Love's skills at 'stretch forward' part of NBA trend

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 15, 2014 - 11:59 PM

Long-range shots and perimeter moves place him a genre defined by versatile power forwards such as Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett.

hide

Kevin Love rebounded the ball in the second half during an NBA game between the Timberwolves and the L.A. Lakers at Target Center on Tuesday, February 4, 2014.

Photo: Schneider, Renee Jones, DML - Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– The way Timberwolves three-time All-Star Kevin Love recalls it, he knew he was destined to become a “stretch” power forward well before he helped make the term such a part of the NBA’s new vernacular.

“I think I kind of knew before it happened,” he said.

His father, Stan, once told an 8-year-old child forbidden from playing football that a basketball court’s painted lane could be an alternative world in which he expressed his aggressions.

Then he inspired his young son to shoot from distance, too.

“I used to always watch him,” Love said. “He had a real feathery-soft touch. If they had a three-point line when he played in the NBA, he probably would have played a number of years longer. He taught me how to shoot.”

All these years later, Love has uniquely combined both basketball worlds and become the player — a first-time All-Star Game starter on Sunday in New Orleans, mind you — most pushing forth the evolution of the power-forward position.

Thirty years ago, Karl Malone and Kevin McHale were prototypical NBA power forwards because of their size, strength and low-post moves. Then Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan came along in the 1990s and reinvented the notion of what a big man should be, melding their 7-foot heights with a guard’s inclinations.

And now here comes Love.

He gives new meaning to the “stretch 4” — a power forward who stresses opposing defenses with his ability to play away from the basket — a wave that Nowitzki and Garnett particularly popularized and that Love, Western Conference All-Star teammate LaMarcus Aldridge and players such as New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson and Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Young now surf.

“They’re shooting a lot better than I did,” Malone said of a new generation. Fourth in the NBA in scoring and second in rebounding, Love also is averaging 2.3 three-pointers made per game. On Sunday, he will play alongside both Nowitzki and Aldridge for the West. Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders calls his star the “most unique player in the league,” and that might not be any stretch.

“No one can do it like he can,” Saunders said.

A changing game

Love certainly isn’t the first big man drawn to the three-point shot: Wolves assistant coach Jack Sikma shot it late in his 14-season career, and Detroit center Bill Laimbeer might have been the original stretch big man. There were others, too — Sam Perkins when he moved to Seattle, role players such as Pat Garrity and Terry Mills — but that was back when the game still was played near the basket and the three-point shot as a weapon often was little more than an afterthought.

Times change and so does the game’s culture, pushed along by rule changes more than a decade ago that brought back zone defenses, outlawed defenders’ “hand checks” and gave perimeter players more space and freedom to work.

The gene pool morphed, producing a freakish athlete in Garnett with a center’s height and a small forward’s athleticism and shooting touch. An influx of Europeans — Nowitzki and former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani among them — brought to the NBA big men with a different skill set instilled by fundamentally minded coaches.

Simple mathematics — three points is more than two — played a part, too.

“There’s no question the three-point line has changed things,” Saunders said. “You go watch AAU and high school and that’s all these kids do is shoot threes. That’s why there are no more low-block players because the big guys don’t want to play down there. As they say, the girls all like the long ball. All these players, they all want to shoot threes.”

McHale remembers when power forwards were power forwards and those impostors who could make a 15-foot jump shot and preferred to play outside were called something other than “stretch” players.

  • related content

  • Love's night in three-point contest is short-lived

    Sunday February 16, 2014

    The Wolves All-Star exited the three-point contest quickly, as the first shooter of the first round.

  • Chart: Evolution of the power forward

    Saturday February 15, 2014

    Evolution of the power forwardA chronological look at power forwards with Minnesota ties tells the story of the evolution of...

  • Love's night in three-point contest is short-lived

    Sunday February 16, 2014

    The Wolves All-Star exited the three-point contest quickly, as the first shooter of the first round.

  • Flip Saunders was a coach and not a general manager when Kevin Love joined the Wolves, but he continues to watch Love rise.

  • nba all-star game 7 p.m. today • New Orleans • TNT

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local team is currently the biggest disappointment?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close