Kevin Love does not appear to be having fun. Yes, the Cavaliers won a thrilling overtime game against the defending champs on Thursday night. But Love was only a footnote, playing just 33 minutes and finishing with eight points and five rebounds. He sat the entire fourth as David Blatt went small, and Love meaningfully touched the ball just once on offense in overtime.
Chris Bosh had nights like this in Miami over the past four years. He went from a hot All-Star who drew free agent attention from every squad with cap space to a relative afterthought. Bosh rarely found himself in a headline for a good reason under the shadow of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It took years for the broader basketball fandom to accept that Bosh had been an integral part of the Heat's success, which culminated in back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. Bosh gave up quite a bit in personal accolades to find team success.
Of course, Bosh was important all along. Just important in different ways than he'd been in Toronto. Likewise, Love is important for the Cavaliers. He's one of only eight guys in the NBA averaging at least 16 points and 10 rebounds. He's not a regular 25-15 monster. He's not an every-possession dominator. He's not the sun and stars of the Cavaliers, not even the moon and sky. He's the rain cloud: irregular but necessary in the grand scheme and always welcome. You could do a whole lot worse at power forward. In fact, every season James has been in Cleveland, the Cavaliers have done a whole lot worse at power forward. Love is fine.
Does he want to be fine? Does he want to be a 16-10 starter for a championship contender, deferring to James and Kyrie Irving in perpetuity and hoping his coach can find space for him late in games or in the playoffs? Or would he rather be the Kevin Love of Minnesota, but on a larger stage? Because if that's what he wants -- in Los Angeles, in Boston, in several notable cities -- he can have it. He can opt out in June, sign a huge contract in July and get back to 25-15 status under bright lights, all at the cost of ensured victory.
It's his choice, and neither option is a bad one. He'll get paid handsomely either way. If he signs with the Lakers, an absolutely dreadful, threadbare franchise, Love'll hear plenty of criticism from folks who believe winning is everything. It doesn't matter. Love on the Lakers would mean All-Star appearances, even more ad campaigns, billboards and the potential of team success down the road.
I don't know Kevin Love, and chances are you don't either. But I can imagine Love being happy in such a situation. And really, that's all that should matter: what makes Kevin Love happy. It's his decision.
There's also a middle path. He has a player option for the 2015-16 season. The salary cap is going to swell in 2016, so it likely behooves Love to try to become a free agent then. The easiest way is to opt in with the Cavaliers. That'd give him two seasons as a third option, two shots at the ultimate team success. If it's not to his liking, he can then go get paid to be a No. 1 option in 2016.
Kevin Love doesn't look happy right now. He has been the centerpiece, a star all his life. He has shown he can be that for an NBA team. Not a particularly good NBA team, mind you, but he can absolutely be a star of an NBA team. He's not that right now. He's a very good role player being paid like a superstar. He does not seem to enjoy playing that role.
As such, who could blame him for walking away? He has to live with the decision, just as Cleveland's front office will have to live with the decision to trade away Andrew Wiggins to nab Love. What's happened has happened, and only what lies ahead matters.
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