At the start of the season, the basketball world was salivating over the prospect of having LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love playing on one team. These three players are considered superstars, are in their prime, and bring to the table combined basketball smarts and talents that can be rarely matched anywhere else.
But with barely a month left in the NBA regular season, there are indications that this Big Three will be short-lived.
The Cleveland Cavaliers started slow as the three tried figuring out how to play with each other. With the entire basketball focused on them, every comment, every move on the court was given meaning by the mainstream media, increasing the pressure on the team. The Cavs hit a season-low when James sat for two weeks in January and the team went 1-7, including a 6-game losing streak. Since his return, James has been on a tear and is even back in the MVP discussion. Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, has adjusted to playing with James and is looking great. Kevin Love is still groping for form even if the Cavs now have a lock as the No.2 seed in the East.
Before joining the Cavaliers, Love was the franchise player with the Minnesota Timberwolves averaging a whopping 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 4.4 assists on 46 percent shooting. Fast-forward to this season and Love’s averages are down across the board including a 10-point drop on offense. It was a given that Love’s numbers would drop but not by this much. While he has been mum most of the season with his diminished role, it is obvious that Love is unhappy with the current set-up.
He was called out by LeBron James in February “to just fit in instead of fitting out.” He told media recently “I heard people calling me that but I know I’m not a stretch-four. I am a post player that can shoot. Right now I’m just doing what I’m called to do…” On the court, it is obvious that Love has been marginalized in terms of touches and plays. He used to post-up, get to the free throw line a lot and hit mid-range jumpers.
The Cavaliers are now in a tough situation since Love looks like he will leave for free agency in the summer of 2015. This is bad since once Love leaves, they can no longer replace him. They can’t go over the salary cap to sign a free agent from another time using the same amount of money. The Cavs lose the ability to sign three max contract players. What’s worse is that they traded two former No. 1 picks (Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins) to get Love.
Already, the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, and the Los Angeles Lakers have expressed interest in signing Love if he decides to test free agency after the season.
Love will surely command a max, long-term salary and more importantly, play a bigger role in case he leaves the Cavs.