Despite his recent struggles, Team USA director defends bringing Kevin Love to Tokyo

·3 min read

Many people were confused by the decision to add Kevin Love to the Team USA roster for the Tokyo Olympics next month, especially considering how little the Cleveland Cavaliers veteran has played in recent years.

Team USA director Jerry Colangelo, however, defended his choice to keep Love around as the Americans try to claim a fourth straight gold medal in Japan.

“The best reason to say why Kevin Love as an extra big was because of his international experience,” Colangelo said, via the New York Post. “Yes it’s true he hasn’t played much of anything the last couple of years, but the skills he brings to the table and commitment he’s made to physical conditioning, he’s a versatile guy up front who can rebound and hit shots.

“Who’s to say how many minutes a guy will play? You’re not playing all 12 players. It was a matter of filling out the roster with role players.”

Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Bam Adebayo, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, Jerami Grant, Draymond Green, Jrue Holiday, Zach LaVine, Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton join Love to round out the 12-man roster.

Booker, with the Suns, and both Middleton and Holiday, with the Bucks, are still making playoff runs and could end up dropping out should their respective teams make the NBA Finals. The last possible date for a Finals game is set for one day before the opening ceremonies.

Kevin Love’s productivity way down in recent years

Love has more than proved himself as a great basketball player throughout his 13-year career in the league.

The five-time All-Star helped lead the Cavaliers to a title in 2016 with LeBron James, and he claimed the longest double-double streak since the NBA-ABA merger back with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Like Colangelo noted, Love has international experience, too. He won a gold medal with Team USA during the 2012 Olympics in London, and helped lead the team to a gold medal at the FIBA World Cup two years earlier.

Recently, though, Love has been in a bit of a slump.

The 32-year-old played in just 25 games last season for the Cavaliers while averaging only 12.2 points — his lowest output since his rookie season — and a career-worst 7.4 rebounds per game.

Love played nearly the entire season for the Cavaliers last year, though it was shortened significantly as they missed the bubble at Walt Disney World, but made it into only 22 games during the 2018-19 season.

Many felt that, as Love is nearing the end of his career, that Team USA should have gone with a younger, more qualified player on its roster than Love. Knicks big man Julius Randle, Colangelo said, was “right there" after averaging a career-high 24.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. ESPN analyst Jalen Rose — who later apologized for his “tokenism” comment — wanted to see Suns big man Deandre Ayton instead, too.

But Colangelo stuck with Love, and sounds confident about his decision. So Ayton, Randle and others will simply have to wait until Paris for another shot to make their Olympic debuts.

Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers
Kevin Love played in just 25 games for the Cavaliers last season, and appeared in only 103 over the past three years. (Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

More from Yahoo Sports: