February 9, 2011 |

UCLA’s Love Returns As An All-Star

A highlight for me of this month’s NBA all-star game at Staples Center will be the presence of Kevin Love.

The third year member of the Minnesota Timberwolves returns here after playing one year at UCLA.

You see, I saw tapes of Love’s high school games in Oregon and drew upon my many years of traveling with Laker teams to determine that this was a special player. I saw he could score, rebound and pass and had the instincts to do each one at the right time.

I expected a lot, and Love led the Bruins into the Final Four. But then he entered the NBA draft and I wondered if it was too soon.

It turned out he was good enough to play in the league but not experienced enough to demonstrate all his skills.

His first two NBA years were all ight but he excelled only in rebounding.

Now, in his third season – which would have been his senior year at UCLA – he has become the all-star player I envisioned.

He’s averaging 21.4 points and 15.6 rebounds on one of the NBA’s worst teams. Opposing players have said he’s a relentless rebounder.

One problem in selecting NBA all-star teams is that there are more deserving players than berths. As a result, some deserving players are frequently left off.

This season Love wasn’t picked. But he was added when a berth became available due to Yao Ming’s injury.

I didn’t know if Love would become an all-star this soon but I believed he’s qualify before long. The game is for the best players in basketball and he’s certainly one of them.

I think that if Love had played four years at uCLA he would have been recognized as a center who could be talked about in the same sentence as Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton.

He would have needed at least one NCAA championship to rank in that company and perhaps he would have gotten it. He would have had at least one season with Darren Collison at point guard and maybe Jrue Holiday would have stayed.

We’ll never know about that, but we do know that Love has become a very good NBA big man.

When he’s introduced as an all-star I’ll be among thios applauding.

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