Kevin Love will bolster middle for Team USA at Olympics

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 9, 2012 - 9:33 PM

The 23-year-old figures to be a versatile big man on the star-laden club -- possibly his last one before an age limit kicks in.

Kevin Love will play for Team USA in the London Games.

Timberwolves forward Kevin Love already has made two NBA All-Star Games before his 24th birthday.

Now he will play in his first -- and possibly only -- Olympic Games at the age of 23.

As expected, Love on Saturday was chosen to the 12-man U.S. team that will play in London later this month.

It could be his first and last Olympic experience if the Games allow only players 23 years old and younger to play in 2016, a concept that NBA Commissioner David Stern supports and one that is being discussed.

"It's going to be a very special time," Love said on an NBA TV telecast on which the roster was announced. "It could be the last time for guys to play at this age."

If it is, it's the last time you will see LeBron James perhaps playing some point guard and Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony spotted at power forward. The Team USA roster is deep and versatile despite missing NBA superstars such as the injured Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The final 12-man roster still has James, Durant, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul and Brooklyn's Deron Williams on it.

It also, of course, has Love, who isn't an NBA center in height or nature, but he will play one in London.

With big men Howard, Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge and Lamar Odom all missing, Love will be the man in the middle on a team where Tyson Chandler and Blake Griffin also fill that position. Chandler is the only true center on the roster.

Love parlayed his place on the 2010 World Championships gold medal-winning U.S. team and his unusual versatility into one of 12 spots on the Olympic team. Also making the roster were James Harden, Andre Iguodala and Griffin, while Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay and NBA rookie Anthony Davis did not.

"I'm the type of person who sets goals for myself, so I wouldn't say I expected to make it but I definitely saw myself making it," Love said. "I worked hard and did whatever I could the past few years. I represented myself in a good way and represented my country in a good way, so I felt I had a very good shot."

Love envisions himself setting picks for his superstar teammates and popping free to shoot the nearer international three-point shot.

The Olympic three-point line -- 3 feet nearer in some spots -- isn't the only difference from the NBA game. There are others, including a 40-minute game rather than 48.

"I really liked how the game fits into what I do," Love said. "The game is a lot more physical, and the referees let a lot more things go."

Last season, Love averaged 8.3 three-point attempts from the farther NBA three-point line and made 37.2 percent of them.

That's also his career NBA average.

"Very versatile '5' man, unconventional, to be quite frank," U.S. Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski said, referring to Love and the center position. "Some of the [international] teams have a '5' who can shoot from the outside. He's not a low-post player; he can defend that position. He becomes a very difficult guy to defend. He opens the door for our other four guys, he's such a good shooter."

And, of course, Love sees himself hitting the boards, particularly on the offensive end.

"If he gets the minutes, he'll lead us in rebounding," USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "He's one of the best three-point shooters in the game. Kevin Love is a guy you can count on. He'll knock them down."

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