do what he’s doing on a consistent basis night in and night out is tremendous.”
I didn’t get a ton of time to ask Karl Malone questions about Love and the state of the power forward position for my other two-part feature I posted on Friday and Saturday, but I did sneak a couple questions in at the very end of his availability.
Obviously one of the top power forwards of all time, Malone said the state of the position is in great shape because of how the players have evolved into face-up shooters. He said when they turn and face from mid-range (and in Love’s case, beyond the arc), it puts fear in the defender’s eyes. He likes the way it affects the game.
Love is part of that.
“I love the way he plays the game,” Malone said. “I love their demeanor, when somebody do something to them, they just keep playing. That’s what I like.”
I asked Roy HIbbert when it comes to imposing, physical rebounders in the league, how does the duo of Love and Nikola Pekovic stack up:
“That’s a tough lineup right there,” Hibbert said. “Pek is pretty strong, and I feel like Kevin has magnets in his hands. The ball goes right to his hands with offensive rebounds. They’re a pretty tough duo, and I mean for two guys that are about 6-8, 6-9, they’re pretty tough to keep out of the paint.”
And for Avery Johnson, who played with Tim Duncan at the tail-end of his career and coached Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas, Love is a special player. That says a lot given the company Johnson’s been in at that particular position over the past 15 years.
But Johnson said Love is a special blended talent that combines eras across the board.
“Guys like Kevin Love, he’s old and new,” Johnson said. “He represents the old generation and the culture of the NBA and also the new. That’s why he’s such an unbelievable player. He deserves to be an All-Star.”
All of this is nothing new. I’ve been coming to All-Star Weekend for three years, and each year I ask players about what Love brings to the league. For three years, players have been saying the same thing. In 2012, Kevin Durant said he loves how Love’s game developed and evolved over the years and has become such a dangerous offensive weapon in so many areas of the court. Last year, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony both said how much they enjoyed playing with Love on Team USA and how versatile he is.
James Harden, who has known Love since they were young, said he’s the type of personality he wants on his team, and he’s not surprised by Love’s success because he’s been doing it at such a high level since he was a teenager.
We get to see Love play every night, and I think we all understand and appreciate the level of talent he brings. Now you know his peers—and the stars that came before him and played in eras headlined by some of the top power forwards in history—appreciate his game.