Wolves consulted Love for input on new practice facility
FEB 05, 2014 4:38p ET
Helmed by president Chris Wright and CEO Rob Moor, the team's front office had a heavy hand in hammering out the details. So did president of basketball operations and former coach Flip Saunders. Several esteemed doctors from the Mayo Clinic were involved, too, given the health provider's newly announced partnership with the team that includes a sports medicine facility adjacent to the practice space shared by the Timberwolves and Lynx. Folks from Camelot LLC, the company that owns project site Block E -- soon to be renamed Mayo Clinic Square -- of course had a say, too.
But no one could lend quite the perspective of a star player who's also been through his fair share of injury and rehabilitation.
So when the Timberwolves went to Rochester and pitched the idea to Mayo higher-ups this summer, Kevin Love flew in from California and was one of the main presenters.
"He was good," said Saunders, who helped announce the facility's inception Tuesday afternoon. "Medically, he had just come off the year where he was out for the whole year. He talked about the importance of getting somebody healthy, the importance of accessibility."
Who better to discuss such topics than an All-Star starter coming off a season in which he played just 18 games due to a hand injury and a knee operation toward the end of the year? In light of that 2012-13 experience, Love brought up what kind of features he and his teammates desired in the new practice and training space.
"I've seen a lot of facilities," said Love, who will play in his third NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 16. "Flip has, too. I just knew some of the things that we wanted, amenities we wanted as a team, to be in there."
The 105,000-square-foot joint venture will include a larger weight room, updated medical technology including hydrotherapy equipment, a full kitchen to take care of players' nutritional needs and access to the Mayo Clinic's adjacent sports medicine center.
Should players require medical attention that goes beyond what the team's own training staff is equipped for, they'll need only walk across the hall, Saunders said.
"This is gonna be state-of-the-art," Saunders said. "It's gonna be in the upper echelon of the NBA when you look at the type of facility we're gonna have, what's gonna be in the facility."
That's good news for a team that saw last season derailed by a slew of injuries, chief among them Love's ailments, Ricky Rubio's lingering torn ACL and several nagging problems that slowed down Nikola Pekovic.
In the summer, Saunders hired Koichi Sato and Mark Kyger to work under head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam and has been pleased with the team's improved health this season. Mayo Clinic Square is the next step in ensuring player performance and availability, he said.
It'll also be considerably larger than the team's current setup in the Target Center's Lifetime Fitness center.
"It's very special," said Love, who also appeared in a video message at Tuesday's press conference. "It's great in attracting different free agents. You get to walk in and feel like some sort of a champion and walk in and feel like 'we have the best facilities in the world.' There's no excuse for us. We get to go in there and train like the best, so I think that definitely plays a big part in everything, just creating a culture like that."
The facility's ability to reign in talent will indeed affect Love. The sixth-year pro can opt out of his contract after next season, meaning Minnesota has only so long to try and woo him to stay.
It pushed hard to persuade fans to vote him into the All-Star Game as a starter. Now, Saunders is going out of his way to include Love in the organization's future plans.
"It's fun to have a little bit of say in that, because then you get to walk in and see it," said Love, the NBA's No. 4 scorer and No. 2 rebounder. "The infrastructure's already there at Block E, so I'm excited to see what they come up with."
The practice facility is scheduled to be completed in time for next season. It'll take more than a fancy converted movie theater to keep Love with a team that hasn't made the playoffs yet during his career, but a leg up in the creature-comforts arms race can't hurt.
"The thing is, in professional sports," said Moor, the Timberwolves and Lynx CEO, "it's just constant escalation."
Follow Phil Ervin on Twitter