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Timberwolves could feel the Love on draft day

By Jerry Zgoda

Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Seventeen months after he first visited, Kevin Love on Tuesday returned to Target Center, a place he’d like to call home for the next decade.

The last time, he played in the big arena upstairs and delivered an unstoppable 41-point, 14-rebound, seven-assist, three blocked-shot game when his Lake Oswego, Ore., high school team beat Osseo in the Timberwolves Gatorade Shootout.

This time, he participated downstairs in Tuesday’s pre-draft big man workout when the Wolves placed him against DeAndre Jordan from Texas A&M, Kosta Koufos from Ohio State and Alexis Ajinca from France to see how the 6-9 UCLA freshman forward would fare against bigger, longer players.

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The Wolves own the third pick in next week’s NBA draft and Love is one of four Pac-10 conference players they’ll consider with that pick.

Love was chosen the Pac-10 Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and first-team All-America last season in a dominating college season that still leaves questions whether he is athletic enough to become an NBA star.

After his morning workout, Love was asked if he is worthy of being chosen third and if he is the best of a Pac-10 list that includes Stanford’s Brook Lopez, USC’s O.J. Mayo and Arizona’s Jerryd Bayless.

"I think so," Love said. "I think I do the most. There’s some stuff you can’t teach. You can’t teach toughness. You can’t teach being a winner. You can’t teach height. I feel like I do enough out there — and I’ll keep getting better — that I can be that third pick."

He also could end up a Timberwolf if the team swings a trade with one of the teams drafting fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth to swap picks and obtain an additional player or draft pick.

Love, at 6-9, has lost 15 pounds since UCLA reached the Final Four with a diet of pre-planned packaged meals and by giving up his favorite treat, chocolate milk.

"I think I’m athletic enough," he said. "I think enough people here do, too. I think the other stuff makes up for it and all the intangible stuff makes up for it."

Love looked mighty short next to Ajinca, an intriguing 7-1 prospect, Jordan and Koufos.

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"He obviously isn’t as tall as some of those guys," Wolves assistant general manager Fred Hoiberg said. "He makes up for it with his quickness, his shooting ability and his basketball IQ."

Love said he didn’t shoot the ball as well as he would have liked Tuesday. Wolves basketball boss Kevin McHale said he has no concerns about Love’s size and athleticism in a league that seemingly grows smaller by the season.

"Nothing is more overrated in my opinion than height if you’re over a certain height," McHale said.

The Wolves brass watched Love work, trying to envision his perimeter talents and unique passing talents — Hoiberg called Love perhaps the best outlet-passing big man since Bill Walton — next to low-post scorer Al Jefferson.

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