Last season was a nightmare for Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Love broke his shooting hand before the season even started, and after coming back quicker than expected, proceeded to break it again in January.
Meanwhile, Ricky Rubio missed part of the season recovering from an ACL injury and spent the rest of the year trying to regain his form. Nikola Pekovic missed 20 games. Chase Budinger played in only 23 games. Numerous other players dealt with injuries as well, and the Wolves to stumbled to a 31-51 record.
In addition to all the injury problems, there were also the rumblings of Love's unhappiness with the front office, which fueled countless trade rumors. The ouster of president David Kahn cooled those talks a bit, but didn't stop them altogether.
Minnesota suffered from some déjà vu before this new season even started, with Budinger undergoing another surgery on his balky knee. It wasn't a good omen for the Wolves, who entered the year with playoffs on the mind.
Luckily, the Budinger injury is about the only major negative on the young season. Minnesota has bolted out to a 3-0 start for just the second time in franchise history, and much of it is due to Love's return to dominance.
Before last season's debacle, Love established himself as arguably the best power forward in the game, averaging 26.0 points and 13.3 rebounds in 2011-12. Through three games, Love looks like that guy again, and possibly even better.
Love is averaging 29.7 points, 14.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists, while shooting 50.0 percent overall and 38.1 percent from long range. The big man is also doing a ton of damage from the free throw line, attempting 13.0 per game.
The presence of Love on the floor has made a huge difference for Minnesota. When Love has been on the court, the Wolves have been a offensive juggernaut, sporting a 117.5 offensive rating per NBA.com's stats page. In the 39 minutes Love has been on the bench, that offensive rating is a woeful 64.1.
On Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, Love delivered a monster performance on the big stage. Love had 34 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a 109-100 victory over the New York Knicks, and after a clutch fourth-quarter bucket, he even got some love (pun intended) from Spike Lee:
It's obviously too early to make rash judgments about Minnesota. They certainly look like a playoff team right now, especially if Love keeps playing like an MVP candidate and Kevin Martin has more nights where he's scoring 30 points on 12 shots. There are sure to be some defensive issues, but a healthy core four of Love, Martin, Rubio and Pekovic should produce a ton of points.
At the very least, it's nice to see Love enjoy this resurgence after the difficult 2012-13 campaign. He and the Wolves will look to go 4-0 when they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday night.