Names and numbers. Kareem. Shaq. Garnett. 25/10. Double-double. Minnesota's second-ever All-Star starter. Kevin Love entered the NBA in 2008 a stocky, ox-like bruiser known as a post presence and not much else. He enters this weekend's All-Star Game as one of the league's toughest outs, on pace to become the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76 to average 25 points, 13 rebounds and four assists in a season. He's changed his body. He's changed his range. He's changed every game he's played in the past four seasons. Supremely confident and covetous of a place among the league's all-time elite, Love may have seen this coming. But much of the basketball world didn't. 'Hot commodity' During his years as a player and assistant coach for the Lakers, Brian Shaw made a frequent habit of heading over to Pauley Pavilion and catching a UCLA game. Bruins coach Ben Howland had recruited Shaw away from St. Mary's to the University of California-Santa Barbara in the mid-1980s -- Howland was a Gauchos assistant then -- and often invited his old friend to check out the crop of potential NBA talent in his cupboard. Shaw remembers watching Love lead UCLA to the 2008 Final Four, stomping the school's freshman scoring and rebounding records in his wake. But he also saw a 6-foot-10, 260-pound bull without much muscle tone that might struggle to produce dramatically against the NBA's top-of-the-line athletes. "I thought he'd be a solid NBA player," said Shaw, now the Nuggets' head coach, "but never really thought that he would elevate himself to the level that he is right now." The All-American could shoot (17.5 points per game, 55.9 percent from the floor, 35.4 from 3-point range) and rebound (10.6 per game) with the best of them. Even in his rookie season with the Timberwolves, he asserted himself as a handful on the glass. But the floor stretching, assist generating and basketball acumen that are staples of Love's arsenal took more time to germinate. "I'm impressed by that," Shaw said. "The shape he's gotten himself into, finding his niche in this league and just being able to not only just rebound the way that he can and has shown to do with guys that are a lot bigger and a lot more athletic, but his basketball IQ, how he's really, really rounded himself out to be a good all-around offensive player, expanding his game out to the 3-point line as well as posting up, being able to pass the ball the way that he does.
All-Star Love performing beyond expectations
Fox Sports North | Feb 14