Kevin Love looked like a guy who needed to call it quits. The fifth overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft has had a terrific career, winning a championship with LeBron James and earning five All-Star selections. But he was barely lasting an hour without getting injured and wasn’t playing all that great when he was on the floor for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, Love, who accepted a new bench role this past season, proved everyone wrong in 2021-22. He had a tremendous year and helped a young Cavs team finish with a winning record. Injuries led to Cleveland falling into the NBA Play-In Tournament and subsequently missing the playoffs, but it was still a great season.
Love recently reflected on his resurgent campaign in an Instagram post. And the big man sent out a stern message to all his haters in the process.
Kevin Love reflected on his 2021-22 season
After helping the Cavs contend for championships in four straight seasons with LeBron James between 2015 and 2018, Love was barely on the court during the team’s brutal rebuild.
From 2018-19 through 2020-21, the UCLA product missed 116 of 219 possible games due to injury. In that latter season, he averaged just 12.2 points on 40.9% shooting.
However, Love finished second for the NBA’s 2021-22 Sixth Man of the Year Award. He played in 74 games (only missing time due to COVID-19 protocol) and averaged 13.6 points on 43.0% shooting. He also made 39.2% of his three-pointers, the third-highest mark of his career.
After winning no more than 22 games each of the last three seasons, the Cavs went 44-38 this year behind Love and the play of young stars Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley.
So, following his second-place finish in the Sixth Man of the Year race, Love took to Instagram to discuss his season.
“After the most frustrating injury of my career in the 20-21 season and an exit from USA Basketball in the summer due to not feeling fully healed and in shape – many people said I was done. … I never let that commentary shake my belief system. I reevaluated a lot of relationships but took the time to assess the guy in the mirror first. I worked my ass off to come into the season healthy with the goal of being available and the mindset of helping lead a young team in taking the next step. Be the vet I never had early in my career. Help build a winning culture that permeates no matter the lineup. To the [dogs] – you know old man loves you!!!”Kevin Love on Instagram
Love then wrote about how he had to make a sacrifice by agreeing to come off the bench. But he just wanted to “have positive impact.”
He then went on to discuss his statistics.
“Numbers don’t lie, so I’m gonna just list a few here,” he wrote. “For bench players I led the league in double doubles. Broke a franchise record for 3pt FG’s off the bench. Led the team with 187 3pt FG’s. Tied as the league leader in charges taken. As for my goal of being available – I led the team in games played, and outside of games missed due to covid – played in every game.”
The Cavs star sent out a message to all his haters
After looking at all his individual success, Kevin Love took a moment to say something to those people who thought he was done.
“This post might be too much vanity for some because I was ‘only’ the runner-up for 6th Man of the Year but it meant something to me to earn my respect back in a league and game that I’ve dedicated my life to,” he posted. “… Never be defined by what other people say you are. Almost all of the time people don’t see the view or perspective from the floor of the arena. A lot of seats in the arena are filled with those who have never ventured out onto the floor – they throw shade at a safe distance. So keep showing up. Remain hungry. And f*** what THEY think.”
Perhaps the post was somewhat out of character for Love, but the passion is exactly what the Cavs need if they want to make the playoffs next season.
Cleveland showed tremendous growth in 2021-22. With Collin Sexton (and potentially Ricky Rubio) returning from injury next season and joining a roster with Garland, Allen, Mobley, Love, and Caris LeVert, the Cavaliers have a great chance to make some noise. Oh, and don’t forget about their lottery pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. They could end up with a top selection and have yet another young weapon on their roster for 2022-23 and beyond.
The Cavaliers have a bright future, and Kevin Love’s leadership has helped put them in this terrific position.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference