Cavaliers introduce Kevin Love as newest member of "Showtime Midwest"
BY EDDIE DILWORTH
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
LeBron James called Kevin Love the day James announced he was returning to Northeast Ohio. At some point during the conversation, and possibly after a bit of recruiting by James, Love replied with the two words James wanted to hear.
Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon when the Cavs introduced Love as the newest member of “Showtime” Midwest. The Cavs’ acquisition of Love could be the final piece to a championship puzzle that has confounded the franchise since its inception in 1970. The Cavaliers have never won an NBA Championship, but franchise’s fortune could turn to gold as soon as next season.
“It really means a lot to be a part of this organization,” Love said. “It’s been quite a whirlwind the past few days.”
For the Cavs, it’s been a whirlwind of a summer. The franchise completely overhauled itself from a middling underachiever to a juggernaut considered one of the favorites to capture the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in June. In addition to the trade for Love, the summer has seen the Cavs acquire veterans Mike Miller and James Jones, not to mention a verbal commitment from free agent Shawn Marion. Miller, Jones and Marion all have at least one title on their championship resume.
Oh by the way, as previously mentioned, a certain King also returned to his throne this summer. James and Love will be teammates for the first time since the two won Olympic Gold Medals in London in 2012 as a part of the U.S.A. Men’s National Team. The term “Big Three” is the popular term nowadays that refers to when three stars join forces on the same team. The Cavs Big Three, encompassing James, Love and Kyrie Irving, could be as good if not better than the trio James left last month, which included Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
“LeBron obviously is somebody who makes a great deal of these things possible by his presence alone,” Cavs general manager David Griffin said as he sat next to Love at the press conference. “His greatness as a player, his ability to make other people better and to put us in a position to win I’m sure spoke greatly to Kevin.”
If James had chosen not to return to the Cavaliers, the chances of a Love-fest in Cleveland would have been near nonexistent. The Cavs had to wait an agonizing 30 days, per league rules, to acquire Love because Wiggins could not be traded before the time period elapsed.
“This obviously is a really exciting time for this franchise,” Griffin said. “I’d like to point out and thank Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, and their representatives Bill Duffy and Jeff Schwartz, for how they’ve carried themselves through this off-season. It was a very difficult time I’m sure for all of them — I know it was for all of us.”
The Cavs acquired Love in a three-team trade that sent Wiggins and Bennett to Minnesota and a protected 2015 first round pick (via Miami) to Philadelphia. As part of the trade, Minnesota also acquired Thaddeus Young from the 76ers, while Philadelphia received Luc Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved from the Timberwolves.
The Cavs were reluctant to include Wiggins in any trade involving Love, but the possibility of acquiring one of the best power forwards in the NBA was ultimately more appealing than the potential of a young star. Wiggins and Bennett, the past two No. 1 overall selections in the NBA Draft, will undoubtedly enhance the Timberwolves’ young core. But, the Cavs couldn’t do without Love.
Love knows how to stuff a stat sheet like few others. The 6-foot-10 forward has the physicality to bang in the paint and a silky touch from beyond the arc, a combination that makes Love a nightmare for other teams to deal with on the defensive end of the floor. He posted the third-highest PER in the league last season at 26.97, behind only Kevin Durant (29.90) and James (29.40).
Love appeared in 77 games for Minnesota last season and averaged a career-high 26.1 points on 45 percent shooting, including 37 percent from behind the three-point line. The Cavs newest star also grabbed 12.5 rebounds per game, while averaging a career-high 4.4 assists, many of which came via his famed outlet passes. Rounding out Love’s offensive repertoire last season was an 82 percent clip from the free throw line.
Now that Love is officially in Wine and Gold, the new-look Cavs are expected to deliver Cleveland’s first championship in 50 years. No Cleveland team has won a major sports championship in since 1964, and the drought has been excruciating, frustrating and any other sorrowful adjective one can think of. The Cavs won 33 games last season and haven’t sniffed the playoffs since James left in 2010.
James has returned home, seemingly until he retires, and Irving signed a five-year maximum extension on the first day of free agency. Love is expected to follow suit and sign long-term in Cleveland, a proposition Love said he envisions.
“I’m committed to this team and committed long-term to the end goal, and that’s to win championships and win a championship here in Ohio,” Love said.
Love also acknowledged that during his journey to a gold medal with James in 2012, James’ locker was near his and James would always tell Love how good he thought Love was.
“For me, I would just kind of brush it off and shake it off because I was kind of standoffish because I didn’t know him well,” Love said.
Love later acknowledged that he and James attended Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday party in Houston while All-Star festivities took place in the city in 2013. During the celebration, Love said James pulled him aside to have a private conversation, in which Love told James that he believed what James thought of him as a player.
James was only reiterating to Love what most of the world already knew. Love is a talent that has produced astronomical numbers at a very young age. Love won’t turn 26 years old until next month, but just last season, the three-time All-Star ranked first in double-doubles (65), was third in total rebounds per game and fourth in points per game. In 2013-14, Love also became the first player in NBA history to record 2,000 points, 900 rebounds and 100 three-pointers in a single season.
Love will wear No. 0 with for the Cavs. He had worn 42 with Minnesota, but number hangs in the rafters of Quicken Loans Arena for Cavs legend Nate Thurmond. Love said he chose “0” because he thought it was a chance to start fresh and pick a new number that would suit him. He also confessed that “0” was the first number he ever wore as he honed his basketball skills as a youth in Beaverton, Oregon.
The Cavs organization has officially left the painful results of last season in the past. Whether it was the reported squabbles between the point guard and shooting guard, or the ineffectiveness of the team as a whole, the Cavs 2013-14 season is quickly becoming a distant memory. If someone had told Love a year ago that he would suit up with James in Cleveland, Love said he wouldn’t have believed it.
“I didn’t believe it a couple months ago,” Love added. “It’s pretty surreal. I know that there’s a lot of expectations and we also know that LeBron is the focal point, but we have a lot of damn good players, 1-15, that are going to make a huge impact for this team.”
If there were any critics of Love’s game, they would acknowledge that Love has never reached the playoffs in his 6-year NBA career. It’s safe to say that streak will end this season.
“I think it will be somewhat of an adjustment playing in the playoffs,” Love said. “But, LeBron and I have had conversations that I’ve needed to just mentally prepare myself for playing into June.”
Love in Cleveland came to fruition with a phone call from James. Now the pair, and the rest of the Cavaliers, will try to end the city’s suffering.
The pick the Cavs sent to Philadelphia is 1-10 protected in 2015 and 2016, and it becomes unprotected in 2017. Minnesota also received a trade exception worth about $6.3 million after the deal for Love was done.
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