Will Kevin Love receive a deserved All-Star selection?
The announcement coming Thursday night will either have a scent of Brut, or smell just plain brutal for Wolves forward Kevin Love. The NBA All-Star reserves will be revealed on TNT this evening (6 p.m. Central); the starters, as voted in by fans, were named last week. The game will be played on Sunday, February 20.
In recent days, the Timberwolves released the brilliant "NUMB#ERS" campaign, a faux fragrance advertisement aimed at making a final push for Love's deserved All-Star bid. If you've yet to watch the vid, read on. We've embedded the clip. This is a must see.
The Wolves were reported to have sent "NUMB#RS" to the 14 Western Conference head coaches outside of this tundra; opposing conference coaches vote in the All-Star reserves. Coaches cast seven votes, including two for guards, two for forwards, one at center, and two players regardless of position. Head coaches cannot vote for their own players. For the Western team, injured Houston Rockets center Yao Ming was voted in by his ubiquitous outpouring of overseas support; Ming's replacement will be named by NBA Commissioner David Stern. It wouldn't be surprising if Stern named L.A. Lakers power forward Pau Gasol to appear in Ming's stead.
Love--the league leader in both rebounding (15.5 per) and double-doubles (43) while shooting 44 percent from 3--is part of a six-man race among conference forwards vying for three reserve spots. With Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Denver's Carmelo Anthony voted to start by the fans, three of these six men should be named: Love, LaMarcus Aldridge of Portland, Tim Duncan of San Antonio, rookie Blake Griffin of the L.A. Clippers, Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas, and Zach Randolph of Memphis.
There's little doubt that the Wolves' poor 11-37 record will stunt Love's support base. Even though Love recorded the league's first 30/30 game since Moses Malone accomplished the feat in the 1982-83 season, and is pacing to become the first player to average at least 20 points and 15 rebounds since Malone did so in that same season, players on losing teams have a shaky track record of being of All-Star selection.
A recent study by Spain's Jose Manuel Garcia, who runs the website NBA All-Star, revealed that, from 1985-2010, just 17 percent of All-Star reserves hail from losing teams. In addition, Garcia notes that the most "losing" player to ever be selected was former Cleveland Cavalier Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was chosen despite playing for a club with a lowly 9-38 record (.191 win clip).
One has to assume that the luminary Duncan--a 12-time All-Star whose team owns the best record (and therefore will have his head coach Gregg Popovich leading the West)--is a lock. The same can most likely be said for Nowitzki, who has made nine straight All-Star teams and goes for 23 point and 7 boards a game. In addition, Dallas has a stellar record at 33-15 and went just 2-7 when the forward missed nine games with a knee sprain from in recent weeks.
Like Love, Aldridge is having a career season. The Trailblazer goes for 21.3 points and 9 boards per game, both of which concurrently represent lifetime bests and also rank in the top six among conference power forwards. With Portland missing Brandon Roy and Marcus Camby, Aldridge still has the 'Blazers holding both a winning mark (26-23) and a playoff seed (No. 8) in the tough West.
Randolph, now in his 10th season, made his first All-Star Game last year. He lacks the national pub of all of the aforementioned (and Love), but he's got the Grizzlies above .500 and is the team leader in both points (20 per) and rebounds (13.2)--both numbers rank in the top six among positional, conference peers.
After missing his natural rookie season due to injury, Griffin has set the NBA hardwood afire this season. He's a perennial highlight reel playing in one of the nation's top two markets and already has the Clippers within striking distance of their 29 wins from last season. Griffin averages 23 points and nearly 13 rebounds per game, ranking in the top three
among conference power forwards in both categories. He's already punched a ticket to appear at both the All-Star's Game's "Slam Dunk Contest" and "Rookie Challenge" which (uh, oh) are being held at his home arena, the Staples Center.
Which brings us back to our boy. Like any all-star event, the NBA's version is, to a large degree, based on rep and respect and grandfathering and history, etc. But Love has put together such a staggering line of numbers and has done so much national pub, that, despite the Wolves' cruddy mark, he's got as legit a shot as Aldridge, Griffin, or Randolph.
Looking back at Love's performances versus the Western Conference coaches that will have opportunity to vote him in, the Wolf deserves a vote from the following men (performance numbers adjoined): Denver's George Karl (2 games, 34.5 point and 15.5 rebound averages), Houston's Rick Adelman (2 games, 20 and 16.5), Oklahoma City's Scott Brooks (3 games, 25.7 and 19.7), Portland's Nate McMillan (3 games, 23.7 and 17.7), San Antonio's Popovich (4 games, 23.8 and 19.3), Utah's Jerry Sloan (2 games, 23.5 and 17).
It's true that the Wolves own losing records against all of the above, but Love's individual efforts should still speak for themselves.
Yet Love may struggle to nab votes from these guys: Dallas's Rick Carlisle, Golden State's Keith Smart, Memphis's Lionel Hollins, New Orleans's Monty Williams, Phoenix's Alvin Gentry, L.A. Clippers' Vinny Del Negro, L.A. Lakers' Phil Jackson, Sacramento's Paul Westphal.
The Wolves have played Dallas, New Orleans, and Phoenix just once each to date, so the sample from which to work is small for those coaches. Versus both Golden State and the Lakers the Wolves are 0-2, and Love has presented a mixed bag of results: one 21 pt. and 22 reb. along with one 13 and 14 against the Warriors; one 23 and 24 along with one 0 and 7 against the Lakers. Versus Sacramento, Love has been atypically absent, averaging just 9.5 in both categories over the course of two games--so while the Wolves are 1-1 against the Kings, a nod from Westphal would be surprising. After the Wolves' loss to Memphis on Wednesday night, Love has just two measured games (both losses) against the Griz, offering 24 points and 23 boards in the two games combined.
As both the NFL and NHL exhibited last Sunday: Outside of the meaning attached to the MLB contest, the conjecture and debate leading up to All-Star games are infinitely more entertaining than the actual offerings. But in this town, where thoughts of a .500 record or playoff appearance remain as fictional as the "NUMB#RS" campaign, there is some actual meaning here for Kevin Love.
It's a chance to show the country that the Wolves, while woeful in record, are still breathing.
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