Q&A: Kevin Love

Courtesy of Dime

Dime: The first time mouthguards became something people became aware of seems to have been LeBron, when he started putting style on them. What do you think about the increased visibility of mouthguards in the NBA?

Kevin Love: I think it’s huge. When you see guys taking a moment at the free throw line, taking a breather and chewing on them or taking them out, I think it’s great to show from a grassroots perspective that mouthguards are important to protect yourself. Last year, over five million teeth were knocked out in youth sports, and 1/3 of injuries that happen in basketball are above the neck.

So in order to take notice of that, [mouthguards] have to be visible, and I think it’s great to see that.

Why are mouthguards so important to preventing injury?

I think the game has become more and more aggressive. You mention a guy like LeBron, you see him going to the hoop and making a move or playing in the post, and a lot of the times you see guys hit the floor and they’re holding their face, or they just get hit in the face. Without a mouthguard, it’s tough to say what would happen.

It’s definitely something that has become almost a part of the uniform. I keep saying that it’s just as important has having your compression tights on and to have stuff that make you durable to get through the season. And the mouthguard is important for you to go out there and know that you’re protected.

Did you think that Richard Jefferson was really retiring?

No, he just wanted the attention [laughs]. No, I thought for a second that maybe he would go out on top, like Peyton Manning. It’s very cool, because I think it was 12, 13 or 14 years that he hadn’t made it back to the Finals, and he never knew when he was going to get his next shot. Therefore, when we won… there’s something to be said for going out on top, but I think he became such a fan favorite and somebody that added so much value to the team in so many ways, that it made sense for him to come back and be a part of this team. And why not try for it again?

What’s it like being on a team of veterans who have experienced more personal success around the league want to join, even for fewer minutes or money, just to be part of a winning team? What does all that experience in the locker room do?

It’s great. It adds to our culture, which was already so great, and our sense of community and family around the organization, that the fact that a guy like Mike Dunleavy, who’s been in the league for so long, and a guy like Birdman, who’s 38 years old and wants to compete for a title and has played with LeBron — it just goes to show you we’re doing things the right way, and we have one goal in mind, which is to win another championship. And I guess that’s what makes it fun, and like I said, adds to the culture.

Does it do anything for you personally?

It’s great. I always mention a guy like James Jones — we call him Champ — he adds so much to the locker room, and while he might not play as much, he’ll come in and give you the best six minutes in any game and be that difference maker in a quarter.

I can remember Dahntay Jones in, I think it was Game 6 when we had a bunch of guys in foul trouble, including myself. And he came in and gave us three or four really strong minutes before the half, had five points, got an offensive rebound, had a couple of defensive rebounds when he generated a foul and got us into the bonus, so those type of guys making those plays in big moments just adds to — in practice, with guys staying ready, guys are being consummate professionals and getting their work in.

It just adds to the culture where the locker room is great, and on the floor we know exactly what we want to do. While it might not be a ton of quantity, the quality of our practice time can be really great.

What do you think of the situation surrounding Chris Bosh? It’s really tough having a personal doctor give you a different opinion than your team does. Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve disagreed with a team over a medical issue?

I think it’s tough. You have to get a second and third opinion. It’s definitely a different scenario when it comes to things like the heart, and like how I went through a concussion, things with the head. When it’s something you can’t see, you don’t really know how somebody’s feeling.

But I feel for Chris; I’ve been a big fan of his since his Georgia Tech days. He’s a guy that has brought so much to the game and won championships and made his mark. I get that he wants to go out there and play and the team obviously wants to protect itself, so it’s really a tough position to be put in for both sides. But for the game’s sake, we all as a fraternity in the NBA need somebody like that out on the floor because he brings so much to the game, but it is a very tough position to be put in.

Going from Minnesota to Cleveland and being on a team with LeBron, that was a change in pressure, with a brighter public spotlight and more media. Now that you’re defending a title, is there more pressure or less relative to when you joined the team?

I think in some ways, the monkey’s off our backs, so the pressure has subsided a little bit — but not the hunger, especially to repeat. Also, being in the position of going after another [title], and knowing the weight that holds, looking at some of the best teams of all time having gone back to back and having the potential to do that does add a level of pressure.

I think that’s why you see veteran players, like you mentioned, want to come join a team like ours, but the pressure is a Catch-22 in some ways.

Do you anticipate any changes to your role on the court this season from last year?

Not really. I have certain goals in mind, but nothing numbers-based. I just want to be more aggressive, get to the free throw line more, and help in offensive and defensive rebounds — especially with Tristan and LeBron in there, I think we can dominate the glass this season. But it’s ever-evolving, and I think lineups will change because we do have those veteran guys, and young guys that will add to our team, like Jordan McRae or Kay Felder, guys who are working their way up through the league.

But I think it’s going to be a bright future for us; we’re looking forward to getting back out on the floor… More than anything, I think we’re just more comfortable this year in what we want to get accomplished, and I think the same could be said of my role.

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