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Tyronn Lue is helping Kevin Love remember just how good a player he really is

The new Cavaliers coach has empowered the struggling star and helping him light up opponents, at least so far.

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David Blatt never connected with LeBron James, and in the end that's why he was fired in Cleveland. But Blatt's inability to effectively blend Kevin Love into the Cavaliers' offense might go down as his greatest blemish.

In Minnesota, Love was a beast, the type of scoring machine that was an offense all by himself. Blatt, however, never seemed interested in having Love do much of anything other than spot up along the perimeter. He'd call the occasional post-up for him, but most of those seemed forced rather than a natural way to use one of the league's most talented offensive players.

Since taking over for Blatt last week, new head coach Tyronn Lue appears determined to address that failure. In five games at the helm, Love is averaging 19.2 points and shooting 50 percent from the field, a significant jump from the 16 points on 42 percent shooting he was averaging under Blatt. It's no surprise Cleveland has won four of those games.

Even more promising: those numbers are climbing. Love dropped 21 points last Wednesday against Phoenix, an impressive 29 on Friday against the Pistons and 21 on Saturday against the Spurs and their vaunted D. In each of those games, Love has gotten off to a fast start.

"It was by design," Lue said of Love's 14-point first quarter output Saturday against the Spurs, via "Kevin had it going early, so we wanted to keep featuring Kevin."

The biggest difference under Lue thus far is one Cavs fans have been clamoring for since he was traded to Cleveland last season. Love's favorite spot on the floor in Minnesota was the elbow, the area on either side of the foul line. From there he could easily knock down jumpers, get to the hoop with one dribble, turn and post or survey the defense and hit open cutters and shooters. And yet, Blatt never seemed comfortable giving Love the ball there.

Lue has already made an effort to change that. Since Lue took over, Love is averaging 5.6 elbow touches per game, compared to 3.8 under Blatt, per Love is also shooting much more frequently once he does get the ball there.

Lue hasn't overhauled the offense as much as he or his proponents want us to think. The Cavaliers do seem to be playing faster, though they're actually averaging fewer possessions per 48 minutes then they were under Blatt, according to The difference is the way in which Cleveland is now pushing the ball. The Cavaliers aren't recklessly flying up the court, but if an opportunity arises to get a quick shot, they are now prepared to take advantage.

And it's Love who is often benefiting.

These two little tweaks -- giving him the ball where he likes and pushing the ball up the floor for more open shots in transition -- have Love playing more aggressively than he was under Blatt. Even his teammates have noticed.

"I think right now [Love]'s finally getting comfortable in his role," LeBron James said following the Cavaliers' impressive 117-103 win over the Spurs on Saturday, via the Akron Beacon Journal. "I think coach Lue has done a great job clearing the air what he expects out of all of us, including Kev, and he's a big focal point of our team. When he's playing locked in like this, it's great for us."

Being the third wheel is a tough gig in the NBA, especially for a player like Love who rose to prominence by having everything go through him. The last time we saw a player immediately go from option No. 1 to No. 3 was Chris Bosh, and it took him more than a year to figure out his role in Miami.

That doesn't all fall on coaching, but there are certain things that can be done to smooth over that transition. An extra catch or two a game in a player's favorite spots certainly helps. So do quick-hitters like this:


As much as we like to use analyze games with new data and analytics, intangibles like comfort and confidence still matter. And Love, clearly, has been more confident and comfortable on the court since Lue took over. That's obvious watching the games, and the numbers back it up. Love is catching-and-shooting more frequently in the last five games and doing so more efficiently, per

Whether it's a symptom of small sample size or the type subtle change that often happens when a new coach gets everyone to join hands and sing Kumbaya is yet to be seen. Will LeBron still have such nice things to say about Love if he goes cold for a week? Will Lue stay the course? Will Love start getting gun shy again?

For now, we can only guess. But there's no arguing that through five games, Love seems like a different and better player than he was before. That's good news for him and, more importantly, great news for the Cavaliers.

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David Blatt dumped: Tyronn Lue takes over for Cavaliers