AP source: Love is most improved player
MINNEAPOLIS — In one short season, Kevin Love went from gritting his teeth on the bench as a sixth man for the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves to playing as an All-Star and becoming the NBA's leading rebounder.
That was more than enough to earn him the league's Most Improved Player award. Two people with knowledge of the announcement told The Associated Press that Love will be given the award at a news conference on Thursday afternoon.
The people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the award before the announcement.
Love averaged 20.2 points and led the NBA with 15.2 rebounds per game this season. He earned his first All-Star appearance despite playing for a team that finished with the worst record in the NBA.
"The year that he's had has been unbelievable," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said late in the regular season. "When you average 20 and 15 in this league, that says a lot. It says a lot about how he's improved from year to year. He's a guy that plays hard all the time and will continue to improve from year to year."
After finishing his second season in the league as a sixth man, Love worked hard last summer to improve his game. He won a gold medal with Team USA at the world championships in Turkey and went through grueling workouts with Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook at a Los Angeles gym.
"The way he works, you should see how hard he goes," Rose said. "When we work out we don't do (any) big-man drills. It's all guard stuff with me and Russ. It's amazing how hard he works out."
It all started to pay off in his third season. Love posted career highs in scoring, rebounding, assists (2.5), free throw shooting (85 percent), 3-point shooting (41.7 percent) and minutes (35.8).
He posted a double-double in an incredible 53 consecutive games, the longest such streak since Elvin Hayes in 1973-74 and became the first player to score at least 30 points and grab at least 30 rebounds in a game since Moses Malone in 1982, when he had 31 and 31 against the Knicks in November.
Through it all, he emerged as the new face of a franchise that was rendered faceless when it traded star Kevin Garnett to Boston in 2007.
The Wolves acquired Love on draft night that same year, and after a sluggish rookie season, his game has steadily grown to make him one of the most promising young players in the game.
But the Timberwolves stumbled to a 17-65 finish, the worst record in the league. As the season came to a close last week, Love said he'd trade all his personal accomplishments for more victories. And he still thinks that he has a lot of improving to do.
"I think I can make another big leap," Love said. "There's always stuff to work on. The great players, and even the good players in this league always add a couple things to their game. I intend on adding more than a couple if I can so I'm going to work my butt off to take another big leap."