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You'll see less of Love this season

On Sports
by: kevin love

When the Minnesota Timberwolves open their abbreviated 2011-12 season soon after Christmas, they'll unveil an abbreviated franchise player.

After an extended offseason of honing his body, Kevin Love will no longer qualify for the 'beefy' category.

Minnesota's 6-9 power forward will enter training camp on Dec. 9 weighing in at 240 pounds, down about 25 from his playing weight at the end of last season.

'Haven't been this low since my freshman year in high school,' quips Love, 23, the former Lake Oswego High standout.

How did Love become the NBA's version of Gisele Bundchen?

'If I give you all the secrets, then …' Love teases during a Thanksgiving weekend visit to the Oswego home of his parents, Stan and Karen.

Love continued his workouts through the offseason with trainer Gunnar Peterson near Kevin's home in Santa Monica, Calif., but it was more than that.

'It was taking care of my body, eating the right foods, getting sleep and training the right way,' Love says. 'More than anything, I paid attention to what I ate.'

A sleeker Love will mean more mobility, and will ease the pressure on his knees as they take a pounding through a shorter, but still lengthy NBA season.

'Kevin looks great,' says Stan, the former player and author of 'Love in the NBA.' 'I hope he didn't lose too much, but his legs are strong, and (the leaner body) will help with his longevity.'

After a breakout 2010-11 campaign which saw Love average 20.2 points, shoot .417 from 3-point range, lead the league in rebounding (15.2 per game), win the most improved player award and make his first All-Star game, he has even bigger plans for this season.

'I've worked a lot on my midrange game,' Love says. 'I'm going to try to get back into the post more this season. I want to take a step forward with my game.

'Players are made with their work throughout the summer. I want to come back with one or two new things this season.'

Among the 'new' is a six-year endorsement contract with Chinese shoe company '361 degrees.'

'It was a too-good-to-be-true offer,' Love says. 'I couldn't turn it down.'

Love would have worn Hush Puppies had it meant being able to play NBA basketball this season. He is on the side of those who had been hoping for a collective-bargaining agreement to be signed weeks, if not months, earlier.

'It's very exciting,' Love says. 'Maybe it's not the greatest deal for us (players) to sign, but in these economic hard times, it's great to get back to basketball.'

Did the players' side give too much to reach a deal with the owners?

'I wouldn't say a definite yes, but we did make a lot of concessions,' Love says. 'A lot of people were jaded and didn't really understand what the 50-50 split (of basketball-related income) meant to the players' side.

'There are a few things we gave up that could have gone either way, but it was time to get back onto the court.'

Love says he often thought of the people affected by the lockout who will not be wearing players' uniforms.

'This has been disheartening not only to us players, but to employees top to bottom in a franchise - from the front office to equipment managers, security, concessions, those who sell jerseys and so on,' Love says. 'You have to put it all in perspective and see who else is affected by it.

'For a lot of people, it's their livelihood. It's a lot more than a game, and as players, we need to be aware of that.'

Love, active on Facebook and Twitter (he has 110,000 followers), says he had a lot of feedback from the public through the lockout.

'A lot of questions were raised every day,' he says. 'You had to keep your head on a swivel and hope things would work out in the end.'

Through Love's first three seasons in Minnesota, the Timberwolves accumulated an NBA-worst record of 56-190, including 17-65 last season. The hiring of Rick Adelman as coach gives him hope for immediate improvement.

Love played with Adelman's youngest son, Patrick, during his high school days.

'I'm very excited about Rick being the new coach,' Love says. 'The cool thing is, he has had success with teams with superstar players, and he has had success when he didn't have that kind of talent.

'In 2009, without Yao Ming, he took the Rockets to a seven-game (Western Conference semifinals) series against the Lakers. It shows what kind of a coach he is.

'With a young team like ours, it will be another challenge for him. And it will be a challenge for us as well, with a new type of offense and defense and game plan. I can't wait.'

The shorter preseason could mean it will take a little longer for Adelman to put the Wolves on a winning track.

'I wouldn't be surprised if it's going to affect us quite a bit,' Love says. 'For veteran teams who know their coach, it's going to be a little bit easier for them to adjust. We'll just do the best we can to get on the same page quickly.'

Even so, Love's expectations are to see some results sooner rather than later.

'I hate the word 'rebuilding,' ' he says. 'What we've been doing the past two or three years … for lack of a better term, we've blown our team up a couple of times. I'm the only active Timberwolf left from the Kevin McHale era.

'It's really changed since I've been around, but things can change quickly in our league. Look at teams like Oklahoma City and Memphis - it didn't take them long.'

The addition of 21-year-old Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio has Love excited, especially after facing Rubio with the U.S. team in the 2010 world championships.

'I saw how he competed against Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo,' Love says. 'I also saw him play after the draft but before the lockout started, and he looked good.

'He can hold his own. He's very young, but he's a point guard, and he'll be able to go out there with our young team, make mistakes and learn from them.'

Love will make $4.6 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract. If he doesn't sign an extension, he'll become a restricted free agent after this season. He says he will talk with his agent, Jeff Schwartz, this week, with the idea of mapping out his future.

I get the impression Love will choose not to sign an extension, opting to see how it goes this season under Adelman before committing long-term to the Wolves.

If I were a betting man, I'd put money that Love will play out the next two years in Minnesota and go onto the free-agent market during the summer of 2013.

The best news is, he'll be playing basketball in the NBA this season. Minnesota Slim, we can call him now.