Love Voted Starter For 2014 All-Star Game
Love Voted Starter For 2014 All-Star Game
Kevin Love used the word surreal a lot in his teleconference Thursday night. Surreal because despite the late charge toward the top three positions in the Western Conference All-Stars front court race, it still seemed a bit out of reach for him to overtake either Blake Griffin or Dwight Howard before fan voting ran out Jan. 20. In the third ballot return on Jan. 9, he was about 17,000 votes back of a spot. That's a daunting gap to overtake.
So even when President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders told him he needed to talk to him about 20 minutes before the NBA on TNT announced the All-Star starters, Love wasn't ready for what he was about to hear. Saunders casually told him, "Congrats, you're going to be an All-Star starter."
So begins the next chapter of Kevin Love's career.
Love was officially selected to the 2014 NBA All-Star Game on Thursday via the fan vote. As announced by the NBA on TNT at 6 p.m. tonight, Love was voted in as a starter with the third front court spot. The fans voted in Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Love.
It's his third trip to the All-Star Game, and it's a vastly different route to take compared to years past. His first time around in 2011, he was an All-Star injury replacement. In 2012, he was a reserve thanks to well-earned respect around the league among players and coaches.
Now, he's going on the fans' ticket. He said the effort didn't go unnoticed.
"To be voted in, yeah, that's very big because the fans are what drives this game and allows us to be, you know, globally really solid and a game that they love," Love said. "You know for the fans to reach out and vote me in and to play among my peers that are very well-liked and popular around the world. It really means a lot.
Love was fourth in the front court balloting after the third ballot returns, trailing Griffin by about 17,000 votes at the time. But Love and Griffin both overtook Dwight Howard, who had been second to Durant in the West's front court heading into the home stretch of voting. The nod in the starting lineup is a big achievement for Love, taking the next step of a superstar who not only commands respect from opposing players and coaches but now has become a name fans around the league want to see in the All-Star Game.
Now, he'll be one of 10 in the game who will be on stage for the internationally-televised game introductions. That's a big step for a player, and it's coming in his third trip to the game itself.
Saunders said in a statement that it's a well-earned leap for Love.
“I am very happy for Kevin. He is certainly deserving of being voted in as a starter,” Saunders said. “You look at his numbers, his commitment to making his teammates better and his overall value to our team this year—he's certainly having an All-Star caliber season. He’s been a joy to watch this year and I look forward to watching him represent the Timberwolves in New Orleans.”
He's come a long way since his first appearance at the All-Star Game, when he was an injury replacement for Yao Ming in 2011. In 2012 he got the coaches' vote as a reserve—he won the 3-Point Contest that year in Orlando—and after away due to an injury-plagued year he is headed to New Orleans.
Rick Adelman has been here for much of that ascension. The two have worked side-by-side over the past three years, and during that time Love transformed himself from a player who was in All-Star consideration into one of the elite power forwards in the game. He's doing things this season that we haven't seen in 20 or 30 years.
In 40 games this season Love has posted averages of 25.0 points (4th in NBA), 13.0 rebounds (2nd) and a career-high 4.1 assists per game, putting him on pace to become the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76 to average 25+ points, 13+ rebounds and 4+ assists in a season. Love currently leads all Western Conference frontcourt players in made three-pointers (96), including a career-best and franchise-record-tying 8-of-9 effort Dec. 13 at San Antonio. His stellar first half of the season includes an 11-game stretch from Dec. 10-30 in which he scored 25+ points in each game, a new franchise record and the longest such streak in the NBA this season. Love also tallied 30 consecutive games with either 30+ points or 10+ rebounds to open the season, the longest such streak to begin a season since Bill Walton (34) in 1976-77.
The league-leader in both double-doubles (35) and 20-point, 10-rebound games (25), Love has tallied more 25+ point, 15+ rebound and 5+ assist games this season (8) than any individual in the league has since his debut in 2008-09. His 35 double-doubles through 41 team games put him on pace to become the third player since 1985-86 to record 70+ double-doubles in a single season. He pulled down his 4000th career rebound on Tuesday at Utah, needing just 327 games to accomplish the feat to match Dwight Howard as the third-fastest player to reach the milestone (O’Neal, 319; Mutombo, 323).
“To be voted into the All-Star Game by the fans is a tremendous honor for Kevin,” Adelman said. “He’s been one of the best players in the NBA all season and I’m glad his hard work is paying off.”
Now, he's got his ticket punched to New Orleans long before the reserves are picked. He said he owes a lot to his teammates for putting him in position to be selected.
"When you have a clean bill of health and you play a better brand of basketball and you’re getting well recognized, it’s obviously going to help from a recognition standpoint throughout the whole team," he said. "It’s not just me. It’s some other guys on the team as well and hopefully in the second half of the year we’ll really be able to do some damage.”
Speaking of teammates, center Nikola Pekovic is a player who is on the cusp of being selected as a reserve. With the premium put on small forwards and power forwards in the All-Star front court, it does seem like getting Pek added onto the roster is a long shot—especially with no centers in the starting five. But Love being selected as a starter was at one point a long shot, and that came to fruition tonight.
Love's hoping his Bruise Brother will make the trip with him.
"I would love to bring Pek with me," Love said, "and if he doesn’t make the game maybe he can be my bodyguard down there."
For now, though, at least the Wolves officially have a key piece of the organization in a prominent spot in the West's starting five.
"I keep using the word surreal, and it just hasn’t quite set in yet," Love said. "But at the same time I feel like I still have a whole lot of work to do and I’m still going to enjoy the All-Star Game like I have the previous two years I’ve been in it, so I’m just looking forward to representing the Wolves."
Fan Voting By The Numbers:
Also voted as Western Conference All-Star starters were Kobe Bryant (988,884), Stephen Curry (1,047,281), Kevin Durant (1,396,294) and Blake Griffin (688,466). The Eastern Conference All-Star starters are Dwyane Wade (929,542), Kyrie Irving (860,221), LeBron James (1,416,419), Paul George (1,211,318) and Carmelo Anthony (935,702).
Wolves fans can celebrate Kevin Love being named an All-Star starter by taking advantage of the Kevin Love All-Star Four-Pack. Fans can purchase the ticket package starting as low as $99, which includes games against the Los Angeles Lakers (Feb. 4), Portland Trail Blazers (Feb. 8), Houston Rockets (Feb. 10) and Indiana Pacers (Feb. 19). To purchase the special package, call the Wolves at 612-673-1234 or visit Timberwolves.com/LovePack.