Kapono loves to watch Love shoot

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

Love was in the air at the Air Canada Centre last night.

Kevin Love, one of the game's most hyped hoopsters, arrived in Hogtown with the rest of his Minnesota Timberwolves teammates.

With the NBA getting younger and hipper, with the game's old guard being challenged by a new generation, Love looms as yet another rookie worth watching as the regular season approaches.

His body isn't NBA-ready and his game remains a work in progress, but Love has all the necessary handles required for a long and distinguished career.

"K.L. is going to be a player," Jason Kapono said as he assessed his fellow UCLA alumnus. "The kid can flat-out shoot the basketball and he's a great kid."

Kapono knows a thing or two about shooting.

During the warmup last night, Kapono watched in awe as Love stepped outside the three-point arc and drained jumper after jumper with a form only a player of Kapono's ilk can appreciate.

"Just look at him knock down shots," the reigning two-time three-point king said. "He'll be very effective in pick-and-pops."

Kapono worked out with Love in the off-season, showing the kid the ropes and trying to serve as a mentor.

For Kapono, last night was the first occasion to see Love at the pro level.

Kapono realized in his second year the commitments required to ensure a lengthy career.

Playing college ball, no matter how big, small or corrupt the program, is one thing, but to play at the NBA level is an entirely different beast.

"It's an 82-game schedule, a grind that takes its toll on your body, and you have to be prepared," Kapono said.

"I realized you have to eat right, sleep right and take care of your body. Those are the kind of things I was telling K.L."

After one season at UCLA, Love entered the NBA draft. He wound up with Minnesota following a draft-day trade.

The transaction saw the Timberwolves jettison O.J. Mayo, the draft's third overall pick, to Memphis for Love, who was picked fifth overall, and veteran sharpshooter Mike Miller.

While Love dominated the paint at the college level and showed his versatility by stepping outside on the perimeter, he was not projected as a post player in the NBA.

That was reinforced last night as Love found it difficult to create in the paint.

The kid has a high basketball IQ and any big man capable of forcing teams to extend their defence is destined to stick around the pro game for many years.

Love's father, Stan, played for the Washington Bullets.

One of Stan Love's teammates was Wes Unseld, an undersized big who used his lower body for leverage to box out opponents, a deft passing touch and a passion that made Unseld one of the game's greats.

Love, who liberally is listed at 6-foot-10, often is compared to Unseld in an age where just about every incoming player is linked to some former legend.

"K.L. will make his own name and establish his own identity," Kapono said. "But his outlet pass does remind a lot of people of Wes Unseld."

Once Love, who recently turned 20, gets stronger and finds a role, the Wolves may yet have another piece to build around as the team picks up the pieces from the Kevin Garnett era.

T'WOLVES SHOW PROMISE

Minnesota has some talent, but its base is young and inexperienced, not exactly conducive for winning on a consistent basis.

Against the Raptors, Minnesota showed some promise, especially in the first half when Toronto's second unit continued to prove that it does not merit extended minutes.

Love showed signs of being aggressive and active, picking up three fouls in 18 minutes and hauling down three rebounds, but overall his game was understated and underwhelming.

At the end of Minnesota's 90-86 win, Love finished with three points on 1 of 3 shooting and a made free throw.

But the kid is raw and plenty of frustrating nights await, as they do with all rookies.

Rookies such as Love, Mayo, Sergio Rodriguez and fellow Portland teammate Greg Oden will have an impact.

It's just a matter of when.


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