In My Ohio

​On Kevin Love's (Not So) Big Night

Darren C. Demaree
​Kyrie Irving was incredible last night. He was dominant (a career-high 57 points) on the home court of last year’s champion (the greatest NBA organization of the last fifteen years) San Antonio Spurs, playing against a red-hot team that has one of the league’s brightest young stars (Kawhai Leonard), multiple all-stars (Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli), and the greatest power forward in the history of the league (Tim Duncan). He also managed to outshine the greatest player of his generation, his teammate Lebron James, who was damn good as well (31 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds). Not mentioned often last night during the Cavs' furious comeback (down 9 with 1:30 left in the game), was huge trade acquisition Kevin Love, who was actually on the bench for the end of the fourth quarter. He ended the game with a very poor line (in a season of below-average play from him), managing to score only 8 points on 2-10 shooting.
Instead of playing Love, Coach David Blatt had forward Tristan Thompson and guard James Jones on the floor. Kevin Love was widely considered to be a top-ten NBA player his last few seasons, and he was replaced by the younger Thompson, and a bit-player who can only shoot threes (and didn’t make any last night) in Jones. So, why is a great player on the bench during the decisive part of the game? More importantly even is the larger question of when Kevin Love is in the game, is that the Cavalier’s best lineup?
David Blatt answered that second question last night, and the answer was no. I understand how much the basketball god’s love floor spacing and hitting three-point shots (both of which Love does well), but his infatuation with that kind of play has dramatically limited what was once his brilliant rebounding numbers. He’s a good rebounder now, nothing close to what he can be, and that is because he spends so much of his time away from the basket.
So, what now? He has one year left on his deal after this year (he can opt out of that if he wants), and then he will be due a max-money contract from someone. What’s more embarrassing for the organization is that they gave up the first pick in last year’s draft, soon-to-be Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins to acquire Love. Wiggins is going to be great, but they knew that. They traded future greatness for current greatness, and if you want to win right freaking now, that’s what you do. Kevin Love is absolutely still a great player, but he doesn’t fit in Cleveland. He knows it. He’s been sullen, quiet, and played either in deference to or indifferently the entire season. The Cavaliers know it as well.
I still think the Cavs will win it all this year, and I think Kevin Love will make some plays to help them do that. I also think as soon as the confetti is recycled, and every bit of the champagne has been drank by the entire city, they should immediately trade Love.
They should have a deal in place for the moment they are allowed to trade players after the end of the Finals.
They’re not going to get a player like Wiggins for him this time; they’ve already lost that deal. They can, however, at the very least get the draft picks back that they moved to acquire Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert. They can use the extra money to give Thompson the contract it will take to keep him, and then they can take the rest of the money and the picks they acquire, and just keep adding pieces to an already great team. If they keep Love and talk him into signing a huge deal, it would be the worst thing to happen to them since Lebron left for South Beach. It would be absolutely stubborn, and stifle any creative moves they could make to stay relevant.
Last night was Kyrie Irving’s night. He’s the front page right now, and he gave us an all-time great game against an all-time great opponent. Let’s celebrate that right up until the next game is played. The second story is that Kevin Love is officially a side note. He’s another good piece on the trip to glory, but if they hold on to him too long his ego, expectations, and potential contract will very quickly make him look like heavy luggage that you just don’t want to lug around anymore.