As the Cavs inch closer and closer to an NBA Finals appearance, they have a lot on their minds. Game 4 against the Atlanta Hawks, for one. Kyrie Irving’s injury. What in the hell they’re going to do against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Add Love’s future to that list—not because of his season-ending injury, but because, once again, those in the know think he’ll leave Cleveland in July.
“Every executive I talk to, every agent I talk to, every quasi insider, every girlfriend’s cousin’s sister’s boyfriend all says this guy is out of there,” said Brian Windhorst during a podcast with Zach Lowe.
“I hear the same thing from everybody,” said Lowe. “From everyone that is two or three or four steps removed. I don’t quite believe all of that.”
“I agree,” replied Windhorst.
“Part of what’s going on there is the Lakers’ boogeyman,” said Lowe. “They don’t just say he’s out of there, they say ‘He’s going to the Lakers.’ That has much to do with the fear people have of the Lakers as it does with Kevin Love.”
“I can’t get a read on Kevin,” said Windhorst. “His personality is a little bit different than many players I’ve covered. He has at every turn even gone out of his way to make statements about how he intends to remain in Cleveland.”
Windhorst also (apparently) portrayed Love’s distance from the team during these playoffs as a red flag. Never mind that he just had surgery, he’s not around them, on the sidelines, playing cheerleader during games.
That said, he is kind of around them, per the Associate Press’ Tom Withers:
Forgot to mention earlier that Kevin Love at #Cavs facility earlier. Got in some kind of workout, likely bike. Not spoken to media post-op.
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) May 23, 2015
This has basically been a season-long thing, ever since it became clear that Love would play third fiddle to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Everything he’s since said that can be interpreted as even remotely convenient to this whole narrative is being dissected to no end. And while we don’t yet know if he’ll leave, Lowe isn’t the type to nail Jell-O to a tree. If he’s hearing anything and then talking about it, you can bet it’s relevant.
But Love has also doubled down on his marriage to Cleveland, repeatedly saying he intends to return. You don’t say that if there’s even a slight chance you want to leave. It would be publics relations suicide once you actually do leave.
The smarter, perhaps even more likely, scenario entails Love opting out and signing a one-year deal with the Cavs that includes a player option for 2016-17. This way he’s safeguarded against injury yet still able to explore free agency next summer, when the salary cap explodes for the first time.
If he does leave, more than you have to wonder where he’ll go (sup, Lakers?), you have to think about what this will mean for the Cavaliers. Sure, they’re going to make the NBA Finals without him. They could even win a title without him.
Still, in the end, irrespective of whether they win a title or not, if Love leaves, they’ll have essentially traded a No. 1 pick in Andrew Wiggins, a future superstar, for a rental.
And that’s, um, not ideal.