MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Love is making a name for himself in the NBA with his breakout season for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It turns out he's been on the Denver Nuggets' radar for quite some time.
Nuggets coach George Karl said Wednesday night that the team asked Minnesota about trading for Love this summer.
"I know there were inquiries," Karl said before the Nuggets played the Timberwolves. "In some of the meetings we talked and his name was out there. It never got close, I know that."
Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony has been the subject of trade rumors for months and has rejected the team's three-year, $65 million contract extension offer. But Karl did not discuss the nature of the Love talks and did not say who, if anybody, was offered to Minnesota in return.
Obviously, no deal was done, and unless they could have received Anthony in return, that is likely a good thing for the Timberwolves.
Minnesota traded forward Al Jefferson to Utah to create more minutes for Love and he has blossomed in his third season, leading the league with 15.5 rebounds per game and averaging 20.6 points. He had 31 points and 31 rebounds in a win over the Knicks in November, the first 30-30 game in the NBA since 1982, and scored 43 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in a loss at Denver on Dec. 18.
"We liked him last year when he kind of was inconsistent, up and down," Karl said. "I think we made inquiries on Kevin Love this summer, but we didn't think this. We never thought he'd make the huge step he made from last year to this year. This is incredible."
It's been rumored for weeks that Anthony wants to be traded to the New York Knicks, while the Nets and Bulls have also been mentioned as potential suitors.
Anthony is in the final year of his contract, which essentially gives him veto power on any deal. If he doesn't like the proposed destination, he could refuse to sign an extension and become a free agent in the summer of 2011.
The Timberwolves are rebuilding again and entered the night with just eight wins on the season, making cold and snowy Minnesota an unattractive spot for Anthony to sign long term.
Meanwhile, Love has emerged as one of the bright young stars in the league, an affordable and marketable talent that the disillusioned Timberwolves fan base is starting to rally around.
"His knack to rebound the ball, I haven't seen it like this for a long time," Karl said. "Marcus (Camby) kind of has the knack. This guy, Dwight Howard, Marcus when he was younger, he has the knack. The ball finds him."
It's led to a debate about his All-Star credentials. The Timberwolves have the second-worst record in the Western Conference, leading some to wonder if a player from such a bad team can receive the honor, no matter how great the numbers.
"I think his numbers are impressive enough to be considered," Karl said. "But I like taking guys off the teams that win games."