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The sweat and sacrifice that Kevin Love put himself through over the last four years to reshape his body and his game have brought him to this point.
The doughy 19-year-old is now a lean 24. The dreaded "tweener" has now become by most accounts the best power forward in the game. The stat-monger who lost 230 games in four seasons now has an Olympic gold medal around his neck.
He spent the summer surrounded by stars whose individual accomplishments have translated into team success. As he prepares to begin his fifth season in the NBA, Love knows now is the time for him to do the same with his Minnesota Timberwolves.
"I feel like I'm ready to break through," Love said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "I feel like I have a sense of accomplishment in this league for what I've done, but the next step is the playoffs. The next step is really looking at team goals."
The London Olympics weren't all fun and games for Love. He took plenty of grief from his hyper-competitive U.S. teammates. Love was the only NBA player on the roster without a playoff appearance, and he heard about it all summer long.
Love said hearing his Olympics teammates talk about the postseason made him think, "Man, I've got to make it to the playoffs.
"It was tough going through all that losing. I think we made the right moves. I think we have a lot of veteran players that know how to play and our staff is just awesome."
Kobe sits out
Kobe Bryant sat out the Los Angeles Lakers' preseason game against Portland on Wednesday night with a strained right shoulder.
Bryant apparently injured his shoulder during practice Tuesday, coach Mike Brown said. The injury isn't thought to be serious, and Bryant wanted to play against the Trail Blazers, Brown said.
The Lakers also faced Portland without center Dwight Howard, who is cautiously returning from offseason back surgery. Howard is practicing with the Lakers.