NBA AM: Love Frustrated By Slow Start With Cavs

Since entering the league Kevin Love has been known for video game stat lines, but he’s off to slow start in Cleveland

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Updated 12 months ago on
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Kevin Love still adjusting, trying to find his way in Cleveland

The Cleveland Cavaliers entered the season as one of the consensus favorites, at the very least, in the Eastern Conference Finals next spring. The surprising signing of four-time league MVP LeBron James in free agency, coupled with acquiring All-Star forward Kevin Love in a blockbuster  deal this past summer set the stage for a rags to riches story  to unfold in Cleveland.

However, the Cavaliers have stumbled out to a 5-5 start to the campaign and for the most part have hardly resembled a bunch destined to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy at season’s end. While it’s hardly time to panic, the rising frustration levels the Cavaliers are facing trying to gain cohesion simply cannot be ignored as well.

Growing pains.

Love sits at the top of list of guys trying to find their respective niche within the new look Cavaliers. The forward averaged a whopping 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds  and 4.4 assists in 77 games with the Minnesota Timberwolves last season. Love also connected on 190 three-pointers on 38 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

While Love’s overall  numbers were undoubtedly expected to decrease joining forces with James and emerging guard Kyrie Irving, the veteran has struggled to find a consistent rhythm with the Cavaliers and his frustration, with himself, is increasing.

“It’s come to a point where I’m just trying to find myself in this offense,” Love said according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.  “It’s almost related to when you come into the league; usually the guys that dominate the ball so much tend to learn a lot quicker than a guy like myself, a big man. So I’m just trying to find different spots in the offense.

“I’ll just say we’re 10 games in, we’re looking at different stuff. I need to find myself. I think everybody knew coming in that we’d have to sacrifice, but at some point we’re going to need some low-post scoring and some outside shooting.”

Love is averaging 16.7 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 10 games this season. The forward is still connecting on a solid percentage from beyond the three-point line (36%), however he’s also shooting a career-low 39 percent from the field overall.

First year head coach David Blatt isn’t overly concerned with Love’s comments, believing a lot of the talk comes from in the heat of the moment emotionally charged self-evaluations.

“First of all, we’re dealing with human beings and you’re dealing after each and every game with emotions,” Blatt said. “People are full of adrenaline or are excited or are, as I said, emotional. I really don’t pay too, too much attention [to players’ comments to the media]. When I talk to guys face-to-face, that’s really what’s important to me.

“Based on today’s practice (Thursday) — which was focused and short and good — we’re OK. But the last two losses, as is wont to do, took a little bit out of us, and I’m just anxious to get back on track.”

Veteran forward Paul Pierce opens up on rivalry with LeBron James

Modern NBA culture has been criticized by hardcore fans and old school players as becoming too friendly compared to yesteryear. The popularization of the sport has led to many opportunities for players to connect much more often during their rise through the ranks. From middle school, high school, college and at the pro level there are simply just more opportunities for guys to become acclimated to each other.

But despite the growing “friendliness” the NBA playoffs have remained an outlet where guys leave chumminess at the door.

One such relationship, or seemingly lack thereof, is between former league MVP LeBron James and future Hall of Fame forward Paul Pierce. Both guys have engaged in epic playoff battles versus one another and both have served as spoilers for the others’ title dreams over the years.

But while the cameras haven’t caught a lot of an emerging friendship between both guys, Pierce maintains his relationship with James is based off a mutual respect.

“I think a lot of it is really misunderstood,” Pierce said according to Michael Wallace of ESPN. “If I see LeBron walking down the street, it’s not going to be no fistfight. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. It’s like fighting for the same girl. How am I going to be cool with that guy? I’ve got total respect for him as a person. It’s just the thing we go through on the court.

“It’s just the competitive nature of both of us being at the same position, being on the top teams, gunning for the same trophy year in and year out, and that’s where that comes into play. It’s just something about great players when they play in certain arenas or against other great players. They elevate their play. LeBron is one of those guys. He feels the moment. He understands the moment.”

Pierce also expressed some surprise about James bolting the Miami HEAT, after reaching four straight NBA Finals, to head back to Cleveland via free agency this past summer.

“I thought with the run they had in Miami, going to four straight Finals, that it wouldn’t deter him, losing in the Finals,” Pierce said. “I thought they built something special there. Obviously, Cleveland has a special place in his heart, and he felt like he left something behind.

“But that’s good for him and good for the game. It also shifts the balance of power. We all know how tough it is to put together a team and try to win a championship in that first year, which makes the Eastern Conference that much wide open.”


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Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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