Love's Style Fits Team USA Roster
Kevin Love isn’t your typical big man. In the NBA this season, he developed into a Top-5 scorer who can rebound at will, make plays when it matters most and step outside to the 3-point line when he sees fit.
He’s versatile, and it’s why he’s a two-time NBA All-Star and the leader of his Minnesota club. And it’s part of the reason why he was selected Saturday to represent his country as part of the U.S. Men’s Basketball team.
Love’s game simply fits the international style Team USA will see this summer. He noticed it first hand during the 2010 World Championships in Turkey.
“I really liked how the game fits kind of into what I do,” Love said during an interview with NBA TV on Saturday. “The game is a lot more physical, and the referees let a lot more things go.”
He’s not the only one.
Love’s Timberwolves have an assortment of international basketball talents, ranging from Ricky Rubio (Spain) to Nikola Pekovic (Montenegro) to JJ Barea (Puerto Rico). Others from last year’s squad like Anthony Tolliver have spent their fair share of time playing on teams across Europe.
What they’ve noticed in Love’s versatility makes him not only a uniquely effective player in the NBA but a big man who fits the mold of international styles of play.
Barea said Love’s outside shot coupled with his rebounding are both sought after traits for front courts across the globe. He’ll be able to make his mark all over the offensive end of the court while pulling down boards on the defensive end.
“[He’s] obviously rebounding and obviously a threat to score,” Tolliver added. “Those are two things he did for us. The fact that he’s a big man that can shoot really translates into the international game.”
The fact that Team USA does not harbor a lot of size on its 12-man roster also makes Love’s mobility across the floor more appealing. Center Tyson Chandler, standing at 7-foot-1, is the U.S.’s tallest player, and he’ll likely make good on that length on the defensive end the way he did in winning the 2012 NBA Kia Defensive Player of the Year Award for the Knicks. But Love and forward Blake Griffin, both standing at 6-foot-10, are the next two tallest players on the roster.
Love said that means he’ll get a good bulk of his minutes playing at the center position, and while he’s on the floor he said he plans to contribute pick-and-pops, offensive rebounds and extended offensive possessions for the team.
“I think from here on out, now that we have team set, we just kind of want to feel out each other’s games and learn to play together,” Love said. “This is a mix from 2008 and 2010. I think I’ll have a big role on this team, and hopefully headed forward I will be very effective.”
According to managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Love should be a factor on the club.
Colangelo said Love is one of the best 3-point shooters in the game and is a player you can count on to knock down shots from the perimeter. And he said if Love gets minutes, he’ll lead the team in rebounding.
Krzyzewski said Love has the versatility to make an impact. When he’s on the court, he stretches the floor and makes it difficult for the opposition to defend his four teammates because he is such a strong shooter.
This is a Team USA squad that Love admitted has lofty expectations. He said the U.S. always has a target on its back from opposing countries, and a lot of teams are going to give them their best effort every single night.
One thing that can help this American squad is its overall experience. Not only does this team have five players who were on the Team USA squad in 2008 but it also has five roster members who were on the 2010 World Championship team. On a professional level, the squad has three players with NBA championship rings—Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler and LeBron James—and three more with NBA Finals experience.
Of the 12 players on the roster, only Love’s NBA team did not make the playoffs during the 2011-12 season, though the Wolves were in the postseason picture as late as mid-March. What that means is Love will get a summer’s worth of time competing with and learning from some of the league’s most decorated and experienced winners.
That’s why Colangelo said this year’s squad has a great deal of potential to keep the U.S.’s recent success rolling.
“We think we’re deeper, we think we’re better,” Colangelo said during NBA TV’s televised press conference. “Only time will tell. The journey is just beginning.”
For Love, who said he worked hard and did whatever he could the past few years to put himself in position to make the Team USA roster, putting on the Red, White and Blue this summer will be a special feeling.
“Obviously very excited, very enthusiastic for the prospects that this team has heading forward,” Love said. “It’s great to have this team set. Now, we can really focus on just getting better every day. I’m very excited for the next six weeks.”