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|Dogged by weight concerns coming out of UCLA, Kevin Love has raised his game to an MVP level.|
|Love is averaging almost as many points as LeBron (26.5) and almost as many rebounds as D12 (13.5).|
“Problem was, that weight dragged him down. He was a tree trunk. A tired tree trunk that couldn't break the 30-minute average in either season. Combine that with a limited offensive game that included mostly mid-range jumpers and offensive putbacks and Love was fitting the exact template others created for him. "If you told me he would look like he does now in terms of his body, I just really didn't think he could do it at this level," said first-year Timberwolves assistant coach Jack Sikma, who was an assistant with the Rockets when Love broke into the league. "But seeing what he's done and understanding how he ticks, he really doesn't put any limits on himself. "Before I ever got here, you could see how skilled he was as a player. The challenge was, physically, could he do enough in the situation he was in, in terms of body type, physically and all that other stuff." Some of Love's previous coaches, who included ideal mentors like Kevin McHale, Bill Laimbeer and Kurt Rambis, will tell you Love initially resisted the changes they presumed he should make. Love never figured himself to be a serious post threat because his athleticism would limit him. Meanwhile, Love always believed he could extend his game to the perimeter, where he visited on occasion at every previous level he played. "I don't think, necessarily, I tried to fight it," Love said. "But I knew what I could get away with in the league early on, and that was picking my spots, and like Kevin McHale would say, 'Go where they ain't.' "Coming into the league I had certain coaches telling me not to shoot 3s and that I'd never shoot 3s in this league. I wanted to -- like I have my entire basketball career going back to middle school -- try to prove people wrong. I've proven my perimeter game belongs in this league, which is something that I wanted to show." But even after the 20-and-15 season in his third year, Love still recognized that he wouldn't truly reach his potential without shaving some serious pounds. Hence the now-famous offseason program in Los Angeles with trainer Rob McClanaghan. There are videos of his yoga training. There are before and after pictures that are usually reserved for "The Biggest Loser." (OK, maybe not that extreme, but if they made an NBA version of that show, Love would've been a favorite to win it.)
People have asked me, even this year, 'Where do you see yourself in the league as far as top players go?' I feel like I'm right at the top.” -- Kevin Love
|Love took advantage of the long offseason by dropping 15 pounds.|
What NBA player combined this versatile, and still growing, offensive game with relentlessness on the boards? Bill Laimbeer didn't score like this. Moses Malone didn't venture outside the lane much.