Love returns with an edge for Timberwolves
By Jon Krawczynski, AP Basketball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS — The sharp edges could be seen on Kevin Love’s chiseled frame and heard in his voice on the eve of the opening of Minnesota Timberwolves training camp.
After the most disappointing season of his basketball life, Love made it clear that he isn’t interested in talking about the injuries and adversity he faced last year.
And it’s hard to blame him.
Every effort to get him to reflect on last season during Timberwolves media day on Monday was met with a curt and frank retort.
“The past is the past.”
“Last year’s last year.”
It was Love’s effort to bury what happened last year.
All of it.
Bury the 64 games missed because of a twice-broken hand and a knee injury that required minor surgery in the offseason.
Bury a fifth straight season to start his career that ended without a playoff appearance.
Bury some ill will from a once-adoring fan base that caught him off guard early in the year.
“The beauty of this world is you get fresh starts, you live to fight another day and you just continue to move forward,” Love said. “I’ve never been so excited to play some basketball and stop hearing about last year.”
Love has gained a reputation as one of the most accessible and outgoing players in the league early in his career, and he’s almost always had a very good handle on the message he relays to the public through the media.
So it was clear on Monday that he came in determined not to revisit his clashes with previous team president David Kahn, his monumentally frustrating health issues or the team’s nine-season playoff drought.
One of the bright young stars in the game, Love stayed completely off the radar for the entire summer, throwing himself into rigorous workouts with some of the best players in the league all in an effort to reclaim his spot as the best power forward in the game.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor fired Kahn after the season and replaced him with Flip Saunders, who has shown a far better aptitude for relating to coaches and players early in his tenure in Minnesota. He spoke to Love often this summer and has raved about Love’s enthusiasm for the organization and the upcoming season.
“It’s great to have Flip on board. We’ve had great talks,” Love said. “I think between the entire team and everybody in the organization, we all see ourselves as people who can take the next step and take care of unfinished business.”
Several teammates said they noticed a bit of a chip on Love’s shoulder when he showed up in Minnesota last week, and that could be a very good thing for the Wolves.
“You look at him and you know he lost weight and has been training as hard as anybody in the league this summer,” guard J.J. Barea said. “He’s excited and he can’t wait to be out there.”
Coach Rick Adelman is back as well after an offseason of uncertainty surrounding the health of his wife. Mary Kay Adelman suffered through seizures last year that caused Rick Adelman to miss 11 games.
Adelman said it took much of the summer to make sure doctors found the right mix of medications and treatment to help her, but everything is improving and so he’s ready to return for a third season in Minnesota.
“I think as the summer went on, I looked long and hard at it, and I think what we’re doing is the right thing,” Adelman said.
Adelman was also very complimentary of Saunders, a former coach who has ingratiated himself with Adelman by keeping the lines of communication open and speaking the language of basketball at a level that Kahn, who never played or coached, couldn’t reach.
“He was a very, very good coach in this league and had some great teams and I think it always helps when you have someone that you can get input from who has been there and been through it,” Adelman said.
In Love, Adelman sees a two-time All-Star who has the potential to be so much more. The coach wants his star player to become more of a facilitator on offense, passing out of the high post the way Vlade Divac and Chris Webber did for Adelman with the Sacramento Kings.
“There’s more people around him so he doesn’t have to do all the things he had to do two years ago, but he can expand his game,” Adelman said.
“He can make all of his other teammates much better and that’s what great players do, they make their teammates better. And I’m hoping that’s what Kevin’s next step’s going to be.”
Adelman said Love “has a lot to prove.” And while Love may not put it quite that way, his determination was undeniable.
“We’ve got to be the team that hits first,” Love said. “We can’t be hit first and try to pick ourselves back up. As far as energy goes and guys that are focused, we have throughout our whole lineup guys that are ready to roll.”