After knuckle push-ups leading to a broken hand cast a dark cloud over Kevin Love's season in 2012-13, his third consecutive All-Star invitation blew out the window. After 18 frustrating games sandwiched between a twice-broken hand and a knee surgery that ended his year, the Minnesota Timberwolves forward came back with a vengeance this season.
There's no need to look any further than the numbers to back his appearance in the 2014 All-Star Game.
While some NBA players earn their invites by playing key roles on winning teams, others find their way into the pool with their reputations.
Love has earned his invite by producing on a ridiculous scale statistically.
He's a top-five scorer behind Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, and he's the league's second-best rebounder, only averaging fewer boards per game than the Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan. Seven times, Love has produced at least 30 points and 15 rebounds in a game. After Durant and James, Love is third with a PER sniffing 30 and he's also third in win shares. Basketball-Reference calculates that Love has contributed 10.1 win shares in the 50 games he has played this season.
Where would the Timberwolves be without their star power forward?
Minnesota fans wouldn't want to go down that road. For what's gone wrong for the Timberwolves -- Ricky Rubio's regression, a lack of three-point shooters and another round of injury issues -- Love has done his part in pulling a lot of weight for a team still figuring out how to play to coach Rick Adelman's liking.
Love's talent has been a big part of why so many projected Minnesota to be more involved in the playoff hunt than it currently finds itself. Scoring-wise, the power forward can do a lot of things in many different ways. In his 50 games, Synergy Sports ranks him 32nd by averaging 1.05 points per play. He takes a lot of attempts, 18.3 per game to be exact, but over a third are three-pointers, which he hits 37.0 percent of the time. Love gets to the foul stripe 8.3 times per game and hits a fine 82.2 percent of his free throws.
While none of that ranks as overly impressive on a league-wide scale, Love is having one of his most efficient scoring seasons. His True Shooting percentage of 58.8 is the second-highest of the forward's career, only to his first All-Star appearance in 2011.
And at that, the scoring undersells Love's impact on the offensive end.
He averages 4.0 assists per game, and behind the Grizzlies' Marc Gasol, is with Blake Griffin as one of the most prolific, and best, high-post initiators in the NBA. His presence has allowed T-Wolves offseason signee Kevin Martin to thrive, at least until the 19-point-per-game scorer was sidelined with a thumb injury before the All-Star break. Had Minnesota found a few more shooters, maybe there would be even more success in Love's passing game.
Love's rebounding abilities have allowed him to score a large chunk of his points off offensive rebounds, and of course, the rebounding on defensive possessions leads to perhaps Love's most well-known skill -- throwing the outlet pass for one of the league's fastest teams in terms of pace.
Minnesota ranks as a top-10 team in offense and defense per Basketball-Reference, and where Love probably impresses the least comes on the defensive end. Generally, the Timberwolves' statistics hold up across the board until it's understood that they aren't a great jump-shooting team, nor one great at defending at the individual level. Consider that Love and center Nikola Pekovic can clog the lane at the ground level but not quite above it, and there's another issue for the team's below .500 mark.
Is much of that Love's fault? Like anyone, Love can improve. But Love is what he is at this point, and that's a darn good player to build a team around.
The Timberwolves haven't put the right pieces together for a combination of reasons, but Love has continued his ascent as one of the great power forwards in the game, even though LaMarcus Aldridge's team has drummed up more wins, Dirk Nowitzki continues to succeed at his rate and Blake Griffin has taken major steps forward.
Even though the T-Wolves' win total might be a knock on Love, the individual numbers don't lie.