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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Love deserves consideration for MVP
By PETER VECSEY
NEW YORK — When Kevin Love was in high-school, numerous people devalued his accomplishments, probably because he complied with gravity and didn't quite qualify as a gymnast or a contortionist.
His father, Stan, a five-year peripheral player for the Bullets, Lakers and ABA's Spurs in the early 1970s, would always say, "You can take your guy if you have it figured out, and I will take Kevin . . . and let's see where we are at the end of the day."
That incandescent day has dawned . . . on the industrial strength of a staggering aptitude, acumen, ferocity and fervor, characteristics only the greats feature.
Love is all that, with a dime sack, and a payback. Years of being underestimated by talent scouts, his coaches and opponents provoked him to play with a manhole cover on his shoulder, and guarantees perennial progress.
Not since Bob Pettit, Bob McAdoo, Dan Issel (once with the Kentucky Colonels) and Elgin Baylor — unconscionably always overlooked by the un-conscientious — has a forward erected the kind of flamboyant figures Love is amassing.
Baylor averaged 34.8 points and 19.8 rebounds for the 1960-61 season, 38.3 and 18.8 the next, and 34 and 14.3 before irreparably damaging his knee 48 games into '62-63. He "plunged" to 26 and 12 the subsequent seven.
Love averaged 20.2 and an NBA-leading 15.2 last season for the Timberwolves, his third in the league. Prior to Sunday night's 95-89 setback to the Hornets, his numbers were 25.8 and 13.8, a superior standard that was overlapped during a recent four-day, three-victory stretch (110 points and 43 rebounds) before back spasms sidelined him in Friday's loss to the Lakers.
That statistical outburst, coinciding with the 21-21 T-Wolves' promising playoff pursuit — ostensibly devastated by Ricky Rubio's season-ending torn ACL — propelled Love into MVP conversation previously concentrated on Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, LeBron James and Dwight Howard.
Media voters should keep Love's liability to the Wolves in mind when filling out MVP ballots in late April. Despite hurting for certain, he wanted to be out there with his distressed teammates and win one for Ricky.
Thirty-one points and 16 rebounds were not enough.
* * *
So, what did I learn from the Knicks' 0-4 road trip to Boston, Dallas, San Antonio and Milwaukee?
Removing Lin-sanity, Melo-drama and the Amare apostrophe from the equation, clearly this is a bunch of mope heads with minimal margin for error... . .which is why the hammerlock it once seemingly had on a playoff berth has long since become inapplicable.
As Camp Cablevision returned home for Sunday's loss against the 76ers, Mike D'Antoni resumed tinkering with his toys.
The perpetually annoyed coach (by referees' calls and reporters' questions) is still trying to find the right balance of firepower and fortification, the latter having been severely compromised of late by the absences of Tyson Chandler and Jared Jeffries.
The last time the Bucks sniffed 119 points in a single game, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar enjoyed playing in the city, more interested in the result of a culture than broadening it.
(Editor's confession: Milwaukee actually matched that number against Washington earlier this season. Flashing one's poetic license is allowed in this space to get an idea across or inject some petty impertinence.)
Once Chandler and Jeffries return to active duty halfway healthy, other than the head coach, I don't see any unsolvable problem . . . especially now that the Knicks' cupboard has gone from barren to Baron.
Mike D'Antoni stated he wanted to go smaller against the Andrew Bogut-less Bucks and jump-started J.R Smith (1-3 from the field in 18 minutes). Just Remanded might be an inch shorter than Iman Shumpert, who started the previous game against the Spurs.
The height difference is immaterial. What's relevant, for Mikey's information, is that J.R. is a career sixth soldier. Davis is a lifetime starter. That's who needs to be jump-started.
If anyone makes sense playing alongside Jeremy Lin, it's Baron. It takes the pressure off both of them. The ball and bodies will move. When J.R. and Carmelo Anthony are on the floor together, the ball and bodies grind to a halt, and sneakers screech to a stop.
Meanwhile, Brandon Jennings (25 points and 10 assists) and Mike Dunleavy (25 points on 10-for-16 FG accuracy) were tearing Mikey's defenseless team a new one. Yet, he kept his lone alleged antidote at three positions locked up in the medicine cabinet.
You mean it didn't dawn on either D'Antoni or Mike Woodson, the team's so-called defensive tutor, it might be worth a try to sic Shumpert on Jennings and Dunleavy for more than five minutes?
If interim owner James Dolan wasn't such a tolerant toad, that blunder alone would have gotten D'Antoni and Woodson terminated.
If you're a Knicks fan, the good news is The Baron of Basketball looks real close to regaining his form. His passing and penetration are remarkable. The shot is more on target. When his legs and lungs pull even with his skills and schemes, watch out.
Baron is showing glimmers why, before suffering from fat attacks and baggy behavior, he was one of few players I would pay to see perform . . . if The Mysterious J got in free and sight lines were ideal.
Baron and Lin combined for 29 points, 22 assists and six turnovers (20, 13 and five by Jeremy) against the Bucks. When they're co-sharing ball-handling responsibilities, Melo, for the most part, only gets a whiff of leather when in position to do something constructive, while the others — Amare and Landry Fields, etc. -stay in motion.
Another plus is the play of Amare. Looks like the 5 kg he lost is helping him on offense and on the boards (27 and 11).
Perhaps the additional five he's trying to take off will help him contain someone when it counts. Ersan Ilyasova neutralized him on the scoreboard with 25 points, five of them critical in the final 1:06 of the 119-114 win.
Bottom line: The Knicks needed a point guard and now they have two; they needed a defensive center and now they have one; they needed a lighter Amare and now he's floating; they needed a healthy Melo and now he's fit; they needed a reliable bench and now they have one.
So, what's missing?
Synchronization and consistency.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.