Kevin Love has only been a part-time player for the Cleveland Cavaliers since LeBron James left for Los Angeles in the summer of 2018. Love has been limited to 96 games over the last three seasons, missing extended time with toe and calf injuries as the Cavs have annually made their bed at the bottom of the league standings.
Love has made it apparent he would welcome a trade elsewhere since James left, to put it gently. The 32-year-old would love an opportunity to help a good team in meaningful games, but his inability to stay on the floor coupled his declining play and massive contract has prevented Cleveland from finding an adequate deal. In the meantime, Love has found no solace in being a mentor to Cleveland’s young core.
The latest example came on Monday night as the Cavs traveled to take on the Toronto Raptors. With Cleveland down four late in the fourth quarter, Toronto rookie guard Malachi Flynn made a driving layup to extend the lead to six with under a minute left in the frame. Instead of properly inbounding the ball to teammate Darius Garland, Love batted at the ball in frustration and let the Raptors walk into another three-pointer.
Look at Garland’s reaction as Love gives up the free bucket in a close game. The young guard is as dumbfounded by Love’s apathy as anyone else watching the clip. The Raptors would go on to win the game.
This isn’t the first time Love has let his emotions show up his teammates on the court. He produced another viral moment last season by getting frustrated with Collin Sexton. Earlier that day, Love reportedly screamed at GM Koby Altman in front of the team.
The relationship between Love and the Cavs never had to deteriorate like this. Love should be a franchise icon forever for his role in bringing the Cavs an NBA championship and helping them to get to the NBA Finals three other times. All Love had to do was act professional and space the floor, but even that proved to be too tall of a task (as Chris Manning notes at Fear the Sword, Love’s shooting has declined this season since returning from injury.)
The young Cavs have quietly made strides this season. Sexton is nearly averaging 25 points per game, Garland has improved across the board in his second pro season, and rookie Isaac Okoro has provided quality defense in a starting role all season. Cleveland has a future and that future doesn’t revolve around Kevin Love, but that doesn’t mean Love has to be such a malcontent until a divorce finally comes.
The Cavs’ dynasty days have never felt further away. Love still has two years and $60 million left on his deal after this year, but for the sake of everyone involved, please let these be his final days in Cleveland.