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The real deal on Kevin Love and the Cavs

(Bruce Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports)
As the Cleveland Cavaliers head into the offseason, two wins short of their first championship, it’s hard to feel anything but proud of this team. First, congratulations to the Golden State Warriors. They dominated the regular season with a 67–15 record, followed by rolling through the playoffs with a 16-5 record, but that’s as far as it goes with congratulating other teams.

The Cavs season was the most exciting sports season for Cleveland in ages. It started with point guard Kyrie Irving signing a max contract and reached an apex of excitement with LeBron James announcing his return to Cleveland and the trade for All-Star power forward Kevin Love.

From the beginning there were complications and growing pains. Love failed to mesh with James and Irving, Irving seemed hesitant to take the lead role as point guard with James on the team, while James spent two weeks resting nagging injuries and often played passive, and starting center Anderson Varejao was injured for the season. It all added up for the Cavs to start a season of high expectations with a 19–20 record, and rumors of rookie head coach David Blatt being fired.

Instead of firing the coach, general manager David Griffin reshaped the roster through some pretty shrewd trades, and the Cavs dominated the league with a 34–9 record. Dion Waiters went from starter to the bench to traded. The Cavs received a replacement starting center in Timofey Mozgov, a player Griffin had long sought and Blatt had already worked with, and Iman Shumpert and JR Smith.

Smith was considered a risk/reward scenario throw-in, as the New York Knicks were trying to shed payroll and had no use for him. Shumpert was often-injured and had never really lived up to his promising rookie season. Both thrived with the Cavs, as Blatt figured a way to work both players into his rotation.

We all know how the season ended up. With Love injured by Kelly Olynyk’s arm-bar and Irving shattering his kneecap in the first game of the Finals. In true nightmare fashion, the Cavs were down to LeBron James and the bench depth was turned into starters.

That’s not to knock what players like Matthew Dellavedova, Shumpert, Smith, James Jones, and Tristan Thompson accomplished. On the contrary, it was amazing what the Cavs, especially the coaches and The King were able to do with what they had.

There should be no resentment. No sour grapes. No bitter aftertaste. The Cavs went out like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, outgunned and out-manned, but guns blazing. There was no quit, no surrender. No quarter asked or given.

With how this season ended, all the excitement, the unity of the team and the fans, the All-In atmosphere, the character and grit of the team, how can you not be even more excited for next season? And with the exception of a few players on the Bulls, Celtics, Hawks, and Warriors- who didn’t watch what James did in the playoffs with Delly, Shump, TT, and Moz starting alongside him and think “if he can do that with them, what can he do with me”?

No, I’m not talking about the all too familiar “well, there’s always next year” phrase that almost every Cleveland sports fan has uttered at some point. I’m talking about genuine hope and honest excitement.

The Cavs can bring back all of the players on the roster and try and stay healthy and compete for a championship with the exact same roster or Griffin can try and touch up the roster again this offseason. And as earlier stated, who in the NBA will look at what James was able to pull off with a limited supporting cast and not want to be a part of a championship run.

Which brings us to the Kevin Love rumors. Love has gone out of his way to say he is staying with the Cavaliers, yet the national media keeps portraying Love as biding his time until his contract is up. The reasons vary from:

1) He’s not happy as a third wheel to Irving and James

2) He doesn’t get along with his teammates, especially James and Irving

3) He often looked lost and out of place on the Cavs.

Number 1 is ridiculous considering the fact that Love has stated he wants to compete for a championship and has always been a little disappointed at not being able to lead Minnesota to the playoffs. So few forget his excitement at becoming a Cavalier, and how he really found his place in the offense towards the end of the season and in the playoffs because of his shoulder injury.

How about this, if Love didn’t want to be LeBron and KI’s other option, why would he go to say the Lakers, another losing franchise like the Minnesota team he was excited to leave to play with the ball dominating Kobe Bryant?

Or, why would someone go to a losing franchise for less money than he could make to stay with a winning franchise? Yes, there are players in the NBA who are worried about their “touches”, shots, shot attempts, and stats, but what Love wants is a championship.

Now, number 2 is just plain silly. If you were watching the Cavs in the post season, you could see how much having Love on the bench meant to the team. When the season first began, it was slow going as they were feeling each other out. By the playoffs, Love had become an integral part of the team and there were multiple times when James and Irving would run over to Love after Love hit a timely three or a dunk. Make no mistake, being a part of a winning team makes a huge difference, which is why so few players leave San Antonio. It’s nice to always have a chance to compete for a title.

Number 3 has pretty much been covered, but here it is one more time- as the season wore on, Love found his place on the team. Love was an integral part of the offense that took the league by storm from January 15th through the end of the season. 

For the Cavs, next season is already around the corner. It’s time for this team to get some much needed rest, heal, and get ready to do it again next season, and just maybe bring home that trophy.
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