Love a legitimate MVP candidate

Love a legitimate MVP candidate
March 31, 2012, 1:45 am
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MINNEAPOLIS Every year, there are clear-cut favorites for the NBA's MVP race.

This year, you have the likes of defending league MVP Derrick Rose of Chicago, Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City, Miami's LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, in the mix.

But as the season progresses, there's usually one player who comes out of nowhere and enters the MVP conversation.

Minnesota's Kevin Love is that player.

The numbers he's putting up this year - 26.3 points and 13.9 rebounds per game - aren't just good.

They are the kind of numbers we haven't seen in decades.

The last player to finish a season with that many points and that many rebounds per game was Moses Malone in 1982, which just so happened to be one of the years in which Malone was named league MVP.

But there's one difference between what Malone did and what Love is doing now.

That team Malone played for, went to the postseason.

The Timberwolves (25-27) are currently 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"The window's closing," said Love, referring to the Timberwolves' postseason hopes. "So we definitely have to try and win a large majority of these games."

As much as Love would love the focus for Friday's game to be on the Timberwolves and their chances at making the playoffs, it was another Kevin - Garnett, the former Minnesota star - whose return had the place buzzing.

With Love's play catapulting him to young superstar status, the comparisons abound between him and Garnett, the last young superstar in the Twin Cities.

You can count Love among those who grew up a fan of Kevin Garnett when he played in Minnesota.

"I was a jersey owner of Garnett back in the day," Love admitted. "Him and Tim Duncan those type of guys; those are guys I looked up to when I was very young; guys still in this league I'm fortunate enough to play against. It's a dream come true for me, but at the end of the day I know I have to come out and help my team win a basketball game by any means."

Aside from having the same first name, Love doesn't believe there's a lot in common with his game and Garnett's style of play.

"It's really an unfair comparison," Love said. "He's a once-in-a-lifetime type player. If I can do some of the things he did for this franchise, it would be nice. But more than anything, I want to win. And he brought a lot of winning years to this franchise. More than anything, hopefully I can emulate that."