- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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MINNEAPOLIS -- As far as auditions go, Kevin Love’s 22-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in 29 minutes Friday was like a singer being sent straight through to Hollywood after he belted out his first note in front of the “American Idol” judges.
If Love wanted to make an impression on Los Angeles Lakers fans watching at home and simultaneously suffering through a 143-107 drubbing at the hands of his Minnesota Timberwolves, mission accomplished.
Now, if it was only that easy to get him actually relocated to Hollywood.
After the league endured the “Dwightmare” and “Melodrama,” get ready for “Lovesick.”
The six-year veteran, only 25 years old, is the apple of just about every team set to have cap space in the summer of 2015’s eye.
Love has one year left on his contract with the Wolves and by the time the regular season closes, will have gone 0-for-6 in making the postseason with the team that traded O.J. Mayo for him back on draft night in 2008.
Timberwolves president Flip Saunders will do everything he can to keep Love, who is fourth in the league in scoring at 26.3 points per game and third in rebounding at 12.6 per game this season. And Minnesota will have the advantage of being able to offer a five-year extension, versus a four-year deal from any other team.
But if Love makes it clear that he has no intention to re-up with the Wolves, Saunders will be forced to shop Love or risk seeing him walk for nothing in return.
Which is where the Lakers come in.
Love’s ties to L.A. are undeniable. He went to college at UCLA. His father, Stan, played for the Lakers -- and coincidentally was on the 1974-75 team, a.k.a. the worst team in Lakers history up until this season, so his son could help make up for that. And Love was born in Santa Monica, to boot.
“You know, my parents live there and they had me there,” Love said of L.A., after his Wolves beat the Lakers for the third time in four tries to win the season series Friday. “It’s not my fault. So, I don’t really care about that right now. I just go out there and play and don’t think about it.”
While Love downplayed his interest, the Lakers clearly could use a player of Love’s caliber to jump-start their rebuilding process. Especially with Kobe Bryant recently putting the screws to management to turn things around as soon as possible so he can contend for another championship in the twilight of his career.
ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported Friday the Lakers would be willing to trade their upcoming pick in the heralded NBA draft -- likely to be in the top half of the lottery -- to land Love.
While Minnesota could certainly decide to go that route and hit the restart button, there is no assurance that the Lakers are truly Love’s most desired destination.
A source familiar with Love’s thinking told ESPNLosAngeles.com that it’s not just L.A. that is appealing to Love; he’s enamored with the idea of being “big time in a big city,” and that list of potential places he’d seek includes New York and Chicago, as well.
Love himself told GQ in February that his situation in Minnesota might be better than L.A. could offer anyway.
“People think it’s so far-fetched that I would stay in Minnesota,” Love told the magazine. “And I’m not s------- on the Lakers, but we have the better team, the better foundation. I’m having fun.”
One member of the Lakers’ organization was plenty vocal about his lust for Love on Friday, however.
“Obviously, he’s one of the best players in the league,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said before the game. “He’s inside and out. He rebounds. The guy puts some unbelievable stats up, and he just comes at you. We had him in USA Basketball. He’s just a very great basketball player. And he can beat you all kinds of different ways.”
Love proved D’Antoni, who coached the 6-foot-10 forward during the 2012 Olympics in London, right on Friday.
You saw him throwing a touch pass over the outstretched hands of Jordan Hill inside to Nikola Pekovic for an easy score; flinging a 50-foot outlet pass like a Frisbee and finding Kevin Martin in stride for an uncontested layup; grabbing a defensive rebound to start the break, then filling the lane to receive the ball back and complete the transition opportunity with a two-handed flush; stepping outside to can a couple of 3-pointers, extending his NBA-best streak of consecutive games with at least two made 3-pointers to 19.
And all of that was in the first quarter.
It was suggested to D’Antoni that Love epitomizes what the coach wants out of a stretch four in his system, and D’Antoni -- clearly on the hot seat to return to L.A. next season -- argued that Love would work under any scheme.
“I would rephrase that and say everybody wants something like that. When you’re talking about one of the best players in the league, yeah, that makes sense,” D’Antoni said.
The coach went as far as to say that Love, who was fifth on Team USA in scoring at 11.6 points per game and first in rebounding at 7.6 boards per game, was the most important player on the roster.
“I just remember being on the bench; we couldn’t wait to get him in the game,” D’Antoni said. “So, he was complementary, just because of the names out there. But he played as well as anybody, and he was as instrumental in winning the gold medal as anybody.”
Love did everything he could to shield his hand Friday, looking down into his lap and never once looking up to make eye contact during 3 ½ minutes of postgame questions that were cut off by a Wolves staffer as soon as three consecutive questions involving the Lakers came up.
“It’s still nice to beat a team that’s been a heavyweight for a very long time,” said Love, before being asked about the “weird” state of the Lakers these days.
“It would be like the Spurs coming out and having a bad year,” Love said. “Stuff like that doesn’t happen. So, yeah, I guess it’s a little weird.”
But the Lakers interest in Love? That’s completely normal.
“The guy’s a very good player,” D’Antoni said. “Wherever he goes, he’s going to be good.”