When the third round of voting results for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans were released on Jan. 9, Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love found himself in fourth place among Western Conference frontcourt players with 483,031 votes — nearly 18,000 votes behind the third-place finisher, Los Angeles Clippers power
forward Blake Griffin and more than 26,000 votes behind the man in the No. 2 spot, Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard. (Kevin Durant had left every other Western forward/center in the dust by topping the 1 million vote mark.) By the time the starting lineups for the 63rd annual All-Star game were announced on Jan. 23, though, both Griffin and Love had overtaken Howard, ensuring that Love had locked down his first-ever appearance in the starting lineup at an All-Star Game, and the third All-Star berth of his career.
It takes an awful lot of fans showing an awful lot of support to rack up more than 178,000 votes in the space of two weeks. The 25-year-old UCLA product — who ranks fourth in the league in points per game, second in the league in rebounds per game, and third in the league in Player Efficiency Rating — appreciated the outpouring of support from the Minnesotans who turned out in digital droves to bolster his candidacy, and chose to show his gratitude through that most time-honored of media traditions: the full-page newspaper ad saying thanks.
Here's Love's token of thankfulness from Sunday's edition of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
The ad copy reads:
It has been an amazing couple of weeks. I was humbled and honored by your support in getting named as a starter for the 2014 All-Star Game in New Orleans. Timberwolves fans and the people of the Upper Midwest have been awesome since the day I arrived in Minnesota.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR ALL-STAR VOTES!
These are exciting times for all of us. This past week, we announced plans for our new practice facility and training center, Mayo Clinic Square. Along with the upcoming renovation of Target Center, we will be practicing and playing in some of the best facilities in the league.
As players, we appreciate your support. We notice when the crowds get larger and louder. We draw energy from that. I'm looking forward to representing you in New Orleans, the second half of the season as we continue our push for the playoffs, and my future in Minnesota with the Timberwolves.
(That last line was a nice touch, especially with Love drawing ever nearer to the player option he can decline to become a free agent after the 2014-15 season if he so chooses.)
It's a nice gesture by Love, who said he was "surprised" by the outcome of the vote. So, too, was Rockets center Howard, who had started in six straight All-Star Games before being unseated by the Durant-Griffin-Love frontcourt this year, and who seems like he might be kinda-sorta-just-a-little-bit-cheesed about the way things unfolded this time around. From Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
[...] as the Rockets prepared to face Love and Minnesota on Monday, Howard said he does not consider it his spot occupied by someone else. Instead, he cited Love’s strong season, the lack of a center position on the ballot, and the Timberwolves’ marketing campaign.
“They took centers off the ballot,” Howard said. “I’m not too much focused on it. I’m happy for him. The Timberwolves organization did an excellent job of marketing, making sure everybody voted for him every night. He’s also having an incredible year. If we win the championship, nobody will remember who made the All-Star team.”
So Dwight's happy for Love and thinks he's having a great year, but also wants to make sure we remember the elimination of the center position from the ballot and the Timberwolves' marketing machine — which, apparently, outstrips what Daryl Morey was able to put together — when we applaud Love's first-time honor. Fair enough. (Might want to send a little smooth-things-over gift Dwight's way, Kevin. But you might want to avoid the "Bruise Brothers" LP, what with the whole "marketing machine" thorn-in-the-paw.)
The NBA announced last Thursday that Love will also be participating in the Three-Point Contest on All-Star Saturday this coming weekend, looking to knock off defending champion Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers and retake the crown he won in 2012 but was unable to defend due to injury last season.
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