Love knows he belongs among All Stars this time

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 10, 2012 - 10:55 AM

The Wolves forward is going to his second All-Star Game on a much better note than last season.

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Timberwolves forward Kevin Love will play in his second consecutive All-Star Game, later this month in Orlando.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Western Conference coaches on Thursday invited Timberwolves forward Kevin Love to his second NBA All-Star Game, one year after Commissioner David Stern named him as an injury replacement for his first.

"It definitely feels different," Love said on Thursday evening.

It feels different because his team has won more times in 24 games during this lockout-shortened season than it did in the first 48 games a year ago.

It feels different because he had an "inkling" coaches would select him and because he was invited Thursday morning to appear on TNT's announcement show hours later that night.

He'll also soon accept an offer to participate in All-Star weekend's three-point shooting contest.

A year ago, Love learned he was Los Angeles-bound when Kurt Rambis announced Stern's decision in the locker room before a game in Toronto. With NBA TV cameras rolling, Love said he expected actor Ashton Kutcher might burst into the room at any moment and tell him he had just been "punk'd."

"Last year was very emotional," Love said. "I remember getting on the phone with my dad and getting pretty emotional with him. We were up in Toronto and I was using some of my roaming minutes up there. My bill was pretty expensive."

This time, he knows he belongs.

"This year, I've settled into my position and my status in this league," he said. "I just want to keep working on my game and keep helping this team win. If I do that, everything else will come."

His team is 12-12 now after winning six of their past nine games. The Wolves were 11-37 on that night a year ago.

"That means a lot," Love said about the difference between then and now.

Love finished fifth among Western Conference forwards in All-Star fan balloting, a process that selected Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin as starters for the Feb. 26 game in Orlando.

Called the greatest power forward in the world by TNT analyst Charles Barkley, Love was asked Thursday if he one day could be named an All-Star starter.

"I definitely think so," he said. "But for me, guys like Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin, those are guys I sign onto NBA.com to vote for. If that's the case, I think they're always going to make it. Everyone loves watching Blake play because he's a high-wire act, and Kevin Durant's game speaks for itself."

Does anybody log onto NBA.com or watch the All-Star Game to see somebody rebound?

"If I go out there and get 20-plus, maybe," Love said.

Last year's game was in Los Angeles, where Love was born, attended UCLA for a year and has many family members and friends there. This year, he plans to bring only his immediate family and his girlfriend's family to Orlando.

"I want to keep it very low-key this year, enjoy myself and just play the game," he said.

And he said he's going to Orlando intending to win the three-point contest.

"I think I've got a good shot at anything I do," Love said. "I'm a pretty competitive, and I'm going to go out and try to win."

Thursday's announcement of the All-Star reserves came one day after Love finished serving a two-game suspension for stepping on Houston forward Luis Scola's face and chest in a game Saturday.

"If there is a good way to end a suspension, this is a good way to do it," said Love, who will play Friday night against Dallas at Target Center. "I'm just excited to get back on the court tomorrow, and I just want to win basketball games."

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