Love's Consistency Noticeable At All-Star Weekend

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Bulls forward Luol Deng recently had a conversation with a friend about Wolves All-Star Kevin Love. Love, the league leader with 30 double-doubles in the first half, is a player the Bulls worry about outworking his opponents when scouting the Timberwolves.

Deng said the rate at which Love pulls down rebounds is exhausting—literally. But it’s one of the many reasons he and others around the league respect Love’s game on the court.

“Any shot goes up no matter where he is, my friend joked that somehow the ball always goes to him,” Deng said. “It’s amazing to say that. It’s almost like a magnet, but really he just has a knack for it. To me it’s unbelievable.”

All-Star Weekend is Orlando is filled with the game’s best, flashiest and brightest stars of the past and present. Among those making a buzz is Love, who transformed from an injury replacement All-Star a year ago into a no-brainer selection this time around.

Love is fourth in the league in points per game (25.0), second in rebounding (14.0) and is logging a league-best 39.9 minutes per game through the first half of the season. All the while, he’s helped the Timberwolves equal their win total of 17 from a year ago and has once again made Minnesota a difficult team to play night in and night out.

Thunder forward Kevin Durant said he’s known Love since high school, and he’s amazed at how Love is the same hard-working player he’s always been. Today, he’s become one of the NBA’s more all-around players.

“The things he does is just phenomenal,” Durant said. “Rebounding the ball, his outlet passing, his shooting ability. It’s going to be a joy to play with him (on the Western Conference team). I’ve had a chance to play alongside him in the USA World Championships. He’s a great teammate as well.”

Durant’s Oklahoma City teammate, Russell Westbrook, is a fellow UCLA product like Love. The two do offseason training together, and Westbrook said he’s always seen Love’s work ethic and his ability to make plays on the court.

For Dirk Nowitzki, making his 11th straight All-Star appearance, Love is a leader of the next generation at the power forward position. He, the Clippers’ Blake Griffin and Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge are the newest group of elites at that position in the NBA, Nowitzki said.

“He’s been dominant,” said Nowitzki, whose Mavericks’ team has played Love three times this season. “It’s been fun to watch. He’s an impressive, impressive rebounder, and he’s expanded his game. He’s now money from 3-point, he can put the ball on the floor, post up and really play an all-around game. It’s been fun to watch.”

Love will look to show off that versatility this weekend. At All-Star Saturday Night, which begins at 7 p.m. CT on TNT, Love will compete in the Foot Locker 3-Point Contest—something he’s been practicing for after Timberwolves’ practices for the past week. On Sunday, he’ll get a chance to show his scoring and rebounding abilities against the league’s best in the All-Star Game.

Orlando’s Ryan Anderson, who will face Love in the 3-Point Contest tonight, said his all-around game makes him a tough person to guard.

“A lot of people didn’t think he was a shooter, didn’t give him the credit outside the arc,” Anderson said. “I played against him in college, and he could shoot the ball back then, too. He has a ton of confidence the way he’s playing—he’s playing great. Obviously everyone knows that and can see that. He’s just expanding his game on so many levels. His shots just make him that much harder to guard.”

And then there’s that rebounding—that innate ability to find the ball wherever it’s about to fall. Love preaches he assumes every shot is a miss, and it’s paying off: Love has 15 games with 20-plus rebounds in his career—including two this season—and has 30 games with 10-plus boards in 2011-12.

That alone makes Deng shake his head.

“It’s crazy. I mean, I had one game where I had like 20 rebounds, and I worked so hard in that game,” Deng said. “I remember I was so exhausted after that game. I’m just like this is crazy. And he’s doing it pretty much every night.”

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