MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kevin Love walked to halfcourt toward a group of kids from St. Jude's Children's hospital, determined to bring a few smiles to some little faces that were in need of a boost.
Truthfully, the Minnesota Timberwolves power forward needed a pick-me-up as well. And that's just what he got when Avery Evans, a 4-year-old being treated for pediatric cancer, walked up to meet him.
"I reached my hand out for a high-five and she hugged my leg," Love said Sunday. "So I reached down and gave her a big hug. She turned and put her cheek against my shoulder and smiled at the camera."
Love melted a little bit, as a season of frustrating starts and stops was momentarily forgotten. Love received the Kia Community Assist award Sunday for organizing a winter coat drive that brought thousands of coats to those in need in the Twin Cities. He also met with the kids as part of the NBA Cares initiative that is teaming up with St. Jude's and the V Foundation to fight pediatric cancer. Pau and Marc Gasol, David Lee, George Karl and Lionel Hollins are among the other NBA representatives participating.
"It's an awesome opportunity," said Tony Giuliani, whose 7-year-old son, Drew, was among the children who met Love before the game against Golden State. "A lot of people don't get to see this kind of stuff. Unfortunately, we're here for bad reasons. But for us, things have gone the right way and it's great of the Timberwolves organization and Kevin Love to spend time with patients that really have a hard thing in life to deal with. It's really a benefit for us to do something like that."
Love has been active in the community since he arrived in Minnesota in 2008, making the coat drive his signature event but also spending time with families of sick children. It has always brought him a little extra perspective and made him feel good, but this year he needed it a little more than usual. He has broken his shooting hand twice, limiting him to 18 games in the first season of a new four-year contract. He also drew the ire of fans early in the season when he publicly complained about his deal and openly wondered about the direction of the franchise.