One Man Wolfpack: Minnesota Timberwolves in the Mood for Love

Taurean BaxterContributor IApril 22, 2011

PHOENIX - DECEMBER 15:  Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves high fives teammate Martell Webster #5 during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on December 15, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 128-122.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The 2010-11 season was, again, a dismal one for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team won just 17 games; a mere two-game improvement from a season ago. But somehow, the city and franchise are inspired by the potential of its team. Much of that hope has been spawned by the meteoric rise of third year pro Kevin Love.

Love is one of many unassuming young stars in the NBA. He allows his craft to speak for him, rather than succumb to the pressures of being the "look at me" kind of guy. This bodes well for young teams like Minnesota, who are looking to separate themselves from the ranks of the lowly and be relevant. Such a task is easier said than done when it comes to managing young talent. But it's pretty clear that this kid is different.

Hard work is the calling card of the tenacious forward from UCLA. He entered the NBA overweight, but proved to have a high motor. The fifth overall pick in the 2008 Draft was a welcomed addition to Minnesota. He hustled and fought his way into the hearts of T-Wolves fans with his relentless approach to the game. It was a bit reminiscent of another Kevin who mastered the double double in that city.

Season two started on a sour note with Love suffering a serious hand injury in the preseason. But the resilient youngster was able to come back and have a strong sophomore campaign. In that season, he averaged more rebounds per 48 minutes than any player in the league. The T-Wolves knew at that point that they made a great selection in Kevin Love. What they didn't know is that there was another level to his already impressive game.

He's already been likened to Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, who accomplished the rare feat of winning Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player simultaneously. He plays with passion and effort, but it all starts between the ears. Mature beyond his years, Love almost always makes the correct basketball play. His father Stan was a teammate of Unseld and had a modest NBA career in the 1970's. He would share the game with his son from the very beginning.

So when we see him posting 30 point, 30 rebound games, it becomes clearer just how much this guy has dedicated his life to the game. Now, in great physical condition, he is primed to cement himself as one of the best frontcourt players in all of basketball.

Kevin Love was the NBA leader in rebounds per game and the only player to average 20 points and 15 rebounds a game this year. He also posted an incredible 53 consecutive double doubles; the most in the last 35 years. Right away, it was established that he could rebound at a high level. Perhaps most impressive was his improvement offensively. His scoring was up nearly six points from the previous year and he became one of the better three-point shooters in the league. For his efforts, the young post man added accolades to his resume with his first All-Star selection, as well as recently being named the NBA's Most Improved Player...Proof that hard work does pay off.