Love’s new home

Here’s the transcript of Kevin Love’s afternoon press conference in Minnesota.

Kevin Love Press Conference

June 27, 2008

Kevin Love, the centerpiece of Thursday’s blockbuster trade, and members of Minnesota’s basketball operations department met with the media Friday afternoon.

Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale’s opening statement:
A little recap of last night – we drafted O.J. Mayo as you know and we were talking to different teams prior to the draft as well as during the draft and I think later on, at the end of the first round, just at the start of the second round there was a little bit of a buzz coming back from Memphis that possibly a deal we had walked around a little bit could maybe come back to life and we were very excited.

When we started off the night, we thought if we could acquire two really good pieces and two building blocks with using the third pick as our primary source of doing that, that we would do that automatically. Our number one priority on our board when we looked at it was to possibly end up with a Mike Miller and Kevin Love combination, and that’s what happened. That happened right at the end of the first round, right at the start of the second round. As our team was handling the second round, I was back in the office trying to figure out if the deal was going to go down or not; it was going all over the place for awhile. And then we got it done and we couldn’t be happier. We were able to land Kevin Love, a guy that we absolutely loved, had him on our board, at that time we looked at our board and said ‘the best guard on the board is O.J. Mayo, the best big man on the board was Kevin Love.’ We thought, ‘well, let’s see what we can do and can we acquire some other things?’ We were looking around but we were really, really excited when the deal went down – just absolutely elated. It worked out very well, we were able to accomplish our goals.

Wolves Power Forward Kevin Love’s opening statement:
Kevin touched on a lot, obviously I am very excited. I was at dinner last night actually as a Memphis Grizzly for awhile but my brother got a call from my agent Jeff Schwartz, he came down from upstairs and told me, ‘hey you’re a Minnesota Timberwolf,’ and that changed my whole night, I was so happy. I get to work with Kevin (McHale) – maybe my favorite player of all-time, get to have a great fan base, I’m happy to be here in the city – it’s almost like a colder Portland, so I’m happy to almost be back home here, it’s going to be my new favorite city. As far as the team goes, acquiring Mike Miller, I think he’s going to be great. I do a lot of the intangible stuff, I pass the ball, I’ll be able to play off Al Jefferson in the post when he’s double-teamed a lot of the time, I can space the floor, I can knock down some jump shots. I feel like we have a pretty young nucleus … (with) all the intangible stuff to be a great team.

On if the Wolves had planned on keeping O.J. Mayo when they selected him at No.3:
Oh yeah, absolutely. We went in saying we we’re fully prepared to keep O.J., we’re just going to keep all of our options open. When you have a guy and actually draft him, teams sometimes call, sometime teams don’t call. I found it interesting that probably more (teams called) before we picked it than after we picked it, which is kind of surprising because that means there were other teams looking (at certain players). It was a wild draft. (When) Russell Westbrook went four everybody went ‘whoa.’ It was an interesting draft because things changed a great deal after we (picked Mayo). We thought everything was dead, we thought everything was dead in the water. So when (the trade) came back to life, we were very very excited. I don’t think you ever draft a guy unless you have a prearranged deal. We had no deals really perculating when we made the pick of O.J. Mayo.

Q: On if the Wolves would have done the deal if Mike Miller wasn’t involved:
McHale: We wouldn’t have done the deal.

Q:On if the Wolves had Mayo rated the best guard and Love the best big man in the draft after Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley were off the board:

McHale: Yes, on the board at the time that we chose.

Q: On how the deal with Memphis got started:

McHale: Actually, (Wolves owner) Glen (Taylor) had spoken with their owner some just prior to the draft. I called (their owner) and said ‘I think we’re interesting in doing the deal,’ so he said get your basketball people (together) and then we started kind of mulling it over, chewing it up a little bit, trying to make everybody satisfied in the deal, and we were able to do that.

Q: On accomplishing his life-long goal:

Love: I’m ecstatic to be here. I couldn’t say more. I mentioned, getting to work with Mr. McHale is going to be truly a blessing … Having a father that played (in the NBA) wasn’t bad either.

Q: On if he sees the team making more drastic roster changes:

McHale: I think you’re starting to see the core take place. That’s an exciting thing. To me, we did that trade last night (and) we became a much better team in a lot of different areas. We became a much better passing team, we became bigger, we gained much better shooting on the perimeter and a lot of things happened when we did that trade. I think the locker room became a great, great NBA locker room. Mike Miller couldn’t be happier. Mike Miller said last night when we talked to him, he was down in Cancun or some place, he couldn’t be more excited. He said ‘I’ve always wanted to play in Minnesota.’ As a matter of fact Mike is traveling through Minneapolis today to go back to Mitchell, S.D. We’ll get him in here early next week sometime (after) he goes back and visits family (this weekend). So he’s really excited about it and Kevin was really excited about it. When I told his agent, I said ‘we’re going to get this deal done’ and I said just (keep it quiet) right now because the league doesn’t like when you don’t get a conference call done before you tell (a player). I just wanted to let him know that we were pretty far along. He said Kevin was dancing on the ceiling, he was so happy. So having guys that really, really want to be here and really excited to be here, that helps your nucleus. We do have some with Foye, Kevin, you’ve got Al, add Mike Miller to that nucleus, then you have Ryan Gomes and Craig and (Rashad McCants), all those guys – so it’s a nice nucleus of players … Like I said the minute we made that trade last night, I thought we became a much better team next year, much better.

Q: On if the Wolves would have done the deal without Mike Miller being a part of it:

McHale: We could have done a lot of deals without Miller over the last three or four days but that was kind of a hinging point for us. And actually it was a breaking point for them. That was a deal-breaker for them almost steady in all of our talks. That is why when they revived the deal my initial thought was they are going to come back with another counter offer but then I said, ‘ok what are the principles?’ and (Memphis general manger) Chris Wallace said ‘these are the principles” and Miller was involved. ‘I was like, oh … Yeah we’ll do that.’

Q: On if they talked to Memphis about including one of their point guards in the deal:

McHale: We had talked about a lot of different stuff. At that point, they were willing to do deal that I thought was a good deal for us and I think that had been beaten around and chewed up enough and I was afraid if we started beating it up some more it would go away again. We talked about a lot of different things … We feel comfortable. (Sebastian Telefair) is a guy that wants to come back and is working out. We’ll look at a lot of different options for that position. To answer your question, a lot of stuff is discussed and at that point I thought that muddying up the deal anymore would (hurt) … I really got a feeling there was a huge contingency in Memphis that didn’t want to (do the trade) – a matter of fact I know that, they told me that – so I was like when this deal came about the hog sometimes gets slaughtered. I figured I’d just take the deal and move.

Q: On a potential NBA rivalry with O.J. Mayo.

Love: Especially since I went to UCLA and he went to USC, so it’s kind of intriguing. I know I got the best of the deal. I’m here in Minnesota, so I’m happy about it.

Q: On if he was holding out hope last night that Minnesota would trade for him:

Love: Absolutely. I was telling my agent () ‘man, I wish I could end up in Minnesota’ because this is where I wanted to be … (Kevin McHale) mentioned (me) dancing on the ceiling, but it was a little bit more than that, I was so happy to be here.

On comparing Love with Atlanta Hawks’ big man Al Horford:

Jim Stack: We did so many different testing agility drills, speed drills, and this young man participated in that. Obviously we keep track in our files how guys perform and we looked at kind of where Kevin fit in, in terms of being an athlete with the big men group, he compared very, very favorably with Al Horford. I think everyone knows (Horford) had a terrific year last year with the Atlanta Hawks. We looked at that profile. Kevin actually in the short speed agility stuff was even better than Al. I think Kevin also brings what Al doesn’t bring in terms of being able to spread the defense shooting the ball and his passing ability – I think Kevin is every bit as much of an athlete and banger and rebounder. And Kevin has a really high basketball IQ … Kevin is a very underrated athlete. He’s going to do nothing but get better because I know he’s committed, which he’s proven to us. Just since the end of the season at UCLA he took off 13 pounds, got his body fat down five percent, which is really significant to do in that period of time. I know he is just a diligent, hard worker with a high basketball IQ, a high character guy. He fits in with our culture in so many aspects. He’s going to make other players better. From the standpoint of him being comparable to Al Horford, who by the way played center for Atlanta the whole season at 6-9/6-10 – and I know that’s another issue that came to pass, can Al Jefferson and Kevin defend well enough to be on the floor together? And we have no issues with that whatsoever. Kevin’s going to be a guy that is going to take charges, help early, he’s going to fit in with our team defense, he anticipates well … All the little intangibles that maybe don’t show up in the box score but translate into winning. I (couldn’t) be happier that we were able to get this deal done.

Q: On how the Wolves went about trading Kansas guard Mario Chalmers to Miami after selecting him with the No. 34 pick:
McHale: The Chalmers deal was made at the time when we thought O.J. was on our team … We said ‘who is the best on the board for us?’ With Chalmers also there we said ‘we just drafted a guy that almost plays the same exact position in O.J. and the deal wasn’t done (with Love) so that was the case – move the second for some future stuff and we’ll look at the draft again next year … Funny, after the trade happened we thought, ‘huh, maybe we should go to Miami and take it back’ but I don’t think they would have.

Q: On what the Wolves say when Love worked out at Target Center:
Hoiberg: We knew the type of player that he was, how good of a basketball IQ he had, how well he could stretch the court. The day he came in we really wanted to put him up against some length and we had a workout here that day with Alexis Ajinca – the longest player in the draft, Kosta Koufos, a 7-footer and DeAndre Jordan, another 7-foot player and Kevin held his own with those guys. He’s not as tall as them, but once the scrimmage started – we did a lot of two-on-two and three-on-three work, we had some guards in that workout as well – Kevin Love had every rebound during the course of that workout. He just (out-hustled) those guys, out-worked them, he got into their bodies, and that’s the type of player he is -he’s going to outmuscle you down low and get into your legs and get up and get the rebound before the other guys have a chance to get it. It’s just amazing to watch a guy like this get 11 rebounds per game in what we felt was the best conference in the country last season, as a freshman. He’s got a knack for the ball, once he gets it – he’s going to improve our fast break immediately. We just felt during that workout he was a guy that we really felt could fit with our team. We had him and O.J. Mayo right next to each other. I looked in the paper this morning and I got so many emails, people said that I lied when I went down and talked to the group after the draft. You know, we expected O.J. to be on our team – that’s why we drafted him. But when the deal came up with Kevin and Mike Miller, we just felt that it addressed so many needs. We felt it was a deal that we absolutely could not pass up on. (Miller and Love) bring so much to the table.

On the Chalmers deal:
Kevin McHale “We got two future second-round picks. Jimmy handled most of that. At the same time there was a little revival going on with the Memphis trade. We got a little cash component in the deal but it was really the two future seconds that made the deal for us. Looking at our roster, we didn’t want to bring another small guy to our team. Actually, I don’t think it was fair at the time for Chalmers. That whole backcourt at the time was laded with people. After the fact, maybe we can call Miami and get him back, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Would you have kept it if you knew things were going to change?
McHale: “Yeah Chalmers would have been a guy that would have helped us.”

On what they liked about Kevin Love’s workout with the team….
Fred Hoiberg: “All of our staff had seen Kevin throughout the season. We know what type of player he was, his basketball IQ and hoe well he spread the floor. When we came in, we really wanted to up him up against some length. He had his workout with Alexis Ajinca, the longest player in the draft, Kosta Koufos, a 7-footer, and DeAndre Jordan, another 7-foot player. He more than held his own. He’s not as tall as them, but once the scrimmage started, he asserted himself. We did a lot of 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 stuff. We had some guards in as well. Kevin got every rebound during the course of that workout. He out-horsed and outworked those guys. He got into their bodies. That’s the type of player he is. He out muscled those guys and got the rebound before those guys could jump and get it. When you look at the vertical jumps of Al Horford and Kevin Love, Al jumped 35 1/2 inches, love jumped 35. Love has a very good vertical jump. He’s explosive and was quicker on the agility drills and the 94-foot sprint than Al Horford. Horford has 1-inch on him in the standing reach but we feel Kevin will make up for that in his strength and his understanding of where the ball will come off. It’s just amazing to watch a guy like this get 11 rebounds a game in the Pac-10, what we feel is the best conference in college, as a freshman. He’s got a knack for the ball and once he gets it, he’s going to improve our fast-break immediately with his outlet passing ability. He was a guy that we really felt could fit with our team. We had him and OJ Mayo ranked right next to each other. They were our top big, and top guard in the draft after the first two. When we drafted OJ and I looked at the paper this morning, I got so many emails from people telling me that I lied to them. We expected OJ to be on our team. That’s why we drafted him. But when the deal with Memphis played out and we were able to get Mike Miller and fill so many needs, we couldn’t pass it up. We also got a back-up big man in Jason Collins. The other thing is Mike Miller. Miller put up 17 point per game last season and seven rebounds, which is a very good number for a guard. Those guys bring so much to the table. Miller is only 28 years old, and in the prime of his career. We felt it was the right move to make.”

Can you talk about some of you individual and team goals?

Kevin Love: ” Team goals always come first before individual goals. Winning would trump everything individually. They addressed a lot of needs with this trade. I don’t know how many more wins we can get. But I think playoffs are a real possibility. We’re looking forward to making the playoffs and for more good things to come.”

What kind of player do you want to become in the future?
Love: We’ve mentioned Al Horford. I thought he had a great year this year. He took his team to game 7 against the NBA Champion Boston Celtics. I feel like I can do a lot of the same stuff he does but also shoot the ball and spread the defense.”

On playing with Al Jefferson:
Love: ” Al is going to make it easy for me. He’s going to get double-teamed and if they play the pick-and-roll or the high post, I’m going to be able to kick it out to Miller to shoot some threes.”

On whether or not they took into consideration if a player was going to leave in a couple of years…
Love: ” Not really that much. I looked at everyone and said look, how are they going to fit on our team. Knowing how the rules were set up, I think that kind of took care of itself. I think Mike Miller and Kevin are going to make Al’s job a lot easier. It’s going to make Randy Foye better. Everyone on this team is going to be better and have a little more room. A lot of our existing players are going to have more room to operate and a chance to show what they can do. Spacing on the NBA level is really important.”

On what Tim Floyd had to say about Love…
Hoiberg: ” He thought the world of Kevin. He coached against him this year and felt it was tough to game-plan against him because he does so many things with his ability to spread the floor and rebound. Opponents always have to have two guys sprint back because of his outlet passes. I played for Tuim at Iowa State the Bulls for a year and a half. He really liked OJ Mayo’s competitive nature and his ability to play at this level. For us, it was a tough decision. He brings a lot of things to the table. But in the end, we felt that Kevin does just as many of things. He brings the intangibles that not very many players in this league can. Tim said putting a game-plan against Kevin Love was always very difficult. When they played UCLA, he was the guy you had to key around.”

On Love’s outlet pass…
Love: ” I was very young when I started doing it. I can still throw the football around 75 yards or so. I was a baseball pitcher as well. I started shooting half-court shots when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school. I used to stand at the opposite free-throw line to see how many shots out of 10 I could get square. On a good day I could get 6-or-7 times. I felt like every day was a good day because I was doing it a lot. I played with Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison who were very athletic guards and get out on the fast break.”

On how Kevin feels he plays defensively with Al…
Love: ” I feel great about it. I was psyched to go up against seven-footers in the workout to display to everyone what I could do up against bigger players. Playing as well as I did gave me a lot of confidence. I’m not lacking any confidence.”

McHale: “The think I like about Kevin is, a lot of these top players said that they only wanted to work out by themselves or against cones and chairs. If you can’t beat the chair, you got real issues. Kevin told us to bring in the best players that we could. He said line them up and let’s go play. When they were warming up and shooting they were looking out there and seeing the guys we had in there were freakishly long. You wondered how Kevin was going to do against these big guys, but when they started playing Kevin got way bigger and the other guys got way smaller. He was the biggest player on the floor. There’s just certain guys that get bigger. He’s one of those guys. We brought as much length to the workout as we could, and Kevin was very impressive. There were no issues whatsoever. Kevin played in the best conference, on the best team, in the Pac-10, which was loaded with talent. He was the player of the year. He did something right in the Pac-10. You have to remember whom he was playing against. As I said before, when the ball goes up on the boards, a lot of stuff changes.”

What was the reaction around the league of the trade?
Hoiberg: ” It’s been very favorable. We’ve gotten messages from a lot of people that we are close to, share workouts with and talk to every day. People really said what a great move they thought we did in the draft. We had numerous messages. They thought we got a great deal to get the pieces that we did, especially Mike Miller. People talk about how they’ve been trying to get Mike Miller for years, but he’s never been in play. So for us to get Miller to go along with Kevin and the other guys, is a real coup for us. Also, we received cap flexibility. We lose the third year of Marco’s contract. We’ll be able to be a real player in free-agency and accomplish a lot of things.”

On whether Kevin can play the center position…
McHale: ” Yeah, his small area quickness is outstanding. You don’t average 11 rebounds in conference and not be a good rebounder. Some guys are plodders, but Kevin has very quick feet to get him in the right position to rebound the basketball. His small area quickness is very very good. His body control is tremendous. There’s going to be some guys that he can’s guard. Yao Ming is 7’8 and a walking wall. He’s huge. Unless your 7’5, you can’t guard him, and there’s not a lot of those guys around. He’s going to let Yao shoot and hope he misses, just like everyone else in the league. That’s one Yao Ming; there’s also 28 other teams in the league that don’t have a Yao Ming. You have to remember one thing, you have to go on the other end. Who’s Yao going to guard between Kevin and Al? There’s two sides to the story. Fred talked about filling gaps. Beating your primary and first defender isn’t that difficult. You can beat that guy. But, it’s when defensive players fill those gaps is when the offensive player get himself into trouble. Kevin can fill those gaps and stop a lot of penetration. If you watched him and college, Kevin stopped 8-or-10 penetrations plays a game at UCLA by being in the right position. Kevin can fill those gaps and create a lot of turnovers. Kevin isn’t going to turn into a 7-foot 3 guys; I hope he does. But, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I just think when you’re smart, strong and have quick feet you can do a lot of things defensively. Kevin said he wants to learn a lot of stuff from me; well I want to learn how to lose that 5% body fat in that short of time.”

How much money are you going to have in 2010 to spend on free-agents?
Jim Stack: “I don’t know that you can ever quantify it. There’s going to be other deals that come along and will continue to look at. We just need to continue to build the core of this team. I really feel good about Corey Brewer’s future. He’s been here since two weeks after the season working on his jump shot and dribbling. He knows he has work to do. None of these kids think they are finished products and they continue to strive to get better. We’re going to have a ton of cap room if we manage it right. We’re confident that this core is going to continue to develop and we are going to be a team that will be attractive to free-agents as we continue to grow our core group of guys.”

McHale: “That’s the thing that is most important to us. The 8-9 guys that are here all the time in the summer working to better, they all have to continue to grow together. Free-agents that are 25,26 or 27 will look at us and want to join this core group. We’re going to have the money to be a player in the market. We have to get the players that actually want to come here, not just for the money, but because they have the desire to join your core group. More wins and our core gelling together are important things for us. We started to play a lot better the second-half of the season. We add this group to the mix, and we all of a sudden become a much better team. It takes a real team at this level to be able to win. We’re going to keep looking to add guys to our core. The team is what it’s all about. That’s one of the reason why I really fell in Love with Kevin as a player, because he really believe the team does come first.”

What’s the best case scenario for Pecovic?
McHale: “Pecovic has a three-year contract, but it’s really a two-year contract because he can opt-out after the second year. I talked to him and he really wants to come over after those two years. His goal is to come over and play in the NBA. Kevin and Pecovic share the same agent, Jeff Schwartz. I told Jeff I’m going to have to kidnap Love if Pecovic doesn’t come over here after the second year. He has come extra incentive to get him over here. I talked to Pecovic a couple of days before the draft and he wants to come over here and play. That guys (Pecovic) is a big, banging, flying guy. That guy is a horse. I went and watched him play and he put a beating on his opponents. He’s 6-11, 260 pounds and is just a horse. He was a guys that we were really excited to get.”

“I’ll be living with my brother in Minneapolis. I want to get out and see the city as much as possible. It’s going to be my new favorite city. I have to fall in love with it and I’m looking forward to it. There’s a lot of stuff to do here. We’re going to some Twins and Vikings games. We’ll just have to see.”

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About Jill Painter

Jill Painter is a sports columnist for the Los Angeles News Group, covering everything from the Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, USC, UCLA, Kings, golf and all human interest stories in sports.