Nikola Pekovic managed to start the season’s first 44 games for the Timberwolves. He went to the bench with an ankle injury in Monday’s victory in Chicago and figures to miss a couple of weeks.
The immediate reaction included the theory that Pek’s injury would require coach Rick Adelman to double-digit minutes from rookie center Gorgui Dieng.
My theory stated on the public airwaves was this was doubtful – that Adelman was more likely to use Kevin Love and Dante Cunningham together than to roll with Dieng for the minutes when veteran Rony Turiaf was not on the floor.
The first test came on Wednesday night with the New Orleans Pelicans at Target Center.
Love played 43 minutes in the 88-77 victory, including the entire second half. Turiaf played 26 minutes and Cunningham played 20. Dieng? He played six minutes.
This was more evidence that Adelman is going to ride Love to whatever extent is possible. With a victory staring at his team, Adelman is going to use Love at center before he’s going to trust a rookie for more than a few minutes.
Love is second in the NBA at 12.9 rebounds per game, fourth in scoring at 25 points and tied for 15th at 36.2 minutes played. He also has a gaudy 4.1 assists per game and is shooting 37 percent on three-pointers.
He will be a starter for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game. Kevin Garnett started eight times from 1997 through 2005, and now Love joins him as an All-Star starter from the Timberwolves.
On April 5, 2008, I was covering the Final Four in San Antonio and watched Memphis rip up UCLA 78-63. Love was a freshman star on a UCLA team that included Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison in the backcourt.
I was not impressed with what Love had to offer in the semifinals against Joey Dorsey, a rugged 6-foot-9 senior for Memphis.
I took that bias with me into the NBA Draft and felt it was a mistake when Kevin McHale selected O.J. Mayo, the shooting guard from Southern Cal, and promptly traded him to Memphis for Love.
The skepticism still was there when watching Love play his first exhibition game in Target Center vs. Chicago on Oct. 22, 2008.
One night earlier, Mayo had gone 12 for 28 and scored 28 points for Memphis in an exhibition loss to Miami. He had averaged 16.1 points in the Grizzlies’ exhibition schedule.
Meantime, on this night in Target Center, the Wolves scored nine points in the first quarter, nine more in the fourth, and lost 85-75 in a dreadful tune-up for the start of the regular season.
There was a passage on the ugliness of this contest in my next morning’s column that included the following:
“And when it came to ineptitude, no one compared to Love. The rookie played 24 minutes and went 1 for 10 from the field … How is the rookie going to get the ball in the basket against NBA big men?
“He’s undersized and he has no lift. When he tried to go up in traffic, he was able to get the ball somewhere around the chins of Aaron Gray or Joakim Noah or Drew Gooden.’’
The column included a couple more shots at Love’s NBA scoring potential and McHale’s decision to trade a sure-fire shooter such as Mayo for him.
I’ve made this admission previously, but as next month’s NBA All-Star Game beckons, it’s probably time to do so again:
It seems as if I was wrong with that first impression of Kevin Love as an NBA player.
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