CLEVELAND – It appears that LeBron James’ recent statement about getting Kevin Love more involved was not mere lip service, as the 6-10 power forward continued his strong start to the 2015-16 season in scoring 24 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the Cavs 102-92 win over the Miami Heat.
Love, who was acquired via a blockbuster trade for the Cavs No.1 pick in Andrew Wiggins, is averaging 19.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in the first three games. While it is only a very small sample size to glean from, clearly one can tell that there is something pleasantly different about Love 2.0, after a rocky up-and-down first year in Cleveland.
Whether it was David Blatt feeling that he was not a max player, constant rumors about unrest in not being comfortable in being the third wheel in LeBron’s Cleveland Reunion Tour, or trying to decide on fitting in or out, Love looked both hurt and lost. Couple that along with the difficulty of trying to properly grasp his exact role in Blatt’s up-tempo European style and suffering a season-ending shoulder injury courtesy of Kelly Olynyk, and these occurrences would have lent the perfect excuse for Love bolting back out West to reportedly joining forces with Kobe and the Lakers.
Couple that with the phenomenal year that Wiggins had in Minnesota en route to winning NBA Rookie Of The Year and the constant questions and criticism over the deal and it wouldn’t have shocked anyone if Love bolted C-Town.
What a difference a year makes.
Whatever was said between Love and LeBron that fateful day by a Los Angeles pool, no one will never know, but clearly it worked to the effect of Love re-signing with the Cavs to the tune of five years and $110 million.
Naturally, there was all the concerns and criticism about his shoulder, and whether he was ever a good fit alongside LeBron and Kyrie. But that Love re-upped so quickly says something about his character and his commitment to winning a ring. Perhaps sitting courtside last spring at the NBA Finals and feeling helpless as Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors beat the Cavaliers triggered a sense of obligation and motivation in wanting to come back. It didn’t hurt that the best player on the planet is a friend of his who wanted him in Cleveland in the first place.
One vital observation that this writer noticed about Love in 2014-15 was in his body language, both on and off the court. In my eyes, it seemed rather stiff and robotic and almost tensed. As if it was forced. Love is in my opinion the best all-around power forward in the game, but he just didn’t seem comfortable in his own skin last year.
This year. He he looks more at ease, comfortable and confident in what his role is in Cleveland.
He also seems more assertive in shooting the ball instead of seemingly asking for permission or parking himself outside the three-point arc. While his outside shooting game is formidable, it is nice to see Cleveland use Love for what he is really good at, grabbing rebounds and scoring down low in the block. I was actually going to pen a blog about Cleveland needing to run their offense more thru Love in taking some of the weight off of LeBron and Kyrie—when he returns—clearly they are already ahead of me there, so that is encouraging.
Love is a great player in the right system and right team. In Cleveland, he gets to play with LeBron and one of the top ten point guards—when healthy—in Kyrie. While some tried to compare Love’s first year struggles of playing with LBJ to that of Chris Bosh in his first year in Miami, it is good to see that both he and the Cavaliers are ahead of schedule and that they are finally showing Love some true appreciation in utilizing him properly this year.