MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kevin Love’s frustration with physical play and officiating have been apparent early and often this season.
Emotion got the best of him on Saturday night against the Rockets, and now he and the Minnesota Timberwolves have to pay the price: Love, his team’s leading scorer and rebounder, was suspended for two games by the NBA for “driving his foot into the upper body and face of the Rockets’ Luis Scola as Scola was lying on the floor.”
The play happened in the third quarter of Saturday’s victory over the Rockets after the two tangled while going for a rebound. As Love went to step over Scola, who a week earlier had thrown a ball off Love’s groin while trying to save it from going out of bounds, he looked down at the Rockets forward and stepped on him as he headed back up the court.
It marked the second time last week Love delivered a hard foul after not getting a call on the other end. He raked Pacers forward Danny Granger across the chest on Wednesday, touching off a small skirmish in a loss to Indiana.
Love apologized to Scola both after the game and in a statement issued by the team on Monday following the suspension, and said he has to do a better job handling his emotions.
“I don’t want to be known for that,” Love said after practice. “I want to be known as a stand-up guy who happened to make a mistake with a size 19 shoe and just move on. So everybody knows there were no ill intentions there.”
He will miss Tuesday’s game against Sacramento and Wednesday’s game at Memphis as the Timberwolves (12-12) look to climb above .500 for the first time this season.
Love is averaging 25.0 points and 13.7 rebounds per game and leads the NBA with 39.4 minutes per game. The All-Star forward was contrite on Monday, saying he thought the suspension from NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson “was warranted.”
“It’s been a chippy year,” Love said. “It’s not only us. It’s not only the Pacers, the Rockets or anything like that. It’s a lot of games. The guys are tired. Games are being drawn out and guys are worn down.
“For me and for us, it’s no different. And also for the refs as well. They’ve got to go over film just like we do, maybe even more. So you’ve got to respect them and got to respect what they do.”
Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said he has spoken with Love and the rest of his young team about playing through any perceived mistreatment from the other team or the officials.
Adelman did wonder how Jackson landed on two games as proper punishment.
“Do I think it’s fair? No. Absolutely (not),” Adelman said. “I don’t know the reasoning. They don’t tell you the reasoning. I don’t know the reasoning why two games. They haven’t said anything. You’ve just got to move on.”
The 23-year-old Love, who recently signed a four-year extension worth more than $60 million, has been barking at the officials most of the season.
Adelman said he saw Love get upset with no-calls on two straight possessions before the run-in with Scola “and it led to the incident.”
“You’ve got to play through,” Adelman said. “Play with emotion, but you’ve got to play through it and not let it affect what happens on the court.”
Adelman didn’t say who would start in Love’s place against the Kings, but Derrick Williams and Anthony Tolliver figure to see a lot more time. Williams, the No. 2 overall pick, has had a tough time getting settled into a role with the Wolves.
He has played just 37 minutes combined in the last four games and tweeted on Saturday “anybody ever felt like a caged lion?”
“I guess it’s just patience and hopefully I pick up (Adelman’s) trust and have the ball in my hands more often,” Williams said. “I kind of feel like it’s just a lack of confidence, not in myself, but him in me being in that position. I’ve just got to earn his trust.”
Separately, the Timberwolves sent rookie G Malcolm Lee to Sioux Falls of the NBDL for what essentially is a rehab assignment. The second-round pick has not played this year after having surgery on a torn meniscus in his left knee.