Report: If Kevin Love leaves Cavaliers, Lakers are team to beat in free agency

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Kevin Love’s fit with the Cavaliers has been far from perfect.

Terrible? No. But on and off the court, there have been several examples of a player and team uncomfortable with each other.

Love has a player option for next season he should decline, whether or not he wants to stay in Cleveland. If he opts out, that would give other teams an opportunity to pitch him.

The Lakers have been rumored as a contender for months, and the Celtics are reportedly interested.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

For as much as Kevin Love has publicly resisted the discussion of free agency this season, it has been on his mind. He has never been completely comfortable in Cleveland, with his role, nor his connection to those around him. Throughout the year, league sources say, one destination grew in possibility as his exit strategy: The Boston Celtics.

Boston has been no sure thing to lure Love, but it had a better shot than most had believed. If Love left the Cavaliers, the Celtics had closed the gap on the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Obviously, Love getting injured against the Celtics throws a dent in Boston’s hopes of luring Love – because Love accused Kelly Olynyk of hurting him on purpose. Olynyk denied that and said he’s trying to contact Love, and maybe Love comes to believe Olynyk once tempers cool.

But the incident also might help the Cavaliers keep Love. They definitely had his back yesterday, and that’s on the heels of LeBron James showing a deeper understanding of Love’s challenges in Cleveland. This could strengthen Love’s bond with his current team.

On the other hand, if Love misses significant time, and the Cavaliers get bounced from the playoffs sooner than expect, this could be a lost opportunity for Love to strengthen a deeper connection with the Cavaliers. Ditto if he misses the rest of the playoffs, no matter how far Cleveland goes.

I expect the Celtics, who pursued Love last summer after his trip to Boston, to remain interested. I wouldn’t completely rule them out, either – but Sunday hurts their chances.

For the Cavaliers, it could go either way depending what happens next. I don’t think Love has made up his mind about his future, and he shouldn’t yet.

The Lakers, meanwhile, wait – one Love suitor downgraded and his current team still trying to prove its value to him.

Luka Doncic with 42-point triple-double, sticks dagger in Spurs for Mavericks win

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Luka Doncic is having a “we’ve got to talk about this guy as a possible MVP” kind of season so far.

The latest addition to the resume: A 42 point, 11 rebounds, 12 assist triple-double to lead the Mavericks past the Spurs. That includes sticking the dagger in the Spurs late.

Dallas won 117-110 and improves to 8-5 on the season.

The 42 points is a career-high for Doncic, and he is the first player in Dallas history to record a 40-point triple-double. This is Doncic’s sixth triple-double of the season.

And he’s still just 20 years old.

Here’s the full list of NBA players who have had 40-point triple-doubles at the age of 20 or younger:

LeBron James
Luka Doncic

That’s it — and that’s some impressive company for Doncic.

Kings’ Buddy Hield fined $25,000 for kicking ball into stands in celebration

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This was a $25,000 celebration by Buddy Hield.

Sacramento led by one in the final seconds against Boston Sunday, but the Celtics had a final shot and Marcus Smart‘s attempt at a game-winning floater hung on the rim seemingly forever… then fell off. The ball was tipped out to mid-court and — as you can see in this video — Heild kicks the ball into the stands as part of the celebration.

Kicking or throwing the ball into the stands is a standing $25,000 fine, and the league came down with that on Hield on Monday. It was not a surprise.

Hield was the reason Sacramento won the game, scoring 35 points to lead the Kings, including going 7-of-12 from three. He’d likely make that trade for the win again.

Kawhi Leonard out vs. Thunder Monday night, third straight game due to knee bruise

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This isn’t load management. This is a bruised knee.

The first Clipper game with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sharing the court will have to wait as Leonard is going to miss his third straight game with a knee contusion Monday night against the Thunder. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN broke the news.

The Clippers are going to be cautious with bringing Leonard back from this, thinking long term with his health, as they should. Los Angeles is playing for games in May and June, not games in November.

This means tonight the Clippers will be the Paul George show again — in two games he has scored 70 points in 44 minutes. This will be George’s first game against the Thunder since he demanded a trade out of the city last summer, landing him on the Clippers with Leonard.

Kevin Love tries to ignore trade rumors, ‘let the chips fall where they may’

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Cleveland Cavaliers GM said he has no interest in trading Kevin Love.

You can count the number of people around the league who believe him on one hand. There’s a good chance Love is still on the Cavaliers at the end of this season, but that’s more about him being in the first year of a four-year, $120 million contract extension than it is Cleveland’s willingness to trade him (or interest from other teams, if money was not an issue). The Cavaliers are rebuilding, and if they can get young players and picks for Love, they have to consider it.

With Portland off to a slow start, and Love growing up in the Pacific Northwest, that rumor has floated around. There are others. Love is just trying to ignore them and play ball, he told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times.

“I know there’s talk about me possibly being the missing piece somewhere,” Love said. “There’s been constant chatter since I signed that I could be traded. It’s one of those things where I’m going to keep doing right by the team, by Cleveland and by the organization. If my number is called, so be it, but I’m going to stay true to my commitment and let the chips fall where they may.”

Love, who has been open in recent years about his struggles with anxiety and mental health, said dealing with the trade rumors that constantly swirl around him can be a challenge on that front.

“A big aspect of mental health is just staying in the present but it’s so hard,” he said. “You have to try to not get too far ahead of yourself or get worked up. You can get that anxious feeling or fear for the future, but you have to try to stay focused on getting better and let things work out the way they should.”

Kevin Love has played well to start the season, averaging 18.3 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, shooting a respectable 34.7 percent from three. He could help a lot of teams, particularly ones in the West who want to be in the mix for a ring but who look at the Lakers and Clippers and think, “we have to get better fast.”

The rumors around Love are just going to get louder the closer and closer we get to the trade deadline. Love will have to do a lot of work to tune all that out.