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T-Wolves fans could learn to like Love

It was easy to envision Internet message boards devoted to the Minnesota Timberwolves exploding with anger as Kevin Love missed shot after shot and committed foul after foul early in his NBA Summer League debut Monday.

Yes, the 19-year-old rookie forward from UCLA struggled mightily in his first 15 minutes as a professional player.

Minnesota general manager Kevin McHale must have been getting roasted online. It was he who engineered a draft-day trade with Memphis to swap O.J. Mayo, the No. 3 overall pick and apparent fan favorite, for Love, the No. 5 pick, as part of an eight-player deal.

But the 6-foot-10-inch Love appears to be a quick study. He found his groove in the second half and finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds in the Timberwolves’ 88-74 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at Cox Pavilion.

The Twin Cities can exhale. Their savior isn’t a stiff.

"I’m not used to losing," Love said. "I had first-game jitters. I was kind of shaking out there. It hasn’t necessarily set in that I’m an NBA player.

"I had like four fouls in the first two minutes. But I adjusted, started moving my feet on defense, getting out to the pick-and-roll earlier and sealing the baseline, and started being more aggressive and looking for my shot. It’s a learning curve and I just have to adjust."

Love has been with the team for four days. Jerry Sichting, coach of Minnesota’s summer entry, said this is a big week in the rookie’s development.

"He’s going to learn a lot of stuff this week," he said. "He’ll learn the refs and adjust to the pace of the game. But he’s got a lot of talent and he’s going to be better with better players around him."

Love said he could quickly tell he wasn’t in college anymore as he tried to keep pace with the playground pace of the summer league.

"It’s a lot faster, a lot more up-and-down," he said. "I’ve got to get in better shape."

While Love adjusted and played better as the game went on, his six personal fouls and five turnovers can’t be ignored. But it was understandable, given that he had practiced with his new teammates only a couple of times.

Come October, Love will get to work with Mike Miller, Al Jefferson and Randy Foye. He’s looking forward to that.

"When I was traded (to Minnesota) and I saw I would be playing with Al and Mike Miller, I got excited," Love said. "I’m going to learn a lot from playing with those guys. I’m still only 19 years old. I’m still learning a lot. I’m just trying to get this thing going a little bit here in the summer league."

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