Love returns to Minnesota, booed loudly by home fans
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Kevin Love expected to be booed by Timberwolves fans in his first game back in Minnesota since he was traded to Cleveland last summer.
Wolves fans obliged on Saturday night.
He said he wished the franchise would have been more successful in his six years with the club so it didn't come to this.
''I enjoyed a lot of the people that I played with and met off the floor here, but it's a little bitter because I wish things could've gone better and been better,'' Love said before his Cavaliers played the Timberwolves. ''I'm in a situation now where we're winning basketball, and I'm happy with that.''
Love was booed during pregame introductions and every time he touched the ball early, and the second-best player in Timberwolves history said it was a little jarring to be playing at Target Center in enemy colors.
''I think that's only human nature to want things to always be . sunshine and blue skies all week,'' Love said. ''But that's just not the case. As long as we get a win I'll feel great doing it.''
Love is no stranger to hostile environments. In his lone season at UCLA, the Oregon native was booed mercilessly when the Bruins traveled to play the Ducks and his family was the subject of taunting.
LeBron James offered Love his experience as well, having endured vitriol from the fans in Cleveland when he returned with the Miami Heat in 2010.
''I can probably help him more than anybody,'' James said. ''Obviously it won't be the same as my experience but I can give him some insight. The most important thing is he has to lean on us. That's what I did. I leaned on my teammates. When you go on the road and you return to a place where they once loved you, they still love you. I know that. You only get booed because they love you.''
The Wolves (8-38) entered the season with hopes of approaching last year's 40-42 finish to show their beleaguered fan base, and the rest of the league, that they could survive after trading Love. But injuries to Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic in the first month ended those hopes. They limped into the game with the NBA's worst record.
Earlier this week, the Wolves produced a tongue-in-cheek video trumpeting the return of Cavaliers guard Mike Miller, a parody that Love called ''hilarious.'' But coach and president Flip Saunders clearly wasn't pleased with it.
''I think as an organization we should be above that,'' said Saunders, who did not see the video before it was played on Wednesday night. ''We have to acknowledge that Kevin, when he was here, he was a great player for us. He was an All-Star. He won an Olympic gold medal, did a lot of positive things. ... To not acknowledge that, to go the other way, I would say would be hypocritical.''
Love exchanged hugs with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and his wife, Becky, before the game and shared a laugh with Pekovic. Many fans did give him a warm ovation when a video tribute was played during a break in the first quarter.
''We know it's going to be a great atmosphere,'' Martin said. ''You have one of the greatest players to ever play in Timberwolves history coming back, so the fans are excited probably to see him and the Cavs come into the arena.''
After trading Love, the Wolves started yet another major rebuilding project in an effort to end the league's longest-running playoff drought. They are now building around Rubio and Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick who has exhibited the potential to be what they have long searched for - a dynamic wing player who can also be a top-flight defender.