Associated Press
Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love, left, looks for help as Denver Nuggets' Renaldo Balkman defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 in Minneapolis.

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."

LAKERS' COACH QUESTIONS HORNETS' FUTURE: Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Wednesday that he is "not happy" about the NBA's ownership of the Hornets and is pessimistic about the club's future in New Orleans.

Speaking before tip-off against the Hornets on Wednesday night, Jackson said the league's takeover of the Hornets raises questions about who has the final say if a player such as Chris Paul were to demand a trade.

"Who's going to pull the button on it?" Jackson said. "When Chris says he has to be traded, how's that going to go? ... Someone's going to have to make a very nonjudgmental decision on that part that's not going to irritate anyone else in the league."

Earlier this month, the NBA bought the Hornets from club founder and former majority owner George Shinn and minority partner Gary Chouest after Chouest backed away from negotiations to buy Shinn's majority shares.

When commissioner David Stern announced the league's takeover, he said the club was worth about $300 million and that the hope was to find a local buyer who would keep the team in New Orleans. Meanwhile, Chouest has said since that he is still interested in being the majority stakeholder in a local ownership group.

Jackson said the best thing about the move was that the team "is still here," but he added that he has doubts about the franchise's long-term future in the Big Easy.

"I don't know if New Orleans can support a team. It hasn't been successful in supporting a team until now," Jackson said. "So all the situations that have gone on with New Orleans, unfortunately things have happened and if the franchise can't make it, someone is going to have to move them."

The Hornets moved to New Orleans from Charlotte in 2002 and in most seasons have been in the bottom third of the league in attendance.

However, the team averaged nearly 17,000 fans and turned a profit as recently as two seasons ago, negating a clause in their lease of the state-owned New Orleans Arena that would have entitled them to up to $6.8 million in subsidies in 2009.

This season, however, attendance has hovered around 14,000 per game, raising the possibility that the club could invoke an early exit provision in its lease and leave town after this season.

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Recently, Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu have called on fans to go to games in order to meet an attendance benchmark that would prevent that from happening while engaging in talks that could result in a more favorable lease for the club.

The Hornets will be locked into their lease at least another season if attendance from a period beginning in late December through January is around 15,000. In the Hornets' previous two home games, attendance exceeded 15,400 and the game against the Lakers drew an overflow crowd of 18,018.