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Kevin Love Impressive Role Model

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March 8, 2018

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When Kevin Love played for the Timberwolves, I talked to him a couple of times and liked him. I also watched and admired his skills many times, but never have I appreciated him more than this week when he wrote openly and emotionally about mental health.

Love’s essay posted on the Playerstribune.com is a must-read for any thoughtful sports fan, including those who influence young athletes. Love details how he had a panic attack early this season that caused him to flee the court during a game. It was an experience unlike any the 29-year-old Cavs star had ever known, and it ultimately prompted enough self-examination to see a therapist for the first time in his life.

In macho America, boys and men have forever been taught to bury damaging feelings including guilt and shame. Love writes that during his life he never wanted to show emotional weakness but he knew something was very wrong that night last year when he panicked and experienced shortness of breath.

Love has been seeing a therapist and he’s targeted some personal issues including one he shares in detail. He writes about his grandmother Carol who lived with the family when he was growing up. Carol was still alive during part of the time he played for the Wolves and she had planned to visit him in Minneapolis at Thanksgiving one year. The trip was cancelled, though, because Carol was hospitalized and shortly thereafter she died unexpectedly. In therapy Love came to realize how he had not adequately grieved about his grandma’s death.

In and out of athletics this is a mixed up world with a lot of confused and troubled minds. Love writes this warning in his article: “Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.”

It’s true and so many people, whether involved with sports or other parts of society, need help. Troubled with burdens real and imagined, they frequently don’t receive help. (See the latest news on opiate use, or school shootings). There are no easy answers but there is always someone out there—family, friend or stranger—willing to give support and encourage a person to seek assistance.

Love, a former NBA All-Star and contributor to the Cleveland Cavs 2016 league champions, has long been known as one of basketball’s better passing front court players. This week he might have made his biggest “assist.”

Worth Noting

Credit Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher in making one of his best moves signing center Eric Staal to a three-year free agent contract in June of 2016. Staal, 33, is tied for fourth among NHL players in goal scoring with 36, and is a valued leader on a team with a need in that department.

Staal has been exceptional at the right time, producing 21 points last month while helping the Wild to a 9-2-2 record. He’s a catalyst for a team that sometimes prompts doubt about qualifying for the playoffs.

Now it looks like the Wild will make the playoffs (at times the team falters when the schedule gets busy and the ages of players shows). How far they go in the postseason appears tied to—no surprise—whether goalie Devan Dubnyk is hot.

While the Wild seem likely for the playoffs, the Timberwolves can be labeled iffy. The club was on track to make the postseason for the first time since 2004 before Jimmy Butler went down with a knee injury sidelining him indefinitely. He is the team’s best defender and fourth quarter big shot and big play specialist. This is a less capable and confident team without the 28-year-old Butler, who may deserve a place among the top 10 players in the NBA and is in his first season with the Wolves.

In the competitive Western Conference race for eight playoff spots, the Wolves will probably have to earn a surprise win or two in this immediate schedule stretch that starts with games against the Celtics and Warriors tonight and Sunday at home. There are only 16 Wolves games left in the season. If the season ended today, the Wolves would have one of the eight Western Conference playoff spots but the competition to be part of the field is intense.

The Wild is averaging 19,006 fans per game at home—seventh best in the 31-team NHL, according to Espn.com. The Timberwolves, according to the website, average 16,811—ranking No. 22 in the 30-team NBA.

I once argued with Lou Nanne about whether this was a better pro basketball or hockey town. Guess which position Nanne took? What I know is the Wolves set an NBA single season attendance record in the franchise’s first year of 1989-90 and despite a mostly poor product this century have been pretty successful at the box office. Decades ago the basketball Golden Gophers led the Big Ten and even the nation in attendance.

Former Gopher Natalie Darwitz, now coaching at Hamline, has the Piper women’s hockey team in the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time ever. Hamline has a 20-4-3 record including a 4-1 win over the Gusties in the MIAC Playoff Championship game last Saturday at Gustavus. The Pipers will play their opening NCAA game Saturday against the winner of Friday’s Gustavus and Wisconsin-Eau Claire game.

Tre Jones

Two of the five finalists for the 2018 state Mr. Basketball Award will be Gopher freshmen next fall but it’s difficult to think Apple Valley’s Tre Jones won’t win the honor. Jones, a McDonald’s All-American, is the best all-around Minnesota prep guard I’ve ever seen.

Other nominees are guards Owen King from Caledonia and Calvin Wishart of Delano, and future Gophers Gabe Kalscheur from DeLaSalle and Daniel Oturu of Cretin-Derham Hall. As a center or power forward, Oturu seems likely to emerge as Minnesota’s best rim protector on next season’s team. Kalscheur gives the Gophers a big guard off the bench playing behind senior Dupree McBrayer.

It’s surprising there is still no announcement identifying who the Gophers will play in next December’s nonconference game at U.S. Bank Stadium. The game (date not known) will be an operations rehearsal for the 2019 Final Four in Minneapolis.

Will the December date include not only the Gophers, but a second men’s game?

A ticket lottery for the 2019 Final Four opened this week and continues through May 31. The tournament dates are April 6 and 8, with tickets priced at $210 per sessions (a steal compared with the Minneapolis Super Bowl pricing). More at Gophersports.com, or Finalfourminneapolis.com.

The Twins home opener is four weeks from today, April 5 against the Mariners. The weather forecast is for a high of 52 with a “little afternoon rain,” according to Accuweather.com.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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