Gregg Popovich says Team USA to ‘demand a lot’ from Kevin Love

The Golden State Warriors have lost their way. They have not been the same team since Stephen Curry went down with a season-ending knee injury, and they have lost the last two NBA Finals. Winning a championship is no easy task, but the Warriors were a championship team, and they were a good one. They were a good one that had Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson, and they had Steve Kerr as their head coach. Kevin Love is a very good player, but is he better than Curry, Durant, and Thompson? The Warriors will have to demand a lot from Kevin Love.

Gregg Popovich has been known to have some interesting opinions on current events, and his latest one is that Kevin Love needs to step up for Team USA to make a run in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Pop says Love needs to “demand a lot” from himself starting with the London Games.

The NBA’s biggest stage is where the league’s biggest stars shine brightest. Kevin Love is no exception. As a member of the Timberwolves for the past four years, Love’s numbers as a player have improved every season. The big man who turned 26 on Friday has averaged 18.4 points and 11.4 rebounds over his career. But he’s never gotten to the big game. And he wants to change that.

Kevin Love faced headwinds when he earned a coveted spot on the US national team for the Tokyo Olympics after one of the worst seasons of his career. So did coach Gregg Popovich, who had a message for the doubters.

We’re going to work him hard over the next four or five weeks and ask a lot of him, Popovich said after the team’s first practice at UNLV on Tuesday.

This will definitely help him get back into the rhythm he needs to keep playing. I think that’s one of the main reasons he wanted to do it, so he could get his old personality back.

Popovich decided to offer the spot to Love, as he believes his ability to shoot and battle in the paint while fighting for rebounds could be valuable against some of the experienced European teams Team USA will face in Japan.

Love played in just 25 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season due to a recurring calf injury and averaged just 12.2 points, his lowest point total since his debut season. He had a few good games towards the end of the season, but he remained a surprise. Love has not played for the US national team since 2012 and has not been an All-Star since 2018.

In a way, I understand [the criticism] because I had a season where I didn’t play many games and wasn’t at the top of my game, Love said. When I come here, I feel like I have something to prove.

Kevin Love says he understands the criticism of his selection to Team USA and that he has something to prove at the Tokyo Olympics. AP Photo/John Locher

There is a hidden meaning in this opportunity that could play a role in Love’s future. While he is focused on helping the team win a second gold medal – he won it in London in 2012 – his ticket out of Cleveland could have something to do with his performance this summer.

The Cavs have tried to trade Love the past two seasons, but his injuries – just 103 games in the past three years – and the frustration of a long rebuild have diminished his value at times. As well as the two years and $60 million left on his contract.

Cleveland has blessed Love’s desire to play this summer, even if he is at risk of re-injury. At the end of the season, Kobe Altman, general manager of the Cavs, said when asked about Love’s future: We want it to be there. While the team certainly hopes Love can return to the All-Star level and help Cleveland’s young players, Love’s play could very well create some mutually beneficial options.

It is unclear if Love will get much playing time in Tokyo, as the Americans have a large number of players. But the league leader is at training this week as the team plays five practice games before crossing the Pacific. These performances could become Lava’s showcase – not just for Popovich and his team, but for other teams as well.

I’m 13 now, I’ve heard it all, Love says. All I can do is watch the game, let everything come at me, indulge myself and see what I can do for this team.

I think if I have to change the direction of my career to win a team, I’m willing to do that. I feel like whatever team I end up on [the Cavs] or whatever team I end up on or the U.S. National Team, it’s definitely something I can play in.

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