He withdrew before the Tokyo Olympics saying he hadn’t yet recovered enough from the calf injury that sidelined him much of last season.
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo, via Joe Vardon of The Athletic:
“I didn’t think Kevin Love was gonna play. I wasn’t even sure he had much left to play. He reached out to us and said he was in shape and said he felt he owed us. And on the basis of that, we’re looking at someone with international experience who at one time was a heck of a rebounder and could still shoot the ball. You know, being like a 12th man on a roster. Well, it didn’t work out. He wasn’t in shape. And he was way behind as it turned out. So you move on. Call it a mistake. Call it giving someone an opportunity. Someone who had equity with us. Guys who play for us get a little plus.”
This falls on Colangelo. He didn’t have to let Love talk his way onto the team.
It’s reasonable to slightly reward prior participants. Love played for the U.S. in the 2010 World Championship and 2012 Olympics. But even if he were fully healthy, injury and aging have sapped athleticism from the 32-year-old. He was clearly well below Olympic level at this point.
It’s less reasonable to say Love was merely a 12th man. The United States has less margin for error than ever before. Every roster spot matters. Selecting Love was unfair to the more-deserving players who wanted to go to Tokyo. It was unfair to the other members of Team USA who are sacrificing to play and deserve the best opportunity to win gold.