Chris Bosh warned everyone before the season and some fans — particularly some in Cleveland — scoffed at the notion: It was going to be hard for Kevin Love to adjust to playing with LeBron James.
Here we are with a month to go in the NBA season, and Love remains the uncomfortable fit in Cleveland’s big three. Love is averaging 16.8 points a game (down 10 from last season) on just 43 percent shooting, he’s not getting the ball where he is comfortable, and he’s been sat in the fourth quarters of recent games in favor or Tristan Thompson.
Of course, this has led to a ton of speculation that Love — who can be a free agent this summer with a player option — is going to bolt Cleveland for a team more focused around him. Love has denied this, but the NBA rumor mill will not stop churning on the topic.
Add Heat executive Alonzo Mourning to the mix. He said this in a Q&A with SLAM Magazine.
AM: Then you’ve got Kevin Love, who’s not happy at all. He’s outta there.
SLAM: Where do you think Kevin Love is going to go? LA?
AM: I think he’s probably going to go to LA. I could see that.
The Lakers, who have the money for a max salary, will certainly be making the call to Love’s agent. He’s the level of star Kobe Bryant could hand the franchise over to.
I’d be surprised if that happens this summer, however.
For two reasons. One is simply money — Love wants to be a free agent in 2016 when the salary cap will spike to around $90 million and a max contract will go up in value by a third or more as well (max salaries are a percentage of the cap space available). Love will either opt in with Cleveland or sign a deal with them allowing an opt-out in 2016 so he can cash in.
The second reason? He doesn’t want to be seen as a quitter. Fair or not. He had to have seen the backlash from some quarters (read: Lakers fans) for Dwight Howard choosing Houston, and Love knows if he leaves the Cavs LeBron’s fans will be equally passionate and vocal. The “he wasn’t tough/good enough to play with LeBron” line will be used plenty. Fair or not. So Love will give it another season at least to see if things can be worked out on the court.
Now the summer of 2016 — when Love not only can leave but numerous teams will have a sudden surge of cap space allowing them bring in a couple max guys and put players around them — that could be a different story.
Or, maybe Love is so miserable now he just wants out, like Mourning said.