When Kevin Love walked out the Cavaliers’ locker room on Friday night, it had the eerie feeling of being his final time leaving those confines. He addressed the media before showering, walking right over to the white board for what amounted to a little over a minute. After his shower, he hung back by his locker a bit, shaking the hands of those of us who covered him throughout the season—each party providing a mutual ‘thank you’ for the fairness and gratitude—before heading out for the night.
Love was clearly disappointed. His team didn’t just lose the NBA Finals; they lost at home in a lay-down fashion, and his opponents could be heard audibly celebrating down the hall.
“In the fashion that it happened, getting swept, losing on your home court, going home for the summer isn’t something that’s ideal,” Love said. “It will take a little while to get over that.”
That “while”, however, is one we’ll only get to watch from afar. During the four-year stretch when the Cleveland Cavaliers were hugging the bottom of the NBA standings, there were exit interviews. Without a playoff run, the team would have media members hang out at Cleveland Clinic Courts where a parade of players was brought out one by one for their parting words before the summer. The day Byron Scott was relieved of his duties, Kyrie Irving stood and referred to his former head coach as his “basketball father.” Luke Walton, clad in a CLE shirt, stated his desire to return to the Cavs beyond his free agency. [Narrator: “He would not return to the Cavs.”]
With the playoffs, and with this team, there are no exit interviews. Following Game 4’s loss to Golden State—well past midnight on Friday night—would serve to be the last time media members would get to speak with Ty Lue and his team before what will undoubtedly be yet another season rife with turnover.
While the focus will be on LeBron James and his list of potential suitors, James’ presence merely serves as the first domino in what will be a litany of moves. Love has joked for years now how his name continues to creep into the headlines. Fans and talking heads alike tried to move Love during the 2015 trade deadline in advance of his leaving in free agency, only to have the player re-sign a maximum contract to stay and compete. These same folks have grouped Love’s name in deals since then, more often than not returning a host of pieces that by no means would make the Cavaliers better than the 20-and-10, five-time All-Star would.
This summer, however, it’s not just the yappers and tweeters—Love potentially being moved is very, very real. He’s coming off a season that has been his best since joining Cleveland, producing his highest true shooting percentage (61.4) as well as his highest PER (22.4). In the Finals, Love was undoubtedly the Cavaliers’ most consistent option not named LeBron, averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds per night.
There were rumors last offseason that Love could be moved for Paul George, but a deal was never agreed upon. This season, George is still in the mix if he picks up his player option, but a host of other names—Portland’s CJ McCollum, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker—have entered into the equation as Koby Altman decides what he will do to set the stage in order to sell James on returning to Cleveland for at least one more year.
“Anything is possible,” said Love when asked about a potential deal. “People have been saying that for the past four years. I knew that question would come. But I like to be here. I’ve always said that. Always wanted to win here.”
Fans may be quickly willing to part ways with their number-producing robots, but in Love you have a player who saw his shoulder ripped out of its socket in an attempt to win a title, only to spend an entire offseason rehabilitating in Utah in order to achieve what was thought to be the impossible. Love has been the team’s whipping boy for all too long but played a role in one of the biggest defensive sequences in the history of the franchise. He went from fan-and-media trading block to sitting on the backseat of a convertible, rolling down East 9th Street with a personalized WWE title belt on his shoulder as 1.3 million fans1 celebrated along his side.
While a trade has always been a possibility, this summer may prove it to be more probability. There is no denying his stint in Cleveland wasn’t easy. The injuries. The drama. The fitting out. The rumors. But there’s also no denying that wherever Kevin Love ends up next season, he’ll arrive as a champion.
Have a terrific Wednesday, you guys.