Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love maximized his playing time for the United States on Sunday, playing the first match of pool play at the Olympic Games in London, England.
With questions slowly surrounding his desire to play, Love scored 14 points in 14 minutes as the United States toasted France to win 98-71.
“We didn’t particularly shoot the ball well from the 3-point line but I’m glad we got the first one out of the way,” he said.
“He’s 23 and he’s still figuring out how to play internationally. These guys just don’t go from one thing to another that quickly,” said United States head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The United States (1-0) made only 32 percent of their three-point shots, despite the line being one foot shorter from the basket than NBA regulations. France (0-1) was even worse, making only nine percent.
The Americans pounded the French in rebounding, posting a 56-40 advantage, and scored 20 points off 18 forced turnovers.
Finding that rhythm took some time, as the first quarter was marred by multiple fouls, creating a disjointed pace. The United States only led 22-21 after the first quarter before running away with a 30-15 edge in the second.
“We just have to not worry about the refs and just play our game. I think we did a great job of responding to that,” said Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, who had a game-high 22 points and nine rebounds.
Ball movement remained a driving force in the American offense, recording assists 27 times against 10 for the French.
“We’re capable of a lot of things once our chemistry starts pulling together,” said Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden.
Tony Parker, a guard for the San Antonio Spurs, was the only France player to reach double-digits with 10.
The blowout shifted discussion from the pedigree of talent for the Americans to recent stories exploring NBA commissioner David Stern’s inquiries about limiting, if not canceling, participation in the Olympic Games. The NBA was originally against the idea of sending its players to participate when amateur restrictions were lifted in 1992, although it led to an international surge for the sport.
Nothing has formed yet, but athletes on Team USA are not fond of the idea.
“I don’t see why it’s even a topic of discussion,” said Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. “If you just look at the Olympics as a whole, it’s about putting your best athletes to the front to showcase.”
“When the time comes, I know that they’ll make a decision but my stance is that the players should have the right to choose if they want to play in the Olympics because this might only come around once,” Love said.
While Love lives out the choice he made in accepting a position on this year’s Olympic team, he remains informed on the many transactions made by the Wolves, who are aware of his desire to attract more talent for the rising star.
Minnesota recently acquired small forward Andrei Kirilenko, who is representing his native country of Russia in the Olympic Games.
“I’m definitely going to stay up to date on what he’s doing,” Love said. “Anything I can to do to have the camaraderie when I get back to Minneapolis.”