The new (and improved?) Kevin Love

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I write this piece out of pure love. I only wish to poke and prod at Love’s new self with an educated hypothesis on what I’ve witnessed and heard from accurate intel. This is not a big assumption or hate piece about how Kevin Love is becoming the next snotty Kobe Bryant (Please don’t become a new Kobe) but a theory on his development as an NBA superstar.

Can one player repeat a breakout season? By the traditional sense of a breakout season, no. A player improves to the extent of his potential and you only hope he can replicate that for seasons to come.

In Kevin Love’s case, he broke out in 2010 and kept that steady, phenomenal play going through the 2011 season. But looking back, you could consider his 2011 campaign another breakout season because he literally developed into a completely different player. In 2010, he carved his niche in the NBA as a rebounding mogul. Some donned him the next Moses Malone given his unique knack for rebounding. Hustle and pure effort was a major part in his rise to relevance. Then, in 2011, he still rebounded like a monster, but a thinner, leaner Love hawked the perimeter more often than sticking his nose down in the paint. As long as he still got his rebounds, there was nothing wrong with the way he played. The problem is that Team USA isn’t too fond of Love’s new style, calling him “soft.”

From Chris Sheridan, Sheridan Hoops:

Memo to Kevin Love: If you don’t knock someone on their ass tomorrow, and if you continue to play as though you have a sense of entitlement rather than a job to do, you are going to be watching Anthony Davis take your minutes as the last big man off the bench.

Coach K and the rest of the squad are used to Love’s bruising tactics down below. So when Love showed up to camp lighter and drifting on the perimeter a new tendency of his, he’s quickly seen a reduction in his minutes as well as the respect of Coach K, someone who’s bad side you never want to be on. Coach K is calling Love too soft, which leaves him parked at the end of Team USA’s rotation.

With a new, enlightening season forthcoming, you have to wonder whether or not Love can redo yet another breakout season as a new player. Only this time, maybe ditch the superstar attitude. There’s room for that in Miami, L.A. and New York, but not in Minnesota.

And that criticism is every bit of the truth.

Love’s new style has not only changed his production — not for the worse, per se — but seems to have gotten to Love’s head a little bit. The production we witnessed out of Love last season is the type of play that comes from egotistical superstars with all-around basketball skills, not someone who carved his NBA niche out of pure instinct and hustle. Love, never being that type of player, or even person before, has succumbed to that superstar mold both in productivity and mentally. This newfound aura of entitlement explains Love’s whine-fests all of last season. All too often did Love battle on offense, not receive a call and then bicker to the ref — hands out and all — looking for celebrity treatment (Think Kobe. Got it? Okay). That left the Wolves one man down in transition defense leading to an easy bucket the other way. The sequences were sickening but you didn’t know how to react to them. After all, Love developed into the fans’ new MVP, which means he can do no wrong, right? That’s sure not how I felt; you didn’t want to root against the guy or complain in the least bit even if his attitude was annoying.

Calling Love soft is just about the only way to describe the “New Love”. You have to hope that there’s still some humbleness deep down inside him — He seems content to stay in Minnesota, an undesirable small-market team, to say the least. But you also wonder how his mental approach towards basketball and becoming an idolized sports icon in America will develop upon Coach K’s claim. And with comments like ““You know, Coach K and I have talked about it — this isn’t 2010. I obviously played more in 2010, but I’m a completely different player now and a far better player,” and “If you look at last season and the season before, I had a breakthrough season in 2010-11, and then last year I felt, and I still feel, I’m one of the best players in the league,” you have to wonder where Love’s head’s truly at.

Players like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant are allowed to have that approach towards basketball and life. They’ve become synonymous icons, who bring competitive culture to the game. Their mental edge creates discomfort in the game, not only on the court, but off. You see them running their mouth, badmouthing upper-management with little-to-no regard for casualties because they just can. But it’s just an unwritten rule that the game’s best players can do that, ONLY when they’re in big markets where there comments and attitudes become saturated among the rest of the city. Look at Tim Duncan. A superstar in his own but from a small market team in San Antonio. Duncan has always put up and shut up and gone about his own business: Becoming one of the greatest power forwards this league’s ever seen. San Antonio is just too small of a town to take a hit from Duncan’s ego, if he ever had one. The ramifications run deeper than just the franchise but also that player’s reputation to the rest of the league. Love’s current scenario seems too obvious; he’s trying to be “one of the guys” for Team USA, even though he’s not, and now he and his own franchise’s reputations are at stake.

There’s no denying Love’s talent, and there’s no issue with believing your game and playing with a confidence but when others are questioning your character, it’s time to step up and show what you’re made of. There’s no arguing what a Hall of Fame coach wants you to do on a basketball court. If he wants you to play center, you play it. If he wants you to play point guard, for all I know, you play it. Love’s head seems to be getting bigger and bigger with every Olympic dream, and it’s not just me that’s noticed.

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