“I’m not a believer yet,” said former Phoenix General Manager Steve Kerr, now a TNT analyst who won five NBA titles as a player. “They’re intriguing. I always watch them on League Pass because they’re fun to watch. But Love’s not a guy you throw the ball to on the block late in a game. Rubio is a non-shooter. So the game becomes more difficult for them down the stretch when the game slows down and they absolutely need a basket.
“They’re exciting and they’re fun and they have a lot of potential, but you really have to see it first before you can say they’re a contender.”
Both Love and Rubio say they know just what rests on their collective shoulders, particularly in the final seconds when games are on the line.
“We have to see if we can do that,” Rubio said. “The last couple years, we’ve been good at being in the game, but maybe in the last minutes we didn’t find good options for our shots. Maybe because a lot of us were hurt.”
Love and Rubio spent nearly a week together in Los Angeles last summer, working out with a handful of their teammates by day, sharing dinners by night in a conscious effort Love called “making up for lost time” in an attempt to settle “unfinished business.”
He was referring, of course, to Rubio’s knee injury that caused him to miss the final five weeks two seasons ago and the first six weeks last season and Love’s own twice-broken hand that limited him to only 18 games last season.
They both acknowledge they have a unique relationship compared with their other teammates, perhaps because of the responsibility they share and their status as rising young stars in the NBA and international play.
“I love the game and he does, too,” Rubio said. “It’s something we share, something on the court we connect. This year reminds me of first year with Kevin, having so much fun. He’s great. He makes me look good. That’s good for him, for me and good for team.”
Their friendship is being forged on the court, in the locker room and across restaurant tables rather than each other’s homes because Love calls himself a “recluse” and “homebody” who prefers to take a nap, read a book or watch a movie rather than socialize, even though veteran J.J. Barea says Love is making a noticeable effort to become a “better teammate” this season by being more vocal and engaged.
“Not each other’s places, because nobody cooks,” Rubio said, smiling. “That would be hard, so we go out for dinner and spend some time with each other.”
Stockton and Malone played beside each other through four U.S. presidential administrations. Rubio and Love were on the floor for only 28 minutes together last season.
Already there is national media and Internet chatter speculating where Love will play in 2015, after he’s able to opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. ESPN commentator Jalen Rose recently spitballed the next stop for Love and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook — college roommates at UCLA — is Los Angeles and the Lakers.
“I don’t even listen to it,” Love said. “I don’t know where they get that stuff.”
If Love and Rubio play together 18 seasons, they still will be playing in Minnesota in 2028, only four years before the team’s about-to-be-extended Target Center lease expires.
Love was asked if he and Rubio talk about the future together.
“We definitely have before, especially heading into training camp,” Love said. “But right now, especially the way things have gone the last two years with injuries, we just live in the present, day by day. So it’s really carpe diem for us.”