Many are confused by Kevin Love‘s spot on the Team USA men’s basketball roster for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Love is coming off of one of the worst seasons of his career for the Cleveland Cavaliers, having appeared in just 25 games.
The selection caused a minor controversy through the basketball world. ESPN’s Jalen Rose accused the selection of “tokenism,” claiming that Team USA was afraid to have an all-Black roster (Team USA has been all-Black in previous years). Dick Vitale agreed with Rose.
The team was relatively light in the frontcourt, and at his best, Love is a voracious rebounder who can stretch the floor. Team USA’s Jerry Colangelo said that the team needed role players to surround superstars like Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard, and liked Love’s international experience. He won the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, and in the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey.
Head coach Gregg Popovich seems to have big plans for Love, and plans to get the five-time All-Star back into form ahead of the upcoming Olympics. He spoke to the media after Team USA’s first practice in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
“We’re going to work his ass off” Gregg Popovich says about Kevin Love with Team USA. On first day of pre-Olympic practice both discussed Love’s unexpected selection: https://t.co/OJwC58oAFG
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 7, 2021
“We’re going to work his ass off the next four to five weeks and demand a lot,” Popovich said, via ESPN. “That’s going to definitely get him back into the rhythm he needs to be in to continue to play. I think that’s one of the big reasons he wanted to do this, so he can get himself back to who he was.”
Love has struggled with injuries, playing just 103 total games over the last three years. In 2020-21, he averaged just 12.2 points per game, the lowest output since his rookie season, and a career low 7.4 rebounds per game.
To his credit, Kevin Love seems to understand the controversy around his selection, and is ready to prove himself.
“In a way I understand [the criticism] because I came off a season where I didn’t play that many games and wasn’t at the top of my game,” Love said. “For me to come here, I feel I have a lot to prove.”
If there is a weakness for the Team USA roster, it is in the low post. Love, Bam Adebayo, Draymond Green, and Jerami Grant are going to have to defend the paint and crash the boards.