Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love has a reputation as one of the most mild-mannered teammates in the NBA. Way back when the Cavs traded to get him from the Minnesota Timberwolves, he willingly sacrificing his individual numbers in order to build a championship contender with LeBron James. And despite all the drama those Cavs teams experienced, Love always remained stable presence.
Faced with this year’s struggling Cavs squad, however, Love’s calm demeanor finally seems to be giving way. Things culminated recently with an ugly on-court tantrum from Love. Here we’ll take a closer look at that incident, the reactions from both Love and his coach John Beilein, and what the Cavs should do moving forward.
Kevin Love’s on-court proof that he has given up on the Cavs
With the Cavs in full-on rebuild mode, analysts around the league have speculated all season about a possible Kevin Love trade. Sources have also confirmed that Love himself would welcome a change of scenery. Yet only recently did we get a peek at how tense things are in Cleveland right now.
The incident in question took place just before halftime in a recent home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Cav’s point guard Collin Sexton controlled the ball out near half-court. Meanwhile Love, in the paint, had switched onto the relatively tiny Chris Paul. Recognizing his clear advantage, Love raised his arms, calling for the ball.
Sexton, however, just kept on dribbling in place. At which point Love clearly lost his temper, stomping out to the three-point line, where Sexton finally passed him the ball. Love then threw a frustrated bullet pass to forward Cedi Osman and walked away from the play. Luckily for the Cavs, Osman managed to draw a foul on his resulting three-point shot.
Reactions to the incident
A lot of team friction takes place behind the scenes — at practices, in the film room, etc. Kevin Love’s incident differed in that it took place live in a televised game, making it nearly impossible to sweep under the rug. The first-year NBA coach Beilein quickly took responsibility for the meltdown, admitting that he failed to see Love posted up on Paul, and so made the wrong play call.
Beilein also said that he acknowledged his mistake with Love during halftime. Yet while Beilein may have missed an obvious play call, that doesn’t excuse Love’s reaction. After the game, Love admitted to reporters that he had been frustrated at the time. He later posted on his Instagram account of him with his arm around Sexton, trying to downplay the narrative that there was bad blood between them.
Love addressed the issue again with the media a couple of days later. At that time, Love expressed remorse that he hadn’t handled his emotions correctly, saying “I was acting like a 13-year-old,” and the 31-year-old that he is. Love was honest and open regarding his frustrations with the Cavs this year and vowed to do better in the future.
How the Cavs should move forward with Kevin Love
At this point, it’s clear that Kevin Love doesn’t want to stay in Cleveland. This is his second year without superstar James, and the Cavs won’t be capable of contending at a high level for many years. The best option for all parties is to try and find a trade partner interested in Love, who remains a player capable of making a real difference.
The problem is that Love’s current contract is a huge one. He’s making $28.9 million this year, then $31.3 million the two following seasons, and finally $28.8 million in 2022-2223. Few teams are willing to take on that kind of long-term contract. And those who are certainly don’t feel like they need to give up the kind of assets that the Cavs reportedly seek.
Ultimately, the best resolution may involve the Cavs taking less than they’d like in order to send Love somewhere he wants to be.