Kevin Love’s putrid performance last night led to some serious hostility on Twitter and beyond.
Kevin Love just looks tired all the time. Clanking three-pointers on the front iron, walking and/or jogging up the court…
— Phil Mackey (@PMac21) December 27, 2012
@kevinlove if you could put the team on your back i could tolerate your whining. But since you like to go 0-7 from 3 you shouldnt be whining
— Eric Larson (@asian_laxer) December 27, 2012
I’ve watched Kevin Love play a lot of basketball. Tonight was the most lifeless I’ve seen him. Not sure what happened.
— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) December 27, 2012
The criticism was, dare I say it, well deserved. In a game many thought the Wolves should’ve won — They really should’ve won — Love spent his time trying to shoot his way out of a horrible shooting slump since returning to the team from a broken hand before the season began. He ended up going 3-of-14 from the floor, including a pitiful 0-of-7 from three-point land, not including a botched play drawn up for him to take a three at the end of the game and one he actually took just before that — a step-back three attempt.
Rick Adelman combated the question of “Why Love?” with, “Well, all I can say, he’s our best player. I’ll take those two wide open threes any time.”
Love has battled criticism all season long. From the broken hand to the public relations monstrosity that was the Yahoo! article, he’s seen it all. It hasn’t helped that he hasn’t been able to find any groove whatsoever on the court either. Last night’s performance is just one of many poor shooting nights, as he finds himself shooting just 36-percent from the field coming into that game and not even 25-percent from deep.
It’s hard to believe that all of his problems are physical but he’s taken his fair share of beatings in just four months. Just last week he took a hard jab to his face that caused his eye to swell up and miss the New York game. Then just before that he mysteriously came down with the flu — just hours before tip off — after he was expected to start despite spraining his thumb the night before. But before it all was the bone-shattering knuckle push-ups incident, that broke his hand and forced him to sit out the first nine games of the season. Breaking your shooting hand is a huge blow in basketball because you almost have to retrain it once healed. But Love shot well in his first few games back, and Kyrie Irving just proved that it’s not a huge deal to break your hand and find the rhythm once healed.
So if it’s not his ailing physical health, what could it be? Everyone has always noted Love’s dreadful body language on the court ever since becoming the best offensive option they got. Emotionally, he expresses himself very deeply into the fibers of the game but also loses grasp of the meaning of “team” in the process. His constant complaining that comes from that lack of fouls forces mismatches on the defensive end in transition is most notable. It leaves the Wolves flailing back one man down and is part of the reason the Wolves allow the ninth most opponent fastbreak points per game this season.
Love’s start to the year just isn’t ideal; the season many thought the Wolves had a serious chance to make a run at the playoffs, the first time since 2004. But his behavior on the court is alarming and greatly unalluring. He looks out of shape, tired and entirely disjointed with what’s going on around him.
In last night’s recap, I wrote that “superstars earn their respective title because they perform at a very high level consistently on a night-by-night basis.” Love has failed to do such a thing since his miraculous debut on Nov. 21st against the Nuggets. I wrote further that Love’s failure to aid the team in other facets — clutch shots, defense, etc. — also raise the red flag in dubbing him a “star.”
But there’s no doubt in my mind that Kevin Love is still a great player in this league. It’s just unfortunate that his recent stresses haven’t allowed him to perform to his ability, which used to be that of a star in this league. This current slump has been difficult for all to watch, especially him to endure. Slumps come with more than just poor box scores; when you’re the leader of a team, it bodes great responsibility including taking the heat from fans and critics alike. We can sit back in our comfy chairs and criticize behind a computer screen — I’m a huge culprit of this — because we think we know best. But, in the end, we’re wrong. Love knows best and he’ll find a way to regain his heroic stature in Minnesota with the new coming year, and hopefully lead the Wolves to the playoffs like the star he really is.
And it all starts with his attitude.
“It’s frustrating for the entire team, we know that. I’m upset with the game, but it’s not going to hold me down,” Love said.
It’s not going to hold him down.