Kevin Love has given up on the Cavaliers
'He had a lapse in judgment': Kevin Love's temper tantrum costly for … Tue, 27 Apr 2021 06:00:00 -0700-Love has been limited to 96 games over the last three seasons, missing extended time with toe and calf injuries as the Cavs have annually made their bed at the …
Kevin Love has only been a part-time player for the Cleveland Cavaliers since LeBron James left for Los Angeles in the summer of 2018. Love has been limited to 96 games over the last three seasons, missing extended time with toe and calf injuries as the Cavs have annually made their bed at the bottom of the league standings.
Love has made it apparent he would welcome a trade elsewhere since James left, to put it gently. The 32-year-old would love an opportunity to help a good team in meaningful games, but his inability to stay on the floor coupled his declining play and massive contract has prevented Cleveland from finding an adequate deal. In the meantime, Love has found no solace in being a mentor to Cleveland’s young core.
The latest example came on Monday night as the Cavs traveled to take on the Toronto Raptors. With Cleveland down four late in the fourth quarter, Toronto rookie guard Malachi Flynn made a driving layup to extend the lead to six with under a minute left in the frame. Instead of properly inbounding the ball to teammate Darius Garland, Love batted at the ball in frustration and let the Raptors walk into another three-pointer.
Look at Garland’s reaction as Love gives up the free bucket in a close game. The young guard is as dumbfounded by Love’s apathy as anyone else watching the clip. The Raptors would go on to win the game.
This isn’t the first time Love has let his emotions show up his teammates on the court. He produced another viral moment last season by getting frustrated with Collin Sexton. Earlier that day, Love reportedly screamed at GM Koby Altman in front of the team.
The relationship between Love and the Cavs never had to deteriorate like this. Love should be a franchise icon forever for his role in bringing the Cavs an NBA championship and helping them to get to the NBA Finals three other times. All Love had to do was act professional and space the floor, but even that proved to be too tall of a task (as Chris Manning notes at Fear the Sword, Love’s shooting has declined this season since returning from injury.)
The young Cavs have quietly made strides this season. Sexton is nearly averaging 25 points per game, Garland has improved across the board in his second pro season, and rookie Isaac Okoro has provided quality defense in a starting role all season. Cleveland has a future and that future doesn’t revolve around Kevin Love, but that doesn’t mean Love has to be such a malcontent until a divorce finally comes.
The Cavs’ dynasty days have never felt further away. Love still has two years and $60 million left on his deal after this year, but for the sake of everyone involved, please let these be his final days in Cleveland.
Kevin Love has given up on the Cavaliers Tue, 27 Apr 2021 06:00:00 -0700-'I'm not sure, you'll have to ask Kevin,' coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of what happened on a disastrous third-quarter inbounds pass.
Five-time All-Star Kevin Love’s frustration during the Cavaliers' rebuild has boiled over before.
During the 2019-20 season, after what he described as his “childish” actions in two games that included slapping chairs during a timeout, Love vowed to try not to demonstrate his feelings publicly. That had been the case since coach J.B. Bickerstaff took over for the final 11 games that season when John Beilein stepped down.
Love’s and Bickerstaff’s ties go back to 2008-09, when Love broke into the league with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Bickerstaff was an assistant coach for three more seasons there. With the Cavs, Bickerstaff has repeatedly praised Love for his leadership and willingness to speak out about his mental health struggles, even while dealing with continuing injuries that have eroded his impact.
But Love tested that bond with a temper tantrum at the end of the third quarter Monday night against the Toronto Raptors. And the 32-year-old forward’s lapse made some question whether his attitude would seep into the psyche of the young Cavs.
Love’s careless play helped turn a four-point game with 45.2 seconds left into an 11-point deficit at the break. Love did not see action in the fourth quarter as the Cavs, missing seven players due to injury, suffered a 112-96 loss at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
The Cavs were giving the Raptors all they could handle when Dean Wade’s rebound tip cut the Raptors lead to 74-70. Raptors’ rookie guard Malachi Flynn countered with a driving layup to push the advantage to six, then Love short-circuited the Cavs’ momentum.
Love stewed beside the basket stanchion, then casually batted the ball inbounds to the Raptors’ Stanley Johnson, who fed Flynn for a 3-pointer. Cavs’ two-way guard Brodric Thomas committed another turnover and Love fouled Freddie Gillespie, who made both free throws.
The Cavs never recovered from the 7-0 Raptors’ run to end the quarter. Love did not address the media afterward, leaving his coach and teammates to speak for him.
Asked what Love was doing at the end of the quarter, Bickerstaff said, “I’m not sure, you’ll have to ask Kevin.”
Pressed on whether he talked to Love, Bickerstaff said, “Yeah, we talked about it. He apologized to his teammates for it and we’ll move on.”
The Cavs are pushing for a spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament for seeds 7-10. But their third consecutive loss left them six games out of the 10th seed with 11 games remaining. One of three stars on the Cavs’ 2016 NBA championship team, Love has been helping lead that postseason charge.
That’s why Love’s tantrum in a two-possession game seemed to carry more weight.
“That’s something that Kevin and I will talk about and have talked about,” Bickerstaff said. “He had a lapse in judgment. He’s been great for us from a leadership standpoint this whole year, even through his difficulties and the injuries he’s been battling, so we’ll leave it at that.”
Cavs guard Darius Garland was closest to the ill-fated inbounds pass, but said he didn’t see what happened.
“I was trying to get my defender off me, I didn’t see it, either,” Garland said. “It’s probably on social media, so when I get on the bus I’m probably [going to] look.”
Garland didn’t seem concerned about Love’s gaffe affecting his teammates.
“Next-play mentality. Something like that happens, we just have to get on to the next play,” Garland said. “That was just a little breakdown that he had, it was nothing serious. He got whacked on one end and he got whacked on the defensive end and they didn’t call it. He just got frustrated, that was it.”
At the 1:55 mark of the quarter, Love went down hard on his knees when fouled by the Raptors' Khem Birch and got up limping.
Love finished with 11 points, hitting 3-of-9 field goals and missing all four 3-point attempts, with seven rebounds, four assists and two turnovers in 24 minutes.
Rookie guard Isaac Okoro, who led the Cavs with a career-high 20 points, did not mention Love by name when asked what happened at the end of the third quarter.
“I feel like the energy just dropped. I feel like we just started making careless plays,” Okoro said. “And I feel like transition in this game was really what killed us. They're a good transition team.”
The Raptors had a 16-7 edge in fast-break points and scored 18 points off 14 Cavs’ turnovers.
Love missed 43 games this season with a right calf strain, continuing a litany of injuries that coupled with his expensive contract have made him untradeable. In 2018-19, he was limited to 22 games by toe surgery. In 2017-18, he fractured his left hand; in 2016-17 he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. In the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season he played in all but nine games.
Starting 17 games this season, Love has averaged 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds in 23.1 minutes, all career-lows. He has one year remaining on a four-year, $120 million contract extension he signed in July, 2018 that will pay him $28.9 million in 2021-22.
Love has been a subject of trade rumors since he arrived in an August 2014 three-team deal. To this point, the Cavs have kept Love for what he offers their growing young core in terms of experience rather than buying him out and cutting him loose. What happened Monday may not change how the Cavs feel about Love.
Before the game, Bickerstaff lauded Love for how he’d handled the up-and-down nature of the season, both for himself and the injury-ravaged team.
“Just the maturity and attitude that he’s brought to it every day, and how he’s helped his teammates even when he wasn’t on the floor,” Bickerstaff said pregame. “Obviously we have a lot of young guys, and he's one of our most experienced, achieved the highest level individually and as a team, and our young guys depend on.
“They love to have him on the floor, because he helps them on the court. And he makes their job easier while they're out there on the floor.”
Bickerstaff said Love played an important role even while he was sidelined.
“He still has vision of the game. So he's watching it, and he's talking about the coverages, he's talking about what's available, what we need, how we can execute, all those things,” Bickerstaff said. “He's obviously had frustrations of his own, don't get me wrong, but he's never let it get in the way of being a good teammate. And that stood out to me the most.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read more about the Cavs at www.beaconjournal.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.
Orlando at Cleveland
Time: 7 p.m. Wednesday
TV: Bally Sports Ohio
– April 27, 2021