When Kevin Love opted out of his contract two-and-a-half years ago, he wasn’t expecting this. Win one title. Lose one title. And then take the brunt of everyone’s anger. Be the one who is blamed for just about everything instead of the Cavs not piling it all on the white guy and taking accountability.
Another loss. Another opportunity for the inmates in the asylym to go rogue on one another.
But back to the summer of 2015. No one suggested that Love turn down an excess of $100 million dollars because he wanted to appear noble or make a point about loyalty. He was a NBA player, an All-Star. He was going to get everything that comes with that but he had to know that he would be the fall guy in a LeBron James universe. Back then, with Kyrie on the team, Love had a cover. That cover is gone.
Love accepted the exchange. He would stay in Cleveland in a marginalized role. It may lead to mulitple championships or it may lead to nothing at all. Love has extracted one title out of it and for the most part there has been a fragile truce. #BasketballReasons worked. Until it exploded with the Cavs locker room non-love fest in which everybody was thrown under the bus, not just Love. The vitriol was dynamic and absolute because these days the Cavs are failing at their basketball life. Scoring. Defending. Energy. Ball movement. Compassion. All of it is an F.
For Kevin Love, returning to Cleveland had the possibility of being a no-win situation on both ends. Being transformed into Trevor Ariza would solve an issue in the short term for Kevin Love but over the long haul, how exactly would Love handle his role as company man? In Cleveland, he’s been Bosh-ed. Until Kyrie left. Then Love was asked to play center which is not what he can do. Appropriately, the Cavs are being humiliated at the rim.
If Love wanted to be bold- and there was no suggestion in his past behavior that he thinks outside the box- he would have signed a three year deal with the Cavs. Three years was enough time to give the Cleveland experiment a chance to reach its full potential. He would only be 29 years old. He would be a free agent in July of 2018.
Financial selflessness is rare in NBA players and in front office men too. Nevertheless, Kevin Love earned his payday the hard way, while gritting his teeth. He had to suffer through David Blatt’s benchings of him. The in over his head (oppressed by Lebron James) first year coach’s usage of Love as a three point shooter ruined what Love does best. Love is a double-double player. His second NBA year, his third NBA year, his fourth NBA year, his fifth NBA year, his sixth NBA year, Love dropped, at the bare minimum, 14 points and 11 rebounds. Only his rookie year and his 2014-15 free agent year did he not have double digit rebounding numbers. Lay the atrocity of that year at the feet of David Blatt.
Twice in his career, Love had a 26 point season. This year he is back to the Kevin Love you know, both on offense and defense. Superlative in one, miserable in the other. He hasn’t shot this well, 45.9%, since his third year of 47%. His 3-ball is fire, 40.1%. He is making the most two-point shots of his career. Even his free throws are a career high. His offensive rating is rare air, 120. But his defense is Kevin Love like. Yet his defensive rating isn’t that much worse than LeBron. Meaning, if you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones.
Since the acid throwing, he ain’t my brother locker room fit, the convenient thing to say is trade Kevin Love. But here is where Cavs have put themselves behind the eight ball.
Love is owed $24 million next year. At the end of the year, in the summer of 2019, he can walk. But to trade him you need an All-Star in return. You need size. DeAndre Jordan is a nice exchange since Jordan has an expiring deal and you can pencil him for 13 rebounds but the Clippers don’t need another power forward to overpay.
What Love didn’t know in the summer of 2015 and what he understands now, is the sacrifice and compromise of playing the third wheel character in a prize winning play. But take the second best player away and there can be trauma.
In Cleveland, there were two stars, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The rest of the roster revolved around them. With Kyrie gone, the vacancy is psychological. Everyone has to be new people. Kevin Love stepped up his game but he does not have the capacity to fill a Kyrie hole and he can’t be the center on a championship team.
He can though take all the blame and prevent the rest of the Cavs from looking in the mirror.