MINNEAPOLIS — If Luc Richard Mbah a Moute smiles a little more than normal Tuesday, there’s a reason for it.
A group of 12 French youth will be in the Target Center crowd after raising money to travel to America and see their favorite player perform. Helping them with a plan that’s been in the works for more than a year, Mbah a Moute scored his unofficial fan club tickets and helped pay for their flight into Minnesota.
"For me, I just can’t imagine being a kid actually coming and doing something like that for someone they don’t know, to just come out and say ‘hey, we gonna watch him play,’" Mbah a Moute beamed. "That says a lot about their support and shows me a lot of gratitude, so I think it’s pretty special for me."
Pupils of the French Basket-club Nyonsais ranging in age from 15-18, Mbah a Moute’s followers twice had to change their plans to see him in person. Their original intention was to catch a Milwaukee game this season, but the Bucks traded the forward to Sacramento in July.
So they bought tickets to the Kings’ contests Sunday at Brooklyn and Wednesday at Philadelphia and booked a flight to New York, all set for their first trip to the United States and a two-game excursion.
But back on Nov. 26, after the group had already purchased airfare, Sacramento traded Mbah a Moute to Minnesota in exchange for Derrick Williams.
The French-speaking Cameroon native had heard of the overseas contingent via a friend that used to play for Basket-club Nyonsais. When he learned of the group’s foiled attempts, he assisted in booking it a flight from New York to Minneapolis.
They still attended the Kings game Sunday and plan to be in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
But first, finally, a face-to-face meeting with the player they revere for his African roots, ability to speak French and lockdown defense.
"The French connection, and a lot of those kids are also from Africa originally, so their parents are from Africa," said Mbah a Moute, who’s a prince in his native village of Bia Messe. "Just being fans of a guy from Africa playing in the NBA, just my story, how I made it in the NBA."
Mbah a Moute had dinner with the group Monday night in Minneapolis and plans to meet with them before and after Tuesday’s game, he said.
Triple the Love: Kevin Love was neither humbled nor flattered upon finding out he’d broken the Timberwolves record for made 3-pointers in a season.
Not that he wasn’t grateful; the All-Star power forward just wasn’t aware he’d passed up Rashad McCants until an announcement indicating so popped up on the video board midway through Sunday’s game against Toronto. Moments earlier, Love had hit his 143rd 3-pointer of the season to eclipse the mark.
"I didn’t really know," Love said Tuesday after the team’s morning shootaround. "When it popped up on the jumbotron up there, I didn’t really realize it had happened."
The record, previously held by McCants since the 2007-08 season, is the latest testament to Love’s transcendent versatility. Since the beginning of the 2010-11 campaign, the 6-foot-10, 243-pound specimen has made 37 percent of his 3-point attempts — almost unheard of for a bruiser who’s as effective inside as Love.
This season, he’s at 38 percent, which ranks second among NBA power forwards with more than 250 attempts.
"It’s been huge for me," Love said of his outside shooting prowess. "It’s been something that, at least the last three or four years, whether it’s been here, or Team USA, it’s been able to expand the floor, expand my game, and help the team win. It’s been a great tool for me, we’ve been able to put in different wrinkles into the offense, and it’s fun."
Lottery-bound Bucks: Losing at home to New York and Carmelo Anthony is one thing.
Falling to the squad with the NBA’s worst record would be something else.
Closing out a four-game home stand in which they hoped for much better results, the Timberwolves have a chance to finish it 2-2 before traveling to Charlotte on Friday. Minnesota (31-31) handled business against Detroit but was flat against the Knicks last week and succumbed to Toronto’s relentless 3-point attack Sunday.
Neither should be an issue against Milwaukee (13-50), which hasn’t won consecutive games all season. The Bucks have been riddled by injuries and have quickly turned to building for the future, giving heavy minutes to rookies Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nate Wolters, a St. Cloud, Minn., native.
Their chances at continuing to rebuild certainly look good, as they’re currently in line to have the most ping pong balls in the machine when the NBA holds its 2014 draft lottery.
Wolters’ return: Some athletes relish the chance to play in front of a hometown crowd.