INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Kevin Love can already hear the reception he expects Minnesota fans will welcome him with Saturday when he returns to Target Center to play the Timberwolves for the first time since being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer.
"Truthfully? 'Booooooooo!' That [will be] probably more of that and then a mix of cheers," Love said after Cavs shootaround Friday in preparation for their game against the Sacramento Kings. "It's tough. I think of going back to Portland that first time when I did not choose to go to University of Oregon and went to UCLA, it was very mixed, more boos than cheers. Over the years, it slowly became more cheers than boos. But we'll see. [Saturday] will be one of those times where they can tell me how they really feel."
Love, who went to high school in Oregon, downplayed the game played in Eugene, Oregon, with the years softening the memories from his freshman year of the death threats that were left on his voicemail or the homophobic chants directed at him by Oregon's student section, which the Ducks' athletic director later apologized for.
Despite the charged atmosphere, Love came up with 26 points and 18 rebounds in an 80-75 win for UCLA that day back in January 2008.
Love could sure use a game like that right now. Even though the Cavs have won eight games in a row, Love has been in a slump in his last seven games, averaging 13.9 points on just 30.9 percent shooting. It's been even worse in his last two games, when he has averaged 8.5 points while shooting a combined 6-for-26 from the field (23.1 percent).
With those struggles, he'll return to the place he played his first six seasons in the league.
"I'm sure once I get there, it will be a little different feeling for me," Love said. "Obviously playing on the visitor's side, going into the visitor's locker room, going to the different bench. But I haven't really given it too much thought, and luckily we're on a winning streak right now, so that's really what's first and foremost and most important is getting that win [against Sacramento]. But, yeah, once the game is over tonight and we get there [Saturday], it will be a little different, not staying at my apartment in Minneapolis, we'll be staying at a different hotel."
The Wolves already jumped all over the event, releasing a promotional video dubbed "#TheReturn" that mockingly anticipates fellow Cavs player Mike Miller being back in the Twin Cities. While Love was a three-time All-Star for the Wolves, Miller played just one season in Minnesota, averaging 9.9 points in 2008-09 for a Wolves team that went 24-58.
"That's hilarious," Love said, taking the high road when asked about the video. "I thought it was really funny because Mike is one of those guys that every day wakes up and it's like sunshine and blue skies, so for them to do that, it was pretty good."
Love credited the Timberwolves' public relations staff for coming up with the bit.
"More often than not, I have a pretty dry sense of humor," Love said. "So, it was pretty funny. I saw it, I was waiting for it, waiting for it: 'The Return of Mike Miller.' That was pretty good."
Love admitted he is feeling the wear and tear of the season, but he said he will be ready to play against the Kings despite suffering a "dead leg" in the Cavs' 99-94 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday after colliding with Chris Kaman.
Love directed the same type of snarky humor used by the Wolves' PR staff at Kaman when asked about the injury Friday.
"He's a hack," Love said with a smile. "He's thrown in there at this point in his career to draw fouls and hit people. He just got me, kneed right in the thigh. So, that didn't feel too great."
Love also said he understood being left off the All-Star team -- he didn't expect the Cavs as the No. 5 seed in the East to receive three spots with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving making it already -- and even advocated for the No. 1-seeded Atlanta Hawks to have a fourth player make the game over him should Miami's Dwyane Wade (hamstring) require an injury replacement.
"I'll tell you what, Kyle Korver, he's playing exceptional right now. He's doing something that's unprecedented -- he's 50-50-90," Love said, referencing Korver's shooting percentages from the field, 3-point line and free throw line. "So, I think the Hawks are an unbelievable team and going for 18 straight [wins] tonight, so I think that Kyle is one of those guys that they'll probably look at and say he's having an All-Star type year."