Love named a finalist for U.S. Olympic team

Love named a finalist for U.S. Olympic team

Published Jan. 16, 2012 10:18 a.m. ET

MINNEAPOLIS -- Slouched in a folding chair in a nondescript practice facility, Kevin Love was miles from his potential teammates and further still from London, from the celebrity, the pomp and circumstance and the patriotism that are the Olympics.

But in reality, he's now just one cut away.

On Monday, USA Basketball announced the 20 finalists for the 2012 U.S. Men's Olympic basketball team, and Love was one of five power forwards on the list. The official 12-man roster will be announced later this year, and until then, Love knows he needs to prove that he's deserving of a spot.

The power forwards, those with whom Love is jostling for position—La Marcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, Blake Griffin and Lamar Odom—have few advantages over the Timberwolves star. He averages more points and rebounds per game than any of them, and he's young, still improving with every season.

"I just need to keep playing my game," Love said. "I feel that any system in the world, I can fit into and I can have a lot of success in. So hopefully they'll be able to see that. I have a high level of confidence that I'll be able to make that team."

He's firm in his conviction that he can make it, that he belongs on Mike Krzyzewski's team this summer. But Love knows it's not as simple as pure talent. His 25 points and 14.6 rebounds per game send a clear message, but playing on a losing team with less national attention might sometimes obscure his dominant numbers. Love is aware, and as one of the 12 finalists who weren't a part of 2012's "Redeem Team," every night will be an audition.

With no formal tryout for the team this Olympics, what Love does with the Timberwolves this winter and spring will matter even more.

"All I can do is keep continuing to improve my game, and be a leader for this team, win ball games," Love said.

Even for the most confident of basketball players, the chance to take the court at the Olympics is still something awe-inspiring. How could it not be? It's more than just a basketball tournament or a chance to travel. It's an privilege, and Love knows that.

"It's a tremendous honor any time you get the chance to represent your country, wear USA across the chest, red white and blue," Love said. "You get out there, sing the national anthem and compete for the gold medal. All of that, it's a big deal for me."

And though Love's teammates are proud of him, the announcement also reminded one Timberwolves player of a memory that's somewhat bittersweet. Ricky Rubio played on the Spanish Olympic team in Beijing in 2008, the squad that lost to Team USA 118-107 in the gold medal game. Despite that loss, Rubio said that playing in Beijing was one of the best memories he has.

"It was my first Olympic games, great playing there, amazing final," Rubio said. "I think it's the best game I ever watched and I ever played."

The teammates haven't really talked too much about the Olympics yet, but Rubio, who's played on the Spanish national team, has mentioned that if both make their national teams, the two will face each other before the Olympics. Team USA will play in Barcelona, and Rubio has already invited Love to dinner.

A lot stands between Love and that dinner, but his confidence isn't unwarranted. If he keeps playing the way he has all season, London should be an easy target.

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