Kevin Love talks about his development

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It’s not a great time to be a Minnesota Timberwolves fan. The team went 15-67 last season. #6 overall pick Jonny Flynn didn’t look like he deserved to be picked ahead of Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, or Darren Collison. Al Jefferson is a member of the Jazz, and the Timberwolves didn’t get much back for him. Ricky Rubio is still in Spain. The role of “Manna from Heaven” is currently being played by Darko Milicic. David Kahn may or may not be a worse executive than an avocado
One of the few pieces of Timberwolves-related good news last season was the emergence of sophomore power forward Kevin Love. Love averaged a double-double, made huge strides on the offensive end, and has established himself as one of the best rebounders in the NBA. 
Sports Illustrated’s Paul Forrester sat down with Love, who had some interesting things to say about the Timberwolves’ plan for improvement (he’s not exactly sure what it is), how Al Jefferson’s departure is both disappointing and an opportunity for him to step up, and how he plans to improve next season:
SI.com: Speaking of your development, what have you been working on this summer?
Love: Coach Rambis and I talked about trying to get more consistent from distance, especially on three-point shots. He wants me to be able to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the three-point line and 85 percent from the free-throw line. That’s a realistic goal after last year. And on the defensive end, he wants me to take a lot more charges and be a lot more team-defense-oriented.
SI.com: Offense can improve with shooting drills. How do you improve defensively, especially in a team-oriented way?
Love: It’s all a mind-set. You also can play three-on-three, two-on-two, one-on-one — those type of situations always make you better. And being with Team USA has really helped me on the defensive end as well.

Love also had some interesting thoughts the upcoming CBA negociations:

SI.com: You may not have much time if the players’ association and the league don’t agree on a new CBA. What is the outlook on that as you understand it now?
Love: I’ve heard that the owners are going to try to negotiate the contracts down of the guys who signed this year, which I don’t see happening. But they’ll probably try to get into fewer years with contracts, and obviously the cap will go down a little bit. But I don’t think it will be as dramatic as people think. At least, I hope not. The owners want to make their money, the players want to make their money, but in the end, this is a players’ game, and we bring the fans out.
The [players’ union] has been trying to tell us to save our money. Every e-mail ends with a reminder that “If you haven’t started saving your money, start saving now.” People are being smart, and if they’re not smart, they’re going to find out real quick. If [a work stoppage] comes, whether it’s half a year or a year, hopefully it won’t be too tough on any of us, especially the players.
I encourage you to click through and read the rest of the interview, because there’s a lot of good stuff in there. Hopefully Kevin Love can continue improving next year, because his team is counting on him in a major way. 

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: