Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Thunder | Jan. 4, 2014

Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Thunder | Jan. 4, 2014

Timberwolves vs. Thunder | 7:00 PM — Target Center

Where to Watch: Fox Sports North Plus

Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM

Kevin Durant met Kevin Love when he was about 14 years old. In the time between their first meeting and now, they’ve each become one-year sensations at the Division I college level, became the cornerstones of their NBA teams, won a Gold Medal together in London and continue to work together in the offseason.

This summer, they were side-by-side when they committed to the upcoming U.S. Men’s Basketball Team for the upcoming World Cup. And in-season, even with both having their own schedules, they seem to keep track of each other’s accolades. For instance, after Love’s month of December during which he scored 25-plus points in 11 straight games, had five 25-point, 15-rebound, five-assist games and recorded two 40-point games, Durant took notice.

“He was 30 and 10 for the whole month? Four assists? Not many people can do that—nobody can do that, really,” Durant said. “He had a great month. I don’t see why it’s going to stop now. Hopefully it stops against us.”

Durant and Love will square off for the third time this month as the Wolves host the Thunder tonight at Target Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North Plus and 830 WCCO-AM, and the winner of tonight’s matchup will hold a 2-1 edge for the season.

When they face each other tonight, it will be the latest installment of two players who have grown up together and become two of the very best in the league. Durant enters this contest leading the NBA in points per game and is a former three-time scoring champ. Love is second in the NBA with 26.3 points per game—behind Durant—and is tied for first in rebounds per game.

The respect and admiration is mutual. Love said the two got to know each other in eighth and ninth grade—Durant is a year older—and a lot of their successes come from their drive to succeed and get better.

“We’ve learned a lot from each other as far as work ethic and how we approach the game,” Love said. “Obviously, he’s a far different player than I am, but as far as how we show up to the game every day, get exercise, work exceptionally hard, I think in a lot of ways we see eye-to-eye.”

Durant said Love has developed a lot during his career—he joked that when they first met he snacked a lot, poking fun at what Love calls a chubbier phase, and “couldn’t shoot a lick.” Now, he’s lean and has become in Durant’s eyes the second-best 3-point shooter in the league behind Stephen Curry. That’s saying a lot, considering Durant is shooting 42.1 percent from distance this year.

“Just being around him this summer, he taught me a lot about myself,” Durant said. “He’s just a pro’s pro—a guy that comes to work every single day. Doesn’t say anything, just goes out there and plays. He’s a fierce competitor, but he doesn’t talk about it. He’s not one of those “rah rah” guys that lets you know. He’s just going to go out there and produce.”

Bottom line is Durant and Love are quickly becoming two of the premier scorers in the league, and when the two face off tonight you can likely expect more of the same. Durant has long been in an elite category of players who can put up 30-plus points without really drawing a lot of attention to his box score numbers. Now, after December, Love is starting to join that category as well.

Love is becoming a player that makes even the very best in the league take a step back and appreciate his game.

“He’s one of those guys that has a quick trigger but can also mix it up in the paint and do a lot,” Durant said. “I worked out with him all summer, and stuff he was doing, you know, big guys are not supposed to do that.”

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.