Wolves Friday: Love responds to Chandler’s call-out of his D
MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Love’s rebuttal was terse, succinct and laced with vulgarity.
When asked to respond to Knicks veteran Tyson Chandler’s comments about his lack of defensive ability, Love answered with a swift "(expletive) him. I don’t give a (expletive)."
Seven words, the first and last of the four-letter, R-rated variety. It reads angry, petulant, and there was a slight edge to Love’s voice as he uttered them.
But the accompanying smirk on his face Friday morning suggests this was an exchange between two friends with a highly competitive edge.
It began at halftime of Wednesday’s Knicks victory over the Timberwolves. During an on-camera TV report, he told MSG Network sideline reporter Tina Cervasio that Love "can’t play D."
It’s a fair observation. For all his scoring, rebounding and assisting prowess, Love’s never been much of a rim protector. He’s averaging a career-low-tying 0.4 blocks per game, though he has increased his defensive win shares from 0.9 in 2012-13 to 3.1 this season.
Chandler’s candid assessment was met with an even more raw response, the kind that make PR professionals cringe and can draw negative attention toward a player and team.
But Love and Chandler aren’t nemeses. In fact, Minnesota’s All-Star power forward once idolized the aging New York center.
When Love was in the sixth grade, he served as a ball boy at the renowned Les Schwab Invitational high school hoops tournament in Portland, Ore. Via a random draw, Love was assigned to Dominguez High School (Compton, Calif.) — then the prep home of Chandler.
According to a 2012 ESPN story, Love rebounded for Chandler during warmups and practice and picked his brain whenever he could. The 6-foot-1 sixth grader received Chandler’s autograph and even told him at one point "I’m gonna be in the NBA one day."
The Lake Oswego, Ore., native was right. Eight years after meeting Chandler, he was selected fifth overall in the 2008 NBA Draft. Chandler already had become a seasoned NBA big man by then, and the two first met when the Timberwolves hosted the Hornets during Love’s rookie season.
Two summers ago, they were Team USA teammates at the London Olympics.
Love’s words aren’t exemplary. But unless his friendship with Chandler has faded, they’re not rooted in the nastiness they may seem to convey.
It’s urgent: Love watched in amazement Thursday as Gerald Green scored 25 points in the third quarter of the Suns’ 128-122 comeback win against Oklahoma City.
Then he realized that means another blow to his own team’s playoff chances.
"It was unbelievable," Love said. "We’re watching those last couple seeds and seeing how they’re playing, but we know that we need to win as well."
Phoenix’s big comeback helped it remain in the Western Conference’s seventh spot, 5 1/2 games ahead of 10th-place Minnesota. Dallas is five games ahead of the Timberwolves in the final playoff position, and the Grizzlies are only a game behind the Mavericks.
Both Dallas and Memphis lost Wednesday, but so did Minnesota. That puts even more emphasis on the three games remaining in the current homestand, starting Friday night against Detroit.
Memphis plays at Chicago, while Dallas hosts Portland. Phoenix has two days off before a Sunday-Monday road back-to-back against the Warriors and Clippers.
Both Love and forward Corey Brewer said the team is paying close attention to the West foes standing between it and the playoffs.
"We pay attention to that stuff, especially when you’re fighting for that seventh or eighth seed," Brewer said. "If they lose, we’ve got to win. (The Suns) got a big win last night, so we’ve got to win tonight.
"Reality’s setting in. It’s almost over; 22 games left."
Defensive mode: For most of Minnesota’s February-March changeover road trip, the Timberwolves played effective enough defense to get by.
Then halftime Monday at Denver came and went.
In its past three halves, Minnesota has allowed the Nuggets and Knicks to shoot a combined 55.7 percent from the floor and score 118 points. Ty Lawson’s 29 second-half points nearly led Denver to a 23-point comeback, and Carmelo Anthony had 33 in Wednesday’s defensive debacle.
All season, the defensively challenged Timberwolves have tried to balance opportunism with staying smart and staying home. "We’ve got to find a happy medium," said Brewer, the starting unit’s top defender who will likely match up with swing man Josh Smith on Friday. "We can’t gamble, but we have to be aggressive."
Minnesota hasn’t done enough of either lately.
"We had so many miscommunications last game, and we saw it on film, too," Love said. "We just had a lot of great sequences and then a lot of other sequences where we either should’ve doubled, we should’ve been up on the pick-and-rolls, we should’ve dropped on the pick-and-rolls. But that’s something we’ll talk about tonight, and hopefully, we’ll clean it up."
Turiaf remains out indefinitely: As far as Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman knows, center Ronny Turiaf isn’t any closer to returning.
The reserve big man suffered a bone bruise in his right knee Feb. 19 against Indiana and has been out of the lineup since then.
"I haven’t got an update on Ronny," Adelman said before Friday’s game. "He hasn’t done anything as far as I know. That’s it."
Adelman did say he expects Turiaf to be evaluated next week.
In 23 games this season, the 31-year-old journeyman is averaging 4.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Turiaf missed 31 games earlier in the year with a right-elbow fracture.
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