Ed. note: The following is an excerpt from the book NET WORK by NBA skills trainer Rob McClanaghan.
My professional relationship with Kevin Love began in the summer of 2007. Kevin had just gotten to UCLA in advance of his freshman year. Scott Garson, then an assistant at UCLA and a buddy of mine, recommended me as a way for him to get some work done away from campus. Kevin was so intense about what he was doing that sometimes it helped to get away. On Scott’s recommendation, Kevin came to meet me at Saint Monica Catholic High School for an introductory session.
It was not a great first session. Kevin came to Saint Monica’s way too nervous. He also weighed too much, which was even more of a problem because of his high-intensity approach to training.
He missed a ton of shots. When it was over, he seemed so worn out and discouraged that I worried I’d pushed him too hard. But he came right back the next day looking for more. That’s when I knew we had something.
Once that first workout was behind us, I got a feel for Kevin’s skill set. The guy could really shoot. When his freshman season started, however, he wouldn’t attempt many outside shots. That first year at UCLA, it was unlikely he’d be good enough to make outside shooting a staple of his game, but from the start I believed it could happen down the road if he put in the work. Kevin helped UCLA to reach the 2008 Final Four, where it lost in the semifinal to Memphis. Then he got picked fifth in the draft by the Timberwolves. He went to Minnesota with great expectations, and he had his struggles early on, as most rookies do. All his life, he’d been the best player on his team. Now he was playing with other great players, and he was learning that he needed to expand his repertoire of skills.
When Kevin got to Minnesota, the coaches encouraged him to try to score more away from the basket. He averaged 11.1 points as a rookie but made just two three-pointers all season. We started working together full-time the following summer. That’s when our group with Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose became a regular thing. Kevin was forced to do a lot of perimeter work, and he really had to keep up with the other guys’ intensity. It didn’t matter how good the three were. They always wanted to add something to their ability.
All that net work eventually paid dividends. Kevin attempted 106 three-pointers in his second season (up from 19 as a rookie) and made 33 percent. The following year he shot 41.7 percent from the arc on 211 attempts—and made the first of his five All-Star Game appearances.
And the following year, Kevin accomplished the ultimate by winning the three-point contest at the NBA’s All-Star weekend in Orlando. He framed the jersey he was wearing that night and sent it to me as a gift. It remains one of my truly prized possessions.
A great deal of Kevin’s improvement came as a result of changes he made in the way he ate. He’s now the most disciplined guy I’ve ever seen when it comes to food. In 2014, he invited me to join him and a few friends on a trip to watch a Cowboys-49ers game. It was a party to celebrate his twenty-sixth birthday. He got us a private jet. When I walked into the cabin, I saw his buddies from home chowing down fried chicken and pizza. Kevin got on board and he was carrying a cooler. I thought maybe he’d brought us some beers, but when he opened it, he pulled out a kale salad with tomatoes. I’m thinking, Man, it’s his birthday, if there’s one day he could just cut loose and eat whatever he wants, this is it. I can’t say he stuck to the program throughout the entire day and night, but at least he had the discipline to start it off right. “Marginal gains,” he calls it.