I’ve hardly been subtle when it comes to being a Kevin Love apologist. His time with the Cleveland Cavaliers continues to solidify my belief that he’s one of the most underappreciated athletes the city has ever seen.
With yesterday’s news, I think it’s time we change that. Having just signed a new contract extension with the Cavs, fans need to admire the fact he’s the only member Cleveland’s Big Three who’s continued to commit to this team.
When you consider what Love has had to deal with since being acquired by the Cavs, it makes the idea of him continually re-signing with them even more stunning.
He’s spent the past four years being Cleveland’s third wheel, while also becoming the punching bag of an entire fan-base. Love was the target of veiled call-outs from LeBron James and blunt critiques from coach Tyronn Lue. All it takes is one off game to get his name trending on Cleveland Twitter.
If the Cavs played well on a night Love was inactive, it was a clear sign he needed to go. If they struggled on a night where he had a bad stat line, he was the sole reason for the loss. Finding his name in the middle of trade deadline rumors became an annual tradition.
Yet, there he was yesterday, choosing to sign a lengthy extension despite everything he’s dealt with. One of the most heavily-scrutinized players in Cavs history still decided he wanted to stay in town.
I truly hope this isn’t lost on fans. While Love has had his issues, he’s still a five-time All-Star. He’s still a player who’s been willing to adapt his style of play to help the team win a championship. He’s still the guy whose lock-down defense in the waning seconds of Game 7 helped seal said title in 2016.
Moreover, he’s someone who’s been willing to commit to the Cavs regardless of the circumstances. Keep that in mind when considering how the other two members of Cleveland’s Big Three ended their time with the team.
Kyrie Irving got upset about hearing his name in trade rumors and demanded to be dealt by the team. He ended up getting sent to an Eastern Conference powerhouse in exchange for, essentially, Collin Sexton and Ante Zizic.
James just committed to the Los Angeles Lakers for four years after holding the Cavs hostage with numerous one-and-done contracts. He headed to LA despite there being no star-caliber teammates waiting for him, and has remained upbeat even as the team followed his signing by assembling one of the most bizarre collection of players in the entire league, one which surely won’t contend for a title next year.
Both departures stung for Cavs fans. Two players people hoped to see in Cleveland for years to come, who helped make the team a consistent contender, packed up and headed elsewhere before the championship glow even wore out.
That Love would watch this all happen, after everything he’s already had to endure, and still want to stay with the Cavs is something fans should appreciate.
Had he demanded a trade this summer, would you have blamed him? Would you have looked down on Love for watching two marquee players leave Cleveland in the span of a calendar year and want to depart as well?
Instead of this, Love told GM Koby Altman he wanted to stay. He did so despite the franchise losing the best player in the NBA. He did so despite the fact the days of Cleveland making regular Finals appearances are over. He did so despite the fact he’s now the lone All-Star on a team prioritizing the growth of young talent over aiming for another championship.
Sure, the implications of his extension are worth calling out, specifically what it means for the rebuild in a post-LeBron world. The Cavs choosing to extend Love almost certainly means they’ve made peace with the fact trying to contend will mean losing their 2019 first round draft pick.
While fans remain divided about this, it shouldn’t distract everyone from the fact a multi-time All-Star chose to stay in Cleveland. Say what you want about Love’s time with the team, this concept simply isn’t something local fans are used to.