From late-arriving to a LeBron James favorite, Kevin Love comes full circle

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Kevin Love didn’t immediately trust LeBron James.

Repeatedly during the 2012 Olympics, LeBron sat near Love and praised the then-Timberwolves forward. Love didn’t know whether to take the compliments at face value or… Really, he didn’t know what to do.

So, Love brushed it off.

At the All-Star Game the next season, which Love missed due to injury, the pair spoke again in greater depth. Finally, Love was convinced – LeBron appreciated his game, and a real bond formed.

Now, Love and LeBron are teammates in Cleveland.

“It just goes to show you that things come full circle,” Love said today at his introductory press conference with the Cavaliers.

LeBron couldn’t have known in 2012 he’d ever have the chance to play with Love two years later, but the players developed a mutual respect for each other in London. By this summer, Love was unhappy in Minnesota, and LeBron was a free agent. By signing in Cleveland, LeBron set into motion Love joining him.

“I was the first call that he made after he signed,” Love said, “and I’m very happy about that.”

“LeBron had signed to come back with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Just a few hours post, he called me, and I said, ‘You know what? I’m in.’ That had a lot do with my decision.”

It’s a little funny – if you don’t understand how much power NBA superstars wield – to hear Love call this arrangement “his decision.” After all, Love is under contract for next season and technically had no control where the Timberwolves trade him. His main realistic influence was the ability to opt in as a condition of a deal, but it doesn’t seem that happened here.

However, there was a report Love promised to opt out and re-sign for five years next summer. Given that such a scheme would violate NBA rules, Love – sitting next to Cavaliers general manager David Griffin –  of course gave no details when asked how long he’d stay in Cleveland.

“That is something that hasn’t been talked about, but like I told Griff in our meetings and Dan Gilbert as well and the powers that be in the front office and all the way down that I’m committed to this team,” Love said. “Committed long term to that end goal, and that’s to win championships and to win a championship here in Ohio.”

Winning a championship is something the Cavaliers have never done and something any major pro team in Cleveland hasn’t done since 1964.

Love, a student of the game, is mindful of that history. It showed when he discussed his change to No. 0.

His number in Minnesota, 42, has been retired by the Cavaliers for Nate Thurmond. Love praised Thurmond and appreciated his willingness to let Love wear the number, but ultimately, Love wanted a fresh start.

His Olympic number, 11, was also retired – for Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Love’s third choice – 7, which his mom considered lucky for him – was retired for Bingo Smith.

That left one other option.

Love told a story of joining a new team growing up in Oregon, and he was the last to arrive for a tournament. Nearly every jersey had been taken.

“There was the 0 for me,” said Love, likely the last major domino to fall this offseason.

“It really brings me back to Portland, which is Oregon, the O,” Love said. “And then as Griff told me later in a text too, when I told him what number I was going to choose, he also said can’t forget Ohio, too. And he’s right.”

Full circle indeed.

Chris Paul appears to kick at … something … while standing over Utah’s Joe Ingles (VIDEO)

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Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers are out of the playoffs.

Once again, due to injury and perhaps a little bit of a curse for LA if you want to go that way, the Clippers found themselves bounced early when expectations were high.

Facing the Utah Jazz in a Game 7 at Staples Center on Sunday, Paul and the Blake Griffin-less Clips couldn’t get it done. The Jazz closed the series, 104-91.

Meanwhile, there was one play late in the game that say Paul give a full kick at … something … with Jazz wing Joe Ingles on the ground.

I’ll let you be the judge:

Big deal? Medium deal? No deal? I guess we will have to find out in case the league makes some kind of comment about it via the L2M on Monday.

Paul Pierce after final NBA game: “I gave every ounce I could, each and every day” (VIDEO)

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That’s it for Paul Pierce.

The Los Angeles Clippers lost in Game 7 of their first round series against the Utah Jazz, and in doing so ended an illustrious 19-year NBA career for The Truth.

Pierce, 39, saw his team go down by a score of 104-91. The former Boston Celtics star also saw time with the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets before making his final stop in LA.

After the game, Pierce thanked his fans in every NBA city.

Via Twitter:

Current and former NBA players got in on congratulating Pierce on an incredible career on social media:

Shout out to Paul Pierce for an incredible career.

We meet again: Cavaliers, Raptors back together in postseason

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CLEVELAND (AP) We The North vs. We Are The Champions.

One round earlier than a year ago, Toronto and Cleveland are meeting again in the NBA playoffs.

On the way to winning their first title last season, LeBron James and the Cavs took care of the Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals, a series that was tied 2-2 before Cleveland won the final two games. The teams finished this season with identical 51-31 records and their history makes for an intriguing May matchup.

“They know us,” James said, “and we know them.”

After sweeping Indiana in the opening round, the Cavs will have waited a full week before Monday’s Game 1 tips off at Quicken Loans Arena, where Cleveland is 15-1 against conference opponents over the past three postseasons.

The down time gave James and his teammates a chance to recharge, heal some nagging bumps and bruises and prepare for a Toronto team that not only added Serge Ibaka (acquired from Orlando in February) and P.J. Tucker (acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline) this season, but is looking for revenge after having its season ended by Cleveland in 2016.

These Raptors don’t want that to happen again.

“We’ve got some fighters and scrappers,” coach Dwane Casey said after Toronto eliminated Milwaukee in six games. “The guys are going to compete. We make it hard on ourselves sometime, but at the end of the day we’re going to go down swinging.”

They submitted last year in Game 6 at home, when James scored 33 points with 11 rebounds, six assists and three blocks in Cleveland’s 113-87 win.

“He canceled Christmas,” Casey said earlier this season. “One of these days … one of these days.”

For the Raptors to knock off the Cavs, whose shaky defense still showed some significant holes against the Pacers, Toronto stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will have to be at their best.

“The two-headed monster,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said.

DeRozan averaged 23.5 points per game in the opening round against the Bucks, and may need to bump that into the 30s for the Raptors to have a chance.

Toronto lost three of four against Cleveland this season with the only win coming in the season finale, when Lue rested James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Here are some other things to keep in mind as James takes another step toward a possible seventh straight trip to the Finals:

ROAD WARRIOR: James loves the road, where he has won at least one game in a record 27 consecutive playoff series.

The three-time champion revels in the discomfort of being booed and hated.

“Home cooking is great; love the home fans for 14 years,” he said. “But I love playing out on the road more than I love playing at home. It’s just a weird thing. I love the adversity. … It’s the bunker mentality of knowing it’s 15 guys plus the coaching staff and whoever there that’s traveled with us against the whole state and the whole city.”

Or in this case, all of Canada.

KYLE IS KEY: Lowry is back to full speed after missing 21 games following surgery on his right wrist. He averaged 14.3 points and 5.2 rebounds against the Bucks, but the Raptors will need more from him to dethrone the Cavs.

Lowry might be able to exploit Cleveland’s suspect perimeter defense and lack of a true rim protector by driving to the basket.

FREE-THROW WOES: After making a career-low 67 percent of his free throws in the regular season, James went only 22 of 38 (58 percent) from the line in the opening round.

None of his misses was too costly, but the pressure only intensifies from here with every make and every miss meaning more.

DEMAR THE STAR: DeRozan can get his shot off any place, any time. Like they did with Paul George in the first round, the Cavs are expected to focus their attention Toronto’s best player, harassing him with double teams to make him give up the ball.

“He’s one of the best one-on-one players in our league right now, and he does a good job of getting to the free-throw line,” Lue said. “His mid-range jumper is automatic and he can also get to the basket where he’s very athletic. He’s a tough cover and we just want to make him make field goals and not free throws and make it hard on him.”

ON THE MOVE: James has been climbing various lists all season and he’s still rising. He enters the series 60 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5.682) for the second place on the career postseason scoring list. Once he passes Mr. Sky Hook, next on the list is His Airness, Michael Jordan (5,987).

More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Wizards’ Markieff Morris rolled his ankle so hard he “thought it was broke” (VIDEO)

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The Washington Wizards dropped Game 1 of their semi final round against the Boston Celtics on Sunday. A big part of that loss was the absence of Markieff Morris, who turned his ankle with just a few minutes to go in the first quarter.

Morris was shooting a jumper from the left elbow extended with Boston’s Al Horford contesting. Horford didn’t give Morris enough of a chance to land, and a foul was called.

The video of Morris’ ankle turning is pretty gross, especially if you’re a basketball player, so just be forewarned.

Via Twitter:

After the game Wizards coach Scott Brooks said he did not have an update on Morris’ status but that they would see how he was feeling on Monday.

Morris, meanwhile, said he initially thought he had broken his ankle.

Speaking to MassLive.com, Morris said as much:

“This was my worst one,” Morris said. “I kind of twist my ankles like this, that’s my injury, an ankle twist. But this was by far the worst one. I honestly thought it was broke. They got the swelling to go down a whole lot, but it almost was like the size of a softball.”

Game 2 of the series is in Boston on Tuesday.