LeBron James Sold Kevin Love on Cavaliers
As Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin broke down how the acquisition of Kevin Love, which became official this weekend, really took a year and a half to complete, he didn’t leave any doubt over why they were finally able to make it happen: the presence of LeBron James.
Of course, there were a number of other factors that led to the Minnesota Timberwolves finally being able to let go of the three-time All-Star, who is regarded as one of the best power forwards in the league. He was coming up on free agency, Kyrie Irving signed a five-year contract extension, the Cavaliers’ offer improved to two number one overall picks and the Philadelphia 76ers were willing to help facilitate the deal by giving the Timberwolves Thaddeus Young for pennies on the dollar. However, without James, Love may not be a part of a team that is now the favorite to win the 2014-15 NBA championship.
“LeBron had signed to come back to the Cleveland Cavaliers and just a few hours after he called me and I said, ‘You know what, I’m in,’” Love said at his introductory press conference. “That had a lot to do with my decision. I knew they had a lot of young pieces in place, a lot of great talent has been accumulated here. I knew the city pretty well, but that had a lot to do with it. It means a lot to be a part of this organization.
“LeBron is someone who obviously makes a great deal of this possible by his presence alone,” Griffin said. “His greatness as a player, ability to make other people better and put us in a position to win I’m sure spoke greatly to Kevin. Obviously, it drives all of us. That piece had a great deal to do with the Kevin’s comfort to join us and viewing this as a long-term relationship.”
Like just about anyone who has been watching since James’ explosion into basketball stardom as a high schooler right after the dawn of the new millennium, Love has been impressed with The King. He admired his growth from a high school phenom to multiple-time NBA champion from afar, but in 2012 as USA Basketball teammates in the Olympics, Love was able to team up with James for the first time.
During that time, James shared a locker close to Love and was constantly letting him know how great he thought he was and how he was going to be a serious key to the team’s success.
“I would kind of brush it off because I don’t know if weary is the right term, but I was kind of standoffish because I didn’t know him well,” Love said.
Together James, Love and the rest of the 2012 Team USA Olympic basketball team went on to win the gold medal. Afterward, Love went back to the Timberwolves and had the most individual success of his career, but failed to lead his team to the playoffs. That didn’t affect James’ outlook on his game, though.
“I knew when we were at Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday party in Houston, he pulled me aside and had a private conversation,” Love said. “I knew and believed him then, what he thought of me and it just goes to show that things come full circle. I was the first call he made after he signed and I’m very happy about that.”
During their short time together that summer, Love was able to experience what it was like playing with one of the game’s most dominant players and is looking forward to being able to share the floor with him again. This time, they could be teammates for years, not months.
“He just draws so much attention from the team that’s out there,” Love said. “More often than not he’s going to be able to draw a double, sometimes a triple team. All eyes are on him because even if he doesn’t have the ball he’s so good at moving without it. He can shoot it, he’s unselfish and an undeniable leader. As far as being inspired, I’m the kind of guy who likes to be inspired, so learning from him and getting on the floor with him and picking his brain is going to be big for each and every one of us, not only player wise but for each and everyone in the organization.”
Technically, both Love and James could be unrestricted free agents this summer. They both have player options that allow them to get out of their current contracts. James has made it clear, though, that his deal is structured the way that it is solely so he can receive the biggest max contract he can as the league’s salary cap continues to rise – and is projected to leap after a new T.V. deal.
When asked about his long-term future in Cleveland, Love casts serious doubt over any possibility of him leaving as well.
“That’s something that hasn’t been talked about, but like I told [Griffin], Dan Gilbert and the powers to be, I’m committed to this team, committed long-term to the end goal: winning championships,” Love said.
James may have broken the heart of the Cavaliers and their fans back in 2010, but he’s already more than made up for it this summer, without even playing a single game. He and Love may be free agents this summer, but they’re clearly in this together and going nowhere. Even without them under contract past this year, the future has never been brighter for the Cavaliers.
Clippers, Bucks Complete Trade
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks agreed to a trade that will send Jared Dudley, a 2017 first-round pick and a future second-round pick to Milwaukee in exchange for Carlos Delfino and the draft rights to a former pick to Los Angeles to help fulfill CBA requirements.
Dudley provides the young Bucks with some veteran leadership. They’re going to be a young team next year that is heavily reliant on their two young forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, whom they hope will eventually develop into the faces of their franchise.
Meanwhile, the Clippers shed the final two years of Dudley’s contract off of their books and get closer to being under the luxury tax threshold. In his absence, they will likely rely more heavily on second year forward Reggie Bullock, who played sparingly during his rookie campaign. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers could also play a lot of small ball as he’s loaded in the backcourt with Chris Paul, Jordan Farmar, J.J. Redick, C.J. Wilcox and Jamal Crawford.