The Potential Value of Kevin Love’s Olympic Experience

I’ll admit, I didn’t watch much of the Olympics. Not even much of the basketball, and when I did I watched Russia’s games for Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko. However, I did follow the US’ journey to gold, but found few redeeming qualities in the US mostly rolling to another gold medal. Yet, I was still a little surprised when I found myself thinking, “Please don’t lose to these guys…” during the gold medal game, so I’m not the worst American, ever. Well, I can’t be the worst American ever; I like Breaking Bad.

Of course, that means that our own Kevin Love now has a gold medal to add to his list of accolades he has achieved before his 24th birthday. Not only did he get a gold medal, but he earned it as a key player. In fact, after falling out of Coach K’s good graces by not hustling and chasing rebounds instead of contesting shots, Love wound up being a big reason the United States took home both Men’s and Women’s gold.

His numbers were astounding: 11.6 points, 7.7 rebounds per game, 81% (2pt), 35% (3pt), and 57% FT. Sure, it’s a small-sample, but that 81% is just freaking ridiculous. And as one of my followers pointed out, it looks as if his 2-point percentage and free throw percentage should be flipped.

But it’s not the numbers I care about. I care more about the potential for Love to have learned what it means to be a leader on a championship team. If Love was able to extrapolate anything from Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, or anyone on that team with a ring as far as what it takes to be a champion, then that will be the Timberwolves’ biggest offseason addition.

That means no more bitching about non-calls on offense and hustling back on defense. That means taking responsibility for the play of the team. That means understanding throwing your teammates under the bus and publicly criticizing the team aren’t the same as being an accessible star. That means playing the level of defense we saw before the all-star break last season.

I’ve lauded Love as often as I’ve critiqued him because he’s a special player and should therefore be held to a higher standard. We won’t know for show about any developed leadership skills or maturity, but they would greatly benefit the Timberwolves as much as his added range and improved conditioning have in the past. It will be interesting to see how Love responds over time when he goes back to being the best player on his team, and not the 3rd, 4th, or whatever best option like he was with Team USA.

Apples and Oranges

I had to find a place to fit this blurb in somewhere, so I figure why not put it behind a Kevin Love post? Anyway, as human beings, we love to compare and rank things into their proper places. Instead of just enjoying, we have to know everything’s place in the universe. Some people can’t help it, but it’s still generally annoying.

Sometimes, our comparisons are absurd or ridiculous because we’re trying to compare and contrast two different things. For example, the way people say LeBron James will never be Michael Jordan. I know that A) many have grown out of this thought pattern, but some haven’t and that leads me to believe that B) these people don’t watch much basketball because they’re really two different players.

Consider this: Michael Jordan’s 1992: NBA MVP (30.1 PPG 6.1 APG 6.4 RPG), NBA Finals MVP (35.8 PPG 6.5 APG 4.8 RPG), Olympic Gold (12.7 PPG 5 APG 3.8 RPG)
LeBron James 2012: NBA MVP (27.1 PPG 6.2 APG 7.9 RPG), NBA Finals MVP (28.6 PPG 7.4 APG 10.2 RPG), Olympic Gold (13.2 PPG 7.3 APG 7.5 RPG)

(Thanks to Kris Habbas of for the stats)

Do they look like they’re similar enough to compare outside of being basketball players? No. In fact, finding one true historical comp for LeBron is near impossible since you could argue he’s a bit of a few players. They play such different styles, positions, and have such different approaches (Especially early-MJ the Volume Shooter compared to LeBron’s do a little bit of everything style).

Obviously, MJ is widely regarded as the GOAT. And that’s fine. Just don’t miss the chance to appreciate greatness when it’s right in front of you. Much like Shaq, Magic and Jordan were all once in a generation athletes/talents, LeBron is as well.

About Derek James

In addition to writing for Howlin' T-Wolf, Derek James writes about basketball Hardwood Paroxysm in the ESPN TrueHoop Network and covers the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire. Andray Blatche and Isaiah Rider follow him on Twitter.