by Yaron Weitzman / @YaronWeitzman

Whatever Kevin Love‘s summer routine has been, it’s worked; every year the 6-10 forward comes back with a new set of skills. First there was the rebounding, then it was three-point shot, and finally, last year, Love turned into an all-around offensive beast.

This summer, Love is back in the gym, but he’s also found the time to become a member of Team Ghost, a group of gaming enthusiasts brought together by Complexto promote Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier, the newest chapter in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon video game series.

SLAMonline spoke to the Timberwolves star about his role on Team Ghost, the NBA Playoffs and more.

SLAM: Are you a guy who keeps up with the NBA after your season ends, or do you tune everything out?

Kevin Love: I’ve been watching a little bit. A little bit of Oklahoma City, a little bit of the Pacers… I try to keep up with my UCLA guys and good friends of mine. But for me, mostly I try to decompress as much as possible and not watch basketball. What I always say is if there is a way for all the teams to lose, that would be best for me.

SLAM:In the little bit of Playoff basketball you have watched, has anything stuck out to you?

KL: Yeah. As everyone can see, the Lakers need to make moves. I think Oklahoma City is going to make a strong push. But more than anything, the Spurs just look like they are playing exceptionally good basketball. I love how their whole team is really stepping up and what (Gregg) Popovich is doing with them. The Western Conference Finals are going to be very interesting.

SLAM: Have you watched the Heat play at all? I’m always curious to hear how the rest of the NBA views Miami.

KL: I think they’re a very talented team. You look at their Big Three, so to speak… but with [Chris] Bosh out, they’re really going to struggle and have trouble moving forward in the Eastern Conference Finals against a team like a Boston that has bigs, or guys that can get to the lane. Against teams like that, it’s going to be very tough for them to have success and to win eight games from here on out. So it’s going to be very tough for them, but, I’d take the Heat to play with any team in the League because of those three players.

SLAM: What about all the end-of-game stuff with Miami, and more specifically, LeBron? Is that something that other NBA players notice and discuss? Or is that just a media thing?

KL: I think some people notice, but I think the media has a way of making a story out of certain situations. But as players, you try to not look at that stuff and not pay too much mind to it. So I think yes in some ways, no in some ways, but for a guy like me, I try not to pay attention to that stuff too much.

SLAM: What player in the NBA impresses you? Someone who stands out to you?

KL: Guys who impress me? I think just being around a guy, and I’ve said it all year—and you put us on the cover together (SLAM 157—Ed.)—but I think [Ricky] Rubio was a just great guy to be around. He’s a guy—and I hope he has a good, speedy recovery—but he’s a guy that I get excited about because I knew he’s going to be my point guard for many years to come. He’s just a refreshing kid to be around and somebody who loves the game. You rarely come across somebody who has that much hype and hoopla around him, that truly has his head on his shoulders and he was obviously brought up the right way. I’m happy to be around a guy like that in Minnesota.

SLAM: You’re a guy who knows and embraces NBA history and loves to pique the brains of former players. Who’s a guy, a former player, who has impressed you with how he’s interacted and spoken with you?

KL: I ran into Shaq at All-Star weekend—I was actually leaving to go back to L.A., which is where we played the second of our back-to-back-to-backs—and he caught me right before I jumped into the airport. And you know, he was kind of calling me out all year, saying big guys should just play in the paint and all sorts of stuff. So he came up to me and said, “Listen the only reason I talk about stuff like that is because I want you to be great.” Whether that was true or not, that was cool of him to say that because he was always a player that I looked up to during my youth when he was on the Magic with Penny.

SLAM: You grew up around the NBA (Love’s father, Stan, played four years in the NBA and one in the ABA—Ed.) and know a lot about NBA history, and I’m assuming you know more than your average NBA player. Has there ever been a time where you’ll be in the locker room, or the arena, and some former player came around, and your teammates had no idea who he was?

KL: For sure. Even in the gym today, my trainer was asking who certain players were in the different pictures or memorabilia around the gym, and I was trying to point them out. I think in a lot of instances, I know a lot more than the average basketball fan just because of how I was brought up. So yeah, certain things like that will happen throughout the year, or when different former players will come out, a guy who just doesn’t know anything will ask, “Who’s that?”

SLAM: Any chance you can give me a name or an example?

KL: Well, I’m a victim of that as well. There are players that when I came into the League my rookie year—and I pride myself on being a basketball connoisseur and a basketball fan—but there were guys in the League coming in and putting up 30, 35 points on us, and I’d be like, “Who the hell was that?” And one of my teammates would say, “You don’t know who that is?” And I’d say, “Well, now I do.” It’s just one of those things and moments that when you get into the NBA, you kind of think you know everything, and very quickly you find out you don’t.

SLAM: So for you, who was that guy?

KL: For me, it was a guy like John Salmons when he was on the Kings. That was kind of the first time that happened. We went to Sacramento, and he put like 30 or 35 on us and I was saying, “Who is this guy?” He turned out to be a pretty good player.

SLAM: You’ve reached a level as an NBA player that I don’t think many people, if any, thought you could get to. And you’ve done so by making major improvements every year. What—hard work, which I’m sure is a reason you’d give—have been the keys to this?

KL: I think certain players, when they reach the level that I’m at, they have a certain confidence and a swagger to them. It’s not condescending or arrogance or cockiness—although you have to have some of that stuff to be successful—but it’s really just self assurance more than anything else. It’s knowing and feeling like you belong and walking the walk and knowing that you can play at this level. I think more than anything else, that past couple of years has been about opportunity, and then, like you mentioned, working hard, and also just walking and walking and living this life and playing the game that I love as hard as I can.

SLAM: Tell me about this game, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier, and your role as a long-range sniper for Ubisoft’s Team Ghost.

KL: I’ve always been a fan of the one-man shooting game, so this was a great opportunity for me. And you know, for me, I’m the type of guy who, whatever the one-man shooting game is, I always like to bring out the sniper and shoot guys from long range. I guess, in some ways, it’s somewhat similar to what I do on the court, and the game’s great because you can get out there with three of your buddies and get on the same team and go into battle. So, in some ways, it’s very similar to being out there and playing basketball.

SLAM: Do you and your teammates play a lot of video games?

KL: Yes. Definitely. We’re very competitive, and it’s always fun to keep the competitive spirit going, whether we are on the court, in the locker room or in the weight room, and we do it with video games as well. And Ghost Recon is definitely one of the games we play. And FIFA… a lot of sports games as well.

SLAM: How long does a typical video game tournament go?

KL: [Laughs]Hey, it will go as many hours as it takes for the beef to be settled. It’s always fun to have that kind of competitive back-and-forth between teammates, and that will go on for days, weeks or even months. I mean I remember with JJ Barea and Derrick Williams with FIFA, they were going at it for the entire season and counting their wins and losses. It’s just fun to get in the trenches with different players.