In his first three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Love watched his team crumble under the weight of 190 losses. Talk about a tear in your beer.
This season is different. Earlier this month, the Wolves pushed their record past the .500 mark -- the first time they've done so this late in a season since 2007. Players are feeling good. In other words: It's party time.
"It's a lot more fun to go out," Love said. "We feel like we have something to toast to. Rather than drinking when we're down."
The 6-foot-10 All-Star sat down with me recently to talk, but not about his game (that would be 25 points and 14 rebounds a night). I wanted to talk bars -- specifically, his five favorite bars.
Where does the best power forward in the NBA (as Charles Barkley calls him) like to grab a drink when he's off the clock?
I caught up with the 23-year-old California native at an inopportune moment, or so I thought. Hours before meeting up, the league had given Love a two-game suspension for stepping on the face of Houston Rockets player Luis Scola. (I'd call it a mild tiptoeing.)
Or maybe this was an appropriate time.
"I could use a couple beers," he said. (He was joking, of course.)
Love wanted to meet at Hubert's, inside Target Center. It's a far cry from the VIP-style nightclubs where you'll find many of his contemporaries. This is more his style.
"I'm not out there on the dance floor, clubbing and that sort of thing," Love said. "That's not me. I'm just chill."
When he's out (which is actually rare in this condensed lockout-affected season), he's often with his friends, maybe a couple teammates or his girlfriend.
Whatever the occasion, he's probably going to have a smile on his face. The time for drowning the T'Wolves sorrows in booze is no more. Here are his top five spots.
"I have a good rapport with the staff. I know everyone who works there from top to bottom, even the people in the kitchen. They always have a table ready for me, no matter what time it is. It's a special place for me in downtown, where I can get away from everything."
He's drinking: "Maker's Mark bourbon with a splash of ginger ale. That's what my girl and I do."
- Find it: 825 Marquette Av. S., Mpls. 612-339-9900. www.mannyssteakhouse.com
"It's a change of pace, as well, because it's mostly tequila. I like their bar food. The chips and guac is great. The queso fundido, the steak tacos and the carnitas tacos are great. I try to go there to mix it up and get a splash of Mexican flavor. Tequila is a wild night. But not during the season."
He's drinking: "I usually go with the tequila."
- Find it: 925 Nicollet Mall, Mpls. 612-333-9953. www.barriotequila.com
"It's great, especially during the week. It's a spot I go to switch up the scenery. Good crowd. And I like Uptown. You can get anything from bar food to really nice cuisine. The drinks are unorthodox. You can tell by the fortune cookies -- they like to have a little bit of fun with it."
He's drinking: "I'll just tell the bartender to make me something special. And then I'll give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down. And they'll keep 'em coming."
- Find it: 2916 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. 612-824-7878. www.chinolatino.com
"It's just a local spot. I went there a lot last year. I eat the chili. They're big fans of the Wolves. And a lot of people who work at the Target Center will go there. It's so close, so when I'm done I can just walk back to the arena, hop in my car and go home."
He's drinking: "Probably a Grape Ape."
- Find it: 500 1st Av. N., Mpls. 612-332-8342. www.looncafe.com
"Like the Loon, it's very fan-friendly. You can come in here and get a lot of love. They'll take care of you. And it's right here in the Target Center, so the location is great for me."
He's drinking: "I'll drink any beer. But my beer of choice is Stella."
- Find it: 600 1st Av. N., Mpls. 612-767-2960. www.hubertsmpls.com