Kevin Love thrusts himself into MVP talk

By Jon Krawczynski

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 8 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Love shot 41.7 percent from 3-point range and averaged 20.2 points and an NBA-leading 15.2 rebounds last season, but still was dismissed in some circles as a player putting up great numbers on a bad team.

This year there is no such argument. Love reported to camp 25 pounds lighter, armed with a step-back jumper and a nifty little flip shot he can use against bigger and stronger defenders.

"The one thing you're seeing from Kevin is the last few years, every year he has improved a part of his game," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "I think he came into this league as a rebounder and a passer and that was the focus, keeping him off the boards.

"He's become an unbelievable perimeter shooter. ... So with his ability to handle the ball, score in the post, shoot the 3, pass the ball, it makes it really a challenge to guard him. Really there's not a lot of weaknesses on the offensive end of the floor."

The questions about his game did play a factor in his negotiation of a new contract, when the Wolves resisted Love's request for a five-year deal. The team wanted to save its one-time maximum contract to use down the road, so Love signed a four-year contract with an opt-out clause after three seasons.

Now, at 23 years old, it seems the only question remaining for Love is how far he can take these Wolves. Not just this season, but in the years to come.

"He's playing amazing," Rubio said. "I think the 3-point shot contest gave him more (confidence). He's doing unbelievable work, fighting for everything and giving us victories."

AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell contributed to this story.

Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/APkrawczynski

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