Love's National Spotlight


SI.com's Lee Jenkins

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Jonah Ballow
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Lee Jenkins
Sports Illustrated Senior Writer



Jonah Ballow caught up with Sports Illustrated senior writer Lee Jenkins to gauge the national perception for Kevin Love and how the Wolves forward became the man he is today. Jenkins penned a terrific in-depth feature on the rising star, titled Love Is in the Air, which can be found on SI.com and inside Sports Illustrated Magazine.

Jonah Ballow: After spending some time with Kevin Love, and obviously diving deep into his family and where he came from and everything about Kevin Love. What did you walk away from this interview and this article learning more about Kevin Love as a person and as a player?

Lee Jenkins: Well, he just seems like a great guy to build a franchise around. Everyone is talking about the rebounding and that's sort of what I focused on with the story, but there's really just so much to him as far as, kind of, you mentioned his background and sort of having an NBA father, Stan Love, who played for the Lakers and the Bullets, and sort of being geared wired his whole life to do what he's doing right now in Minnesota. It's just sort of special. That family from a young age really...I think basketball was his passion obviously, but they really put him in position to maximize it. You know, I talk about it kind of in the story. He grew up in the suburbs really of Portland, and sort of going down to the inner city of Portland, learned to play a physical brand of basketball, and he admitted that that shaped him as much as anything he did in his whole basketball life, and it kind of shows how he's playing right now, because he really has this physical, rugged style that you don't necessarily think about. A kid who grew up in an affluent neighborhood in the suburbs, but really I think that his whole life he tried to play a tougher brand of basketball than maybe people thought he was geared for.

Jonah Ballow: I think fans around the Minneapolis area are well aware of Kevin Love, the rebounder and the productivity that he has put out on the floor in the past three seasons for this team. Nationally, he has not garnered that much attention. What made you want to do a feature on Kevin Love for Sports Illustrated?

Lee Jenkins: Well, you know, I think that you're right. A lot of people nationally, because he wasn't getting the minutes, maybe you would expect he would get, he wasn't able to put up those numbers, and it didn't really take a genius to see that when he put up 31-31, and some of the numbers he was putting up. He's doing something that we really haven't seen in a long, long time. It's evocative of Moses Malone and those numbers, I think, get the attention of editors and writers and every kind of media member around the country, and all of a sudden it's like 'Hey, let's look at this guy.' Now, oddly enough I kind of knew him a little bit and knew his background from when he was at UCLA. It's sort of funny looking back at his past he really came under this huge crush and got all this attention in his one year at UCLA when they went to the Final Four and then he might of slipped under the radar even though he was playing well his first couple years in Minnesota, and this year with the rebounding totals it's come up again, but I think that you made a good point earlier about everybody is kind of seeing him for the rebounding and that's what I focused on also, but I sort of urged people to look at the other areas of his game, because he's not just a rebounder. I mean it's a great part of what he's doing, but when you look at the numbers he's putting up offensively, his 3-point stroke, which is so unique for a big man, and the sophistication of his post moves. He's really an old school, throwback kind of player

Jonah Ballow: What is the national perception, do you think, of Kevin Love, and how he fits into that conversation as "Best Power Forward", "Best Big Man in the League," because we have the All-Star Game here coming up in February and a lot of people here are wondering if he's going to make that roster?

Lee Jenkins: You know, great question...I think when you talk about those sort of things, I think a bigger sample size might be required. I mean I have no doubt that he'll continue this pace and even get better in the coming years, but I think for right now it probably to some people feels a little bit too soon. You know, which maybe he's hurt in that way by the lack of minutes maybe in the last year. I mean the fact that this guy was coming off the bench at the end of last season. He didn't even play in the fourth quarter of the Wolves season finale last year. It probably nationally feels a little bit sudden to talk about him in that way, but I don't feel at all like it is that premature, because I think, you know, a lot of people I'm sure, you expect it. Sort of a little bit of what you're seeing this year. I'm sure the Wolves expect it, maybe not 31 rebounds, but something like it, and you know, so I feel like in a year that conversation will definitely have merit and a lot of people won't be put off by it. I mean right now you wonder, 'Is he just a hot player?' I don't think so, but I think that's probably a hurdle that he might have to jump over when you're talking about things like All-Star game for this season.

Jonah Ballow: Moving off the court, what I really thought was interesting about your piece on Kevin Love was the relationship with his father and obviously the connection with the Beach Boys. Talk a little bit about that and how it played into this feature.

Lee Jenkins: You know, everybody kind of talks about the Beach Boy deal and that his uncle Mike is the lead singer of the Beach Boys, Mike Love, and how Stan played for the Lakers. I was more curious about how those things fed into the way he plays on the court...kind of the ferociousness of it, because when you think about the Beach Boys, he went to UCLA, he's from the suburbs, his dad was a Laker, he could seem like he was a little bit softer than what you actually see from him on the court. So, you know, I was kind of interested in that Beach Boys experience and what he really gleamed from it. What I kind of learned from him and from his dad...it's just this crazy relationship that his dad had with his cousin, Brian Wilson. You know I didn't know a lot about Brian Wilson when I started this, to be honest, but people who know a lot about music kind of know him as this legendary, kind of troubled, genius songwriter of the Beach Boys...who you know is really one of the biggest names, I guess, in the history of pop music, and Stan, Kevin's dad, when he finished playing in the NBA was in charge of sort of being Brian's bodyguard and not letting, basically drugs, get into his hands. Cocaine and LSD...Brian was a huge drug addict that dealt with depression for long stretches of life, and didn't even leave his house. I think that Stan, from working with Brian Wilson, and seeing sort of his spiral, sort of saw the way fame can, kind of, derail people, derail prodigies, and it affected a lot about how I think he raised his son. In terms of taking him out of that culture, kind of putting a bubble around him for a little while in his life, and making sure that he wouldn't be touched by some of the same influences that got to his younger cousin.

Jonah Ballow: What do you think about this team, Michael Beasley and some of the improvements they've made? From your seat how do you see this Minnesota Timberwolves squad?

Lee Jenkins: Yeah, I think that front line is really promising. You know, they're losing so many close games right now. I was there in San Antonio when they blew that fourth quarter lead, and I know they blew another one to San Antonio at home. So, it feels to me like they're not that far away, but I'll be honest, it's hard to watch them, and if they just had Steph Curry or Brandon Jennings, or both, or Rubio. You know, it feels like they really need help in the back court to kind of take that next step, and maybe they'll get it if Rubio is able to come over next season, but that to me is the next hurdle. You know, and also I think Beasley, as well as he's done with scoring I think his defense probably needs to improve, and you know, he's still getting used to handling the ball a little bit more, and playing the three a little bit more, but I think that Love is definitely somebody that they can build around. You know, I was high on him. After I spent a couple days with him I thought, 'This is a team to watch in the future,' and kind of the tough moves that they've made, and things that have happened in the draft. The Beasley move maybe feels a little like karma karma comeuppance for them, where they were able to make a move that helped...where they maybe got a little bit lucky.

Jonah Ballow: Great insight. Make sure you head to SI.com, also check out Sports Illustrated Magazine and read his article, Love Is in the Air. I appreciate your time and hopefully we will catch up in the future with maybe another feature on the Wolves turning that corner in the near future.

Lee Jenkins: Thanks so much for having me, I really appreciate it.


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