Report: Cavaliers have “legitimate fear” Kevin Love leaves as free agent. Should they really?

36 Comments

Kevin Love has denied he is leaving. Repeatedly.

Yet whether driven by the hopes of and dreams of other franchises and front offices, or whether Kevin Love’s agent and people are sending out hints, the “Love is going to leave the Cavaliers this summer” rumors will not die.

The latest one comes once again from Adrain Wojnarowski, speaking on the Dan Patrick Show.

“I think all year long he has looked longingly at free agency and the possibility of what else is out there. What the Cavaliers had really hoped for is that if he had played in the postseason, and had success, and had some big moments, and all of a sudden people start to look at Kevin Love differently — “he had a great Game 6 against the Bulls and got us to the conference finals” — and people started to see him as a winning player and a big moment guy, he hasn’t had those opportunities in the past, maybe he’d feel differently about that role he had there. But none of that is going to happen now, he’s out, and he won’t experience any of that. And the only big decision he’s going to be making is based on a regular season where he hasn’t embraced loved that role like Chris Bosh….

“He’s going to look at free agency, I think he’s going to look at other teams. He can always opt in and go into free agency next summer where there’s even a bigger pool of money. But there’s a legitimate fear within the Cavs that he will just walk.”

Here are my thoughts:

• I think Love will stay, at least for one more season. The logic goes that if Love leaves it’s because he doesn’t like the sacrifices he had to make to his game, and he wants to be in the spotlight. He wants to be the focal point of a franchise not the third option. The rumor has been if he leaves he winds up a Laker. If Love leaves the contender Cavs for the Lakers — a team that would be lucky to make the playoffs even with him in the West — the national narrative will be about Love not caring about winning, about him being selfish, and about how he wasn’t tough enough to stay with a contender. Fair or not, that’s how it will be spun everywhere outside Los Angeles. If Love gives it a couple seasons and then leaves, it’s much easier for him to say “I tried but this just wasn’t a fit.”

• Love may stay by opting in for the final year of his deal (he probably could survive on $16.7 million). Or if he opts out he signs a deal where he has a player option in one or two more years. He will reassess then. Love may well stay a Cavalier beyond that time, but he is going to get paid max money under the new television deal cap, and he’d be a fool not to try and get that extra cash.

• Wojnarowski is as connected as any NBA reporter out there, and if he says something, you have to give it some credence. That said, nobody leaks anything this time of year (to Wojnarowski or anyone else) without a motive. And it’s not hard to imagine motives here that may not always be tied to what Love is thinking.

• Cavaliers management (and fans) should be fearful he leaves — it would be very difficult to replace him of anyone near the same quality. Yes, I know LaMarcus Aldridge’s name comes up, but signing an outright free agent to a max deal while keeping LeBron paid (he can opt out), keeping J.R. Smith, keeping Timofey Mozgov, and re-signing restricted free agent Tristan Thompson (and the list of people to pay is longer) is very financially tricky. Unless you can sell Love on a sign-and-trade to Portland (and good luck with that).

• Late in the season and into the playoffs, Love started to find more of a comfort zone with the Cavaliers. He and LeBron are never going to be tight like LeBron and Wade were, but LeBron did stick up for him. He may not be as eager to bolt as people in other markets want to believe.

• Cavaliers fans gave him a standing ovation in Game 2 when he was shown on the big screen during a timeout. That’s from the Joni Mitchel “You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” file.

This is going to be a very interesting summer in Cleveland no matter what Love decides.

Suns, Hawks reportedly show interest in Kuzma trade, Wizards see him as cornerstone

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets
Al Bello/Getty Images
0 Comments

Kyle Kuzma was the kind of quality, two-way role player the Lakers needed around LeBron James and Anthony Davis to win the 2020 NBA title (the type of player the Lakers wish they had now).

In Washington, his role has been elevated — he’s a 20-point-a-game scorer (20.6 points per game this season, to be precise) who is a key part of generating offense, not just playing off the stars of Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. As he told Shams Charania of The Athletic:

“As soon as I got traded, I was ready to be more,” Kuzma told The Athletic.

It’s been enough to draw the interest of a couple of teams looking for a trade, Charania adds. The Wizards are not necessarily interested in moving on, however.

Several teams, such as the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns, have expressed trade interest in Kuzma, according to league sources. By the same token, the Wizards have shown interest in Hawks forward John Collins, and the sides seriously discussed a potential deal last offseason, league sources added…

However, the Wizards’ front office, led by general manager Tommy Sheppard, has made clear that it views Kuzma as a cornerstone moving forward as the franchise has seen him thrive since the mega-trade in the 2021 offseason. The Westbrook trade provided future flexibility and assets for the Wizards, who have been known to be aggressive and active in research across the league.

Kuzma has a $13 million player option for next season that he will unquestionably opt out of, making him a free agent in search of a healthy raise (north of $20 million a year, although expect something more in the ballpark of the four-year, $104 million Jalen Brunson contract). If the Wizards are willing to pay they likely can keep him (they have his Bird rights). But if Washington isn’t sure it wants to pay market value, or if management sees a shifting path for future seasons, it should consider trading Kuzma at the deadline.

If he becomes available, far more teams than the Hawks and Suns would be interested, quality two-way forwards are in demand around the league. Kuzma would have some leverage over where he gets sent because he can leave as a free agent (teams would offer up less if they believed Kuzma would only be a rental for this season).

Magic send Jonathan Isaac to G-League for practice, rehabilitation

2022-2023 Orlando Magic Media Day
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

There was a time when it was thought Jonathan Isaac might be the Magic’s next big star.

However, he has not stepped on an NBA court since he was in the bubble (Feb. 8, 2020), then he tore his ACL in August of that year (which came on the heels of missing much of that season with an injury to the same knee). Last March he had a setback and another procedure, and at this point he has missed two full seasons plus the start of this one.

Isaac is still working toward recovery and the Magic have assigned him to the Lakeland Magic of the G-League to get in some practice.

Because NBA teams barely practice during the season — the schedule of games nearly every other day plus travel and recovery doesn’t permit more than film sessions and walk-throughs — these kinds of baseball-style minor league rehab assignments are more and more common.

The story from the Magic’s official website notes this will be the first time Isaac will play 5-on-5 with other players during his rehab, which is a significant step forward.

There is no timeline for his return, but the Magic have him under contract this season for $17.4 million and two more fully guaranteed years at the same price. There is no reason for the franchise to walk away, even if some around the league question if his knees will ever let him back on an NBA court again.

The Magic have found their next star in Paolo Banchero and have built a promising young core, something Isaac — an elite defender before his injuries — should fit in well with. If he can get healthy and back on the court.

Antetokounmpo talks about plans for his 28th birthday while holding Simpsons plush

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
0 Comments

Happy birthday, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak turns 28 today.

After he dropped a casual (for him) 34-13-5 line in the Bucks’ win over the Magic last night, Antetokounmpo discussed his birthday plans. He’s not going out, maybe just dinner, playing with his kids, and once they are asleep… ya know.

I feel safe saying Antetokounmpo is the first NBA player to talk about birthday sex while holding a Homer J. Simpson plush doll.

If you’re asking, why the Simpson doll… why not? Bucks reserve forward Sandro Mamukelashvili won it at Universal Studios, brought it to the game, left it behind in the locker room and Antetokounmpo appropriated it.

In a world where most postgame press conferences are formulaic and filled with cliches it’s good to see a player willing just to be himself and have some fun behind the mic.

Watch Pacers rookie Nembhard drop 31, outduel Curry, lead Pacers past Warriors

0 Comments

SAN FRANCSICO — Rookie Andrew Nembhard outshined the Splash Brothers on their home court.

Nembhard scored a season-high 31 points and added 13 assists and eight rebounds to lead the undermanned Indiana Pacers to a 112-104 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Monday night.

A second-round draft pick, Nembhard made a key 3-pointer with 4:26 to go and another jumper less than two minutes later.

“He was masterful tonight … 31 and 13, those are high lottery numbers,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

Indiana played without starting point guard Tyrese Haliburton for a second straight game as he nurses soreness in his left groin.

Klay Thompson scored 28 points and made eight 3-pointers, moving up the NBA’s career 3-point list on the six-year anniversary of his 60-point masterpiece against the Pacers.

Thompson finished 9 of 23, but Stephen Curry was held to 12 points on 3-for-17 shooting. Jordan Poole scored 23 starting in place of Andrew Wiggins, who sat out with tightness of the adductor muscle in his right leg.

“No matter what we do, it’s going to be hard to guard these guys. We had some good fortune with them missing some shots they may normally make,” Carlisle said. “But our guys played with a lot of presence to start the game. We were switching a lot and everyone was tied together.”

Nembhard hit five 3s while Buddy Hield added 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists as Indiana snapped a three-game losing streak with just its second win in six games.

Nembhard and the Pacers hardly looked like a team playing the second game of a road back-to-back.

“He was hoopin’ and I think that starts in the first half for us,” Golden State’s Donte DiVincenzo said. “The guards have to get into it a little bit more.”

Golden State had its 10-game home winning streak snapped.

Curry went 1 of 7 in the first half, missing all four of his 3-point tries and was 2 for 10 from deep overall. Curry finally connected from long range with 5:13 left in the third after missing his first five.

The Pacers, missing six players with injuries or illness, jumped out to a 22-12 lead as Golden State started 5 for 17.

Thompson knocked down three straight 3-pointers – all from the right wing – to tie the game at 42 with 4:51 left in the second quarter before a Pacers timeout. Thompson also dished out an assist on Jonathan Kuminga‘s layup before his trio of 3s and nearly had another when Kuminga was fouled and made both free throws to cap a 20-2 run 3:40 before halftime.