Photo courtesy Shock Doctor mouthguards

Kevin Love ready to be No. 1 option again

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Chris Bosh warned him, but the extent of it was still a surprise at times — Kevin Love had been an All-Star playing one way, but he was going to have to evolve his game and his mindset to play next to LeBron James in Cleveland.

Love went from being the star at the center of the solar system in Minnesota to becoming one of the planets orbiting LeBron in Cleveland — one of the biggest, brightest planets, but it was a shockingly different role at times. Love eventually was all-in — not all-out — embraced the change and it got him a ring, which is what he wanted most.

This summer, LeBron went Hollywood

The Cavaliers quickly pivoted and, not wanting to rebuild, signed Love to a $120 million extension and made him the face of the franchise. Love is a No. 1 option again.

This time, though, things are going to be different for Love.

Yes, he again will be asked to score more, but he said that biggest thing that is different now is he doesn’t care about his numbers as much as finding ways to get the Cavaliers the win. Also, the game has evolved since he left Minnesota so he must as well.

“Just shooting the ball from the perimeter,” Love told NBC Sports about what will be different from when he was the No. 1 option in Minnesota. “That’s where the game has gone and there are stretch fours and stretch fives now. It’s such a luxury for a big man to be able to step out on the perimeter, it stretches defenses and it helps with the pacing of how you run your offense.”

How he gets his shots will be different, too. Last season 23.4 percent of his shots were spot-up jumpers where another player (usually LeBron) created the opportunity. Now it’s Love who has to create those shots for others and, in the preseason, most of his used possessions have come out of the post or in isolations.

That means the game is going to be a lot more physical for Love — and it already was plenty physical at times, like when Love lost a tooth late last season.

“I got hit in the face last year which led to losing a front tooth, and I had to get a root canal, but had I not been wearing that Shock Doctor mouthguard I would have lost my four front teeth,” Love said, speaking on behalf of Shock Doctor mouthguards. Love took an elbow to the face against the Heat and, while it wasn’t pretty (and he ended up in the league’s concussion protocol), he praised the mouthguard from saving him a lot more pain (and root canals) and a lot more time off the court recovering.

In a pace-and-space league, Love said being physical will be crucial to the Cavaliers making the playoffs this season.

“We’ve got to be (a physical team),” Love told NBC Sports. “We’ve got to be in great shape, I think that’s going to be an advantage for us. I think all of our guys being able to bring the ball up, that’s an advantage for us. We’re going to be able to switch at a number of positions and be very physical, that’s a way we need to play and we have that luxury. And also it’s a pace-and-space league and we’re going to have to be able to knock down shots, that’s the way the game has evolved, and the only way we’re going to do that is if we’re in shape and pushing the ball.”

From the moment Love signed that extension, the question around the league (and NBA Twitter) was “how long until the Cavs trade him and go all in on a rebuild?” Or, alternately, when will he get Blake Griffined?

That may be farther off than some fans realize — this summer started a two-year, $185 million renovation project of the Quicken Loans Arena, and it’s a bad look for the team to get the city and other entities to pitch in money for it then start tanking immediately — but the rumors are not going to stop. Love expects as much.

“From what I’ve gone through the last four years, my name has always come up in trade rumors and constantly come up in talks, whether it has been at the deadline, or throughout the summer, so I just let the chips fall where they may,” Love said. “The general manager, Koby Altman, and the owner Dan Gilbert know that I want to be here, but at the end of the day it’s a business.”

For Love, his summer has been focused on his new role. That means a mental adjustment, but as he turns 30 it also means a different focus on his training and body.

“Some running mechanics and just some biomechanics in general, just the movement of my body,” Love said. “Being 30 years old now It’s something I had to focus on.”

He also gets to focus on winning from the position of being the No. 1 option again. And that’s a place he is comfortable.

Report: Knicks will roll over cap space if they don’t sign Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard

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The Knicks are chasing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. New York will reportedly get a meeting with Kawhi Leonard.

But Irving appears headed to the Nets, and Durant might follow. Leonard appears to favor the Raptors in a two-team race with the Clippers.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

New York still believes it’s in the hunt for Kawhi Leonard, Irving and Durant. But, according to a source, the Knicks will punt their $70 million-plus in cap space if they can’t land one of those Tier A free agents.

This plan would require patience Knicks owner James Dolan has rarely shown. The Knicks have missed the playoffs six straight years. Twice during that span – including last season – they posted their worst record in franchise history (17-65). Dolan publicly proclaimed confidence New York would sign major free agents this summer.

He’d really allow the Knicks to delay winning even further?

New York is positioned to wait until 2020 free agency (though Joakim Noah‘s cap hit will remain on the books after an avoidable error). R.J. Barrett and Kevin Knox will still be on relatively cheap rookie-scale contracts. As a second-round pick, Mitchell Robinson is even lower-paid. If they sign players to only one-year contracts this offseason, the Knicks will once again have massive cap room.

But good players generally want multi-year deals. So, New York would be choosing among a far more limited pool of free agents. Another gloomy season would likely await.

And then the 2020 free-agent class looks weak. Especially with Anthony Davis already on the Lakers, there probably won’t be an attainable superstar for the Knicks. There might not even be an attainable star.

Then what? Sacrifice the 2020-21 season to gear up for 2021 free agency? Maybe Barrett, Knox and Robinson develop and send New York on a different track, but that’s far from assured.

The genius of this plan is it allows Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry to keep their jobs while the team continues to stink. There would be no expectations of winning anytime soon – as long as Dolan abides.

Report: Kyrie Irving doesn’t like living in Boston

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Has Kyrie Irving been in contact with the Boston Celtics about his free agency? We have reports that say that Irving has “ghosted” the Celtics… and of course we have counter reports that say just the opposite.

It’s hard to believe anything that swirls around Irving, one of the more enigmatic and tiring personalities in the NBA. At the very least, Irving has appeared to send signals that he is looking to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Chief among them being that Irving recently fired his longtime representation and signed with Roc Nation, which has a close partnership with the Brooklyn front office.

Boston has had a hard time getting free agents to come to play for the franchise, and that’s before they had a standing beef with Klutch Sports. According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, one of our Irving’s problems with the Celtics was that he simply didn’t like living in Boston.

Via ESPN:

“Kyrie Irving didn’t like Boston. I’ve been told this by many people. He didn’t like living in Boston — he just didn’t. By the end he had issues with Brad, by the end he had issues with Danny… by the end he had issues with pretty much all of us.”

We have heard rumors that things started to go wrong in the Celtics locker room when coach Brad Stevens seemed to openly favor injured star Gordon Hayward a bit too heavily (Hayward played for Stevens at Butler in college).

Meanwhile, Danny Ainge has the propensity to rub folks the wrong way. He makes whatever decision he thinks is the best from a basketball perspective, relationships be damned. We learned that with the Isaiah Thomas trade.

At this juncture it seems unlikely that Irving will return to the Celtics. Meanwhile, we will probably continue to get stories like this out of Boston.

Chris Paul: “I never asked for a trade” and says he’s happy to be in Houston

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With Golden State laid low by injuries (and maybe a defection), Houston should be the team stepping to the front of the line saying “it’s our turn” in the West.

Instead, the Rockets two stars — James Harden and Chris Paul — are feuding, ownership is turning coach Mike D’Antoni into a lame duck, and everyone without a fantastic beard hears their name in trade rumors.

The Harden/Paul feud is real, but Paul tried to downplay it at a charity event in Los Angeles over the weekend, denying a trade request and saying he was happy to be in Houston, as reported by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

“I never asked for a trade,” Paul said. “I never demanded a trade.”

“I’ll be in Houston,” Paul said. “I’m happy about that. I’m very happy about that. I’m good.”

The report goes on to note Paul was asked if he had to work things out with Harden and he kind of danced around that question but said the issues were around a season-ending loss. Certainly, two straight years of being bounced by the Warriors has the Rockets frustrated. However, there is also a style issue: Harden dominates the ball and likes to work in isolation, Chris Paul can’t be as efficient that way anymore and prefers a more fluid offense (and more pick-and-roll for him). Coach D’Antoni gives a lot of leeway to Harden.

Harden and Paul need to work their issues out because Paul is nearly untradable (unless the Rockets want to throw in a sweetener with a pick or young player). Paul still has value on the court — a master floor general he averaged 15.6 points and 8.2 assists per game last season — but he is 34-years-old, lost a step last season, has an injury history (he played 58 games last season), and is owed $124 million fully guaranteed over the next three seasons. There simply are not teams interested in trading for Paul.

Houston could head into next season the favorites in the West. Part of that depends on how things shake out in free agency (does Kawhi Leonard come West, for example), but a lot of it is just the Rockets getting their act together. I expect Paul and Harden to figure things out, at least well enough to make it work. Mostly because they don’t have a choice. Paul isn’t going anywhere, whether he asked to leave or not.

 

Zion Williamson on Pelicans: ‘I’m ready to stay here’ (VIDEO)

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Zion Williamson is finally, officially a New Orleans Pelican. David Griffin and the Pelicans front office selected Williamson No. 1 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft on Thursday.

Now, we just have to wait for the Anthony Davis trade to be official and we can put this whole thing behind us.

Meanwhile, Williamson has been celebrating. According to TMZ, he had a big pizza party with his friends after the draft in New York. Williamson has since reported to the team in Louisiana, where he’s already saying all the right things to the media.

Speaking during a team event, Williamson said that something just hit him and that it was a gut feeling that he was glad to be in New Orleans.

“This is my home,” said Williamson. “I’m ready to stay here.”

Via Twitter:

Williamson could also be seen getting recommendations for the excellent cuisine in the Bayou.

As No. 1 overall picks and future franchise cornerstones go, Williamson already seems to have the temperament of a guy who’s willing to take over from the last one in Davis.