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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Kevin Love Notches a Double Double in his Summer League Debut

Kevin Love had 18 points and a Vegas Summer League high 13 rebounds in his summer league debut as his Minnesota Timberwolves lost to the Dallas Mavericks 88-74 on Monday. Love shot 7-13 from the field and committed six fouls and five turnovers. Although they play different positions and have completely different games, Love and O.J. Mayo will always be linked because they were traded for each other in a big, eight player Draft Day deal.

Love received the ball in the high post on Minnesota's first possession. He looked to make a pass to a backdoor cutter but that option was not open, so he swung the ball to Pooh Jeter, who missed a long jumper. Love crashed the boards aggressively and got his hands on the ball and even though he was not able to control it Minnesota managed to retain possession. Bryce Taylor then hit a midrange jumper. Dallas' first possession ended with Love ripping down a defensive rebound in traffic but Minnesota promptly turned the ball over, fueling a Dallas fastbreak. Love tried to take a charge but arrived late and was whistled for a blocking foul.

Love and Jeter ran a screen/roll play that resulted in Love receiving a pass just outside the three point line. Love faced up James Singleton and then drove right past him and got all the way to the hoop, scoring a layup (his shot was goaltended by Pape Sow) and drawing a foul. Love is supposedly not athletic but he showed good footwork on that play, not to mention aggressiveness and body control. Love missed the free throw.

Sow tried to drive past Love but Love slid his feet adequately and stayed in front of him. Sow made a gorgeous behind the back pass to Singleton, who converted an uncontested dunk. On the next possession, Love caught the ball at the three point line, used a jab step to force Singleton to retreat and then shot a three pointer that bounced off of the rim. NBA TV analyst Steve Jones pointed out that although Love shot well from the collegiate three point line the NBA three point line is further out and that will be one of many adjustments that Love will have to get used to during his rookie season; Love missed both of his three pointers in this game.

As many people have noted, Love has a laborious running style that "looks" slow but Love is able to get up and down the floor, though he candidly admitted after the game that even after one summer league contest he can already tell that you have to be in much better shape to play in the NBA than you do to play in college--and if he is saying that now, just wait until he plays four games in five nights in the middle of a long 82 game season!

Regardless of the superficial impression that Love's movement creates, he knows how to play the game. He sets screens, makes the correct passes and goes to the glass aggressively at both ends of the court. Love seems to intuitively understand where he is supposed to go, like in one sequence when Jeter drove, drew the defense and Love faded to the perimeter a la Bill Laimbeer, catching a pass and without hesitation drilling a jumper from just behind the college three point line.

Love committed his second foul by jumping out too aggressively when defending a screen/roll play. After being whistled for the block he immediately clapped his hands in frustration and pointed to himself as if he knew exactly what he had done wrong. After a timeout, Dallas inbounded the ball and Love committed another foul, grabbing Sow when Sow fooled Love by slipping a screen and diving to the hoop; Love wrapped his arms around Sow to prevent him from catching a pass and scoring an uncontested layup. What Love demonstrated on the three plays that he committed fouls is not so much a lack of foot speed but rather a lack of understanding exactly how the NBA game is played and officiated. In other words, those are "rookie" mistakes that can be eliminated as he gets used to playing in the NBA, as opposed to fundamental problems that will prevent him from being effective in the long run; of course, if he is still making those same mistakes during the regular season then that is a different story.

Love committed his fourth foul going for a help side defensive block when Reyshawn Terry got loose and drove to the hoop attempting to throw down a monster dunk. That is an example of how a big guy can get saddled with fouls because of poor defensive play by his teammates, as opposed to the earlier fouls which were entirely Love's own doing. Love went to the bench with four fouls in the first 6:54 and Dallas leading 17-10. He sat out the rest of the quarter and Dallas led 21-14 after the first 10 minutes (summer league quarters are 10 minutes, not 12). Terry topped Dallas with five points, while Love and Corey Brewer paced Minnesota with four points each. Brewer shot 2-9 from the field, missing his last seven attempts, most of them jump shots.

Prior to many of the commercial breaks during the summer league, NBA TV's Rick Kamla enthusiastically says, "You are watching future NBA stars." Maybe he is contractually obligated to make that declaration but the reality is that in most of these games we are watching a handful of future NBA players and a bunch of future D-League stars.

Love returned to action at the 8:49 mark of the second quarter with Dallas in front, 26-14. Love did not really have much of an opportunity to do anything offensively in the next few minutes, as Minnesota committed numerous turnovers, violations and offensive fouls, falling behind 42-18. Love finally got a touch by cutting to the hoop, receiving a pass from Brewer and drawing a foul. Love split the resulting pair of free throws to make the score 44-23. On Minnesota's next possession, Brewer drove coast to coast but missed the layup. Love gathered in the rebound, missed the putback, grabbed his miss and drew another foul. He again made one of two free throws. The Timberwolves finally figured out that it might be a good idea to pass the ball to Love in the post and he drew yet another foul after making a catch deep in the paint. This time Love made both free throws. Dallas led 48-30 at halftime. Terry scored 12 points, while Love and Brewer had eight points each.

The Timberwolves started the third quarter with a screen/roll play involving Love and Brewer. Love received a pass from Brewer and made a nice bounce pass to Chris Richard, who was fouled. Love only had one assist in the game but he displayed his passing skills on several plays. Minnesota inbounded the ball after the foul and Love corralled yet another offensive rebound and converted the putback. On the next possession, Brewer broke down the defense and fed Love for an easy layup. Then Love caught the ball on the block with good post position but he rushed his move a bit and committed a traveling violation. A bit later, Love drew a foul on Singleton by establishing good post position and making a deep catch.

Love committed his fifth foul by once again being too aggressive in his screen/roll defense. As Jones explained, "They want the big men to jump out. A lot of times the big men don't know when to relent, so they keep going and get a piece of the guard." Not long after that, Love drove to the hoop and was whistled for a charge while trying to dish the ball to Richard (it takes 10 fouls, not the usual six, to be disqualified in a summer league game). Then, Love caught the ball on the right block and made a nice jump hook off of the glass. Love showed good balance and a delicate touch by flying in to tip in a Richard miss. Despite Love's work in the paint, Minnesota could not gain much ground and Dallas led 66-49 at the end of the third quarter. Love sat out the first 3:45 of the fourth quarter and Minnesota trailed 74-56 when he checked back in to the game. Drew Neitzel dropped in 10 fourth quarter points for the Timberwolves but that proved to be too little, too late.

In his first NBA action, Love displayed better than advertised mobility, willingness to attack the glass at both ends of the court and a good understanding of how to play offensively in terms of setting screens, making passes and operating in the paint. He made some "rookie mistakes," particularly defensively, but most of the things that he did wrong are correctable errors as opposed to fundamental problems with his game/skill set.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:49 PM

5 comments

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5 Comments:

At Saturday, July 19, 2008 12:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

kevin love is going to be a solid player nuthing spectacular he is good and everyone dominates summer league it means nuthing kevin garnett lebron kobe dont play in summer league come on it means nuthing.

 
At Saturday, July 19, 2008 12:59:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

It is not true that "everyone dominates summer league." Anyway, my evaluation of Love is based on the skill set that he is showing, not on the specific numbers that he is posting in the summer league. Love can shoot, rebound and pass and he is showing a willingness to play defense. Smart, skilled big men are hard to find and he is going to be better than a lot of fans seem to think. KG, LeBron and Kobe are veterans, so of course they are not playing in the summer league; the top draft picks nowadays all play in the summer league unless they are injured.

 
At Saturday, July 19, 2008 9:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

love is very good player i think he could make 3 all star teams possibly reminds me of kevin mchale kindof mchale was alot better in certain areas but from a passing jum shot and rebounding perspective. i should say poor man or maybe homeless version of kevin not actually the hall of famer exactly

 
At Saturday, July 19, 2008 11:07:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Love does not remind me of McHale at all. McHale was a low post scorer, a rebounder and a shotblocker who could guard all three frontcourt positions. Love is a high post player who can shoot from distance (which McHale did not do until late in his career) and he is a far better passer than McHale ever was. Love's game is like Brad Miller's.

 
At Sunday, May 10, 2009 4:55:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brad Miller was the first guy I thought of too. A skilled big man with wonderful touch from the perimeter. He will make other players jobs easier with his passing ability, and instincts. Not really a player that you build a team around, but a second or third option who could fill the stat sheet.

 

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