BARCELONA — Memo to Kevin Love: If you don’t knock someone on their ass tomorrow, and if you continue to play as though you have a sense of entitlement rather than a job to do, you are going to be watching Anthony Davis take your minutes as the last big man off the bench.
That advice is based on solid intel, because the powers that be at USA Basketball are not happy that the Kevin Love they came to appreciate two years ago in Turkey has somehow morphed into a Kevin Love who didn’t even leave his feet Sunday night when he got outworked for a rebound by Andres Nocioni in Team USA’s closer-that-it-should-have-been 86-80 victory over Argentina.
As it is, Love is the 10th man in the Americans’ rotation, watching Andre Iguodala take what could be his minutes. The reason? Iggy makes things happen on the defensive end, poking balls away, disrupting penetration and creating the transition opportunities that Team USA thrives on.
So if Love finds himself getting muscled by Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol or Pau Gasol tomorrow night when the United States plays Spain in its final (and toughest) exhibition game, a little irrational exuberance might not be called for — but it’d be a welcome sight to those in the U.S. federation who believe Love has gone soft, too soft to be useful.
“Obviously I’d like to go out there and be playing with these guys, I really feel like I can help. I know my abilities and know what I’m capable of,” Love said Monday. “You know, Coach K and I have talked about it — this isn’t 2010. I obviously played more in 2010, but I’m a completely different player now and a far better player. So we’ll wait and see what happens. I worked into my playing time in 2010, and hopefully that’ll happen here. I just need to find a way to get into a rhythm in limited minutes, which is tough.”
Love logged only 5 minutes of burn in the American’ 11-point victory over Brazil a week ago, played garbage time minutes in Manchester, England, against Great Britain after picking up three quick fouls without accumulating any other statistics in the first three quarters of that 40-point victory, then logged only seven minutes against Argentina with two rebounds and an assist, and no points.
He is being asked to play out of position at center, but pretty much everyone outside of Deron Williams and Chris Paul is playing outside of the normal positions they play in the NBA.
Davis has been firmly entrenched as the 12th man, but the coaching staff is intrigued by his shot-blocking abilities and his well-developed inside-outside game.
Yes, he is raw. But he also is the only other natural center aside from Tyson Chandler, and there will come a time when the Americans needs some sort of deterrent and/or physical presence at the rim and under the boards. If Love doesn’t get after it, he’ll be waving a towel in London.
Love is playing 25 pounds lighter than he was two summers ago in Turkey, which he says has been to his advantage. “That’s helped me. If you look at last season and the season before, I had a breakthrough season in 2010-11, and then last year I felt, and I still feel, I’m one of the best players in the league.”
“I just need to get into a rhythm, and there’s no real chances out here to do that. I was playing more minutes in Turkey than I am now, and they can say I’m not playing great. But I didn’t touch the ball yesterday, and there’s nothing I can really do in that regard. As far as rebounding the ball, I’m always going to do that. But if they don’t think I’m playing great, then fine. But hopefully I can prove that I am once I get a chance to get out there. Guys like LeBron and Kevin and Carmelo are playing a lot of 4. I’ve been playing mostly 5, playing out of position, so who knows?”
This column is entitled Diary of the Uncredentialed because although I am traveling with the U.S. team on their pre-Olympic tour, once they go inside the Olympic bubble, I will not have access to their games (although not for a lack of trying).
The deadline to apply for Olympic credentials was two years ago, and small independent Web sites are not high in the pecking order when the IOC decides to make exceptions and grant credentials after the deadline. (If you missed Edition I of the Diary of the Credentialed from Manchester, England, there is a big bold line right beneath this sentence with a link to it.)
(RELATED CONTENT: Diary of the Uncredentialed, Edition I)
But here in Catalonia, I am indeed credentialed.
And what a credential it is.
“Hey Chris, what’s that around your neck?” Miami Heat president Pat Riley asked me at the conclusion of practice today. He is here with Heat honchos Mickey and Nick Arison and intern-turned-executive Andy Elisberg, and he had to leave through the same entrance as the hoi polloi after the Team USA bus pulled out of he loading dock.
What was around by neck was my credential for the two games against Argentina and Spain, and it is undoubtedly the flimsiest credential I have ever been issued.
Seems the machinery used to make laminated credentials broke down, and the Spanish federation volunteers have taken to printing new credentials on a plain white piece of paper, clipping it down to size with a scissors, punching a hole in it and attaching it to the end of a lanyard.
I have not had any kind of a paper credential since I was a card-carrying member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, and that paper credential once got me in free to a Triple-A Salt Lake City Buzz baseball game back in the mid-90s when I was covering Karl Malone, John Stockton and the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference finals. I remember it vividly, as Lee Guetterman pitched that night (he was on the tail end of his career). Later that same evening, Ken Berger and I visited what looked like a pretty hopping nightclub. As we stood on line to get in, I asked a young lady if I could buy her a beer inside. She looked mortified and said she did not drink.
I said “How about a Coke?” and she replied: “Oh, I don’t drink pop.”
Turned out the place was a Mormon nightclub. Who even knew such a thing existed?
Speaking of nightclubs and nightlife, there is a new worldwide leader in the clubhouse named Barcelona.
Imagine a beauty pageant in which the contestants just keep on parading through, hour after hour after hour after hour. That was what it was like Saturday night in the Marina district, near where the U.S. team is staying, as myself and a certain other U.S. reporter who had his telephone and camera pickpocketed hung out into the wee hours of the morning.
It is a well-known fact that folks in Catalonia and other parts of Spain like to eat dinner late — like 11 p.m. or midnight — and then party until dawn or later. But to see it firsthand was an incredible sight to behold.
LeBron James was right: This place is an awful lot like Miami. I understand why he would want to live there, and I could see myself relocating permanently to one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe is circumstances permitted it.
Another U.S. reporter expressed shock and awe today when I informed him that I have been traveling to and from the practices and games aboard the subway (called the Metro here) to reach the apartment that a friend of this site has graciously provided.
It ain’t like the old days when I worked for AP and ESPN and I could take taxis everywhere I wanted to go, then hand in the receipts upon the conclusion of the trip and be fully reimbursed. I’m on a low budget, but is sure is refreshing. Today, for instance, there was not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was up around 90 degrees. This made the Metro stations feel like a blast furnace, but that is not such a bad thing. The hotter the temperature, the less clothing people wear. And less clothing equates to excellent sightseeing, if you get my drift.
Again, what a city!
I have one leftover item from our stop in Manchester that I neglected to include in Diary, Edition I.
At the game against Great Britain, I was riding the elevator to the press room, and there was a security guy in there who was built like Brock Lesner. I asked him if he would be competing in Greco-Roman wrestling at the London Games, and he said “No — but I did once play American football. Turns out the guy was a defensive lineman for the University of Michigan back in the day.
“Did you beat Ohio State?” I asked.
“Yes, twice,” he said.
Speaking of college athletics, word spread fast today at Team USA practice when the draconian penalties against Penn State were announced. The phrases “worse than the death penalty” and “absolutely no due process” were quickly thrown around. I won’t name names, but there are members of the U.S. federation who are not exactly big fans of the NCAA and its hierarchy.
It should be noted that only one quarter of the U.S. roster — James, Kobe Bryant and Chandler — are from the preps-to-pros generation that existed before the one-and-done generation came along.
And on a related note, one-and-done facilitator Worldwide Wes is once again traveling with the team. He appears to have gained more weight in two years than Kevin Love has lost. And yes, he has an Olympic credential — just as he did in 2004 in Athens when he stayed with the team aboard the Queen Elizabeth II, and just as he did in Beijing when he called the Intercontinental Hotel his home. That was the hotel where Team USA stayed — a place that Kobe Bryant said he could not leave “because the Chinese army won’t let me.”
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. He has covered every version of Team USA since 1996, covering them at the Olympics in Atlanta, Sydney, Athens and Beijing, as well as the World Championships in Indianapolis, Japan and Turkey. Follow him on Twitter.