The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love problem is only getting worse. From the moment he signed a massive four-year deal worth $120 million in the summer of 2018, Love has become a salary albatross for an organization in a rebuild. While the Cavs had hoped he might be able to ease the pain of the transition — enticing fans to buy tickets to watch the star despite their overall losing record — in addition to mentoring the young players on the roster, Love has instead transformed into something of a discontent whose waning production is only surpassed by his inability to stay on the court.
His latest tantrum only highlights the issue even more.
With the Cavs down a mere four points with about 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter of their game against the Toronto Raptors on Monday night, Kevin Love swatted the inbounds pass to an alert Stanley Johnson, who promptly fired the ball back to a trailing Malachi Flynn, who then sank the shot from behind the arc. It was a well-executed, heads-up play that was only mired by one key detail on Love’s part.
Both Johnson and Flynn play on the opposing team.
While Love has since apologized for the inexplicable play — which reportedly resulted from his frustration with the officials rather than any ill-will towards his teammates — his action, or lacke thereof, following the turnover is just as damning.
Once realizing that he had swatted the inbounds pass directly to the Raptors, Love opted to remain along the baseline, casually watching Toronto hoist up a shot before slowly walking toward the frontcourt. Love wound up not playing at all in the fourth quarter as the small deficit wound up ballooning into a 16-point loss.
Though Love may be sincere in his apology and truthful that his frustration was geared toward the refs, his outburst Monday night is not an isolated event. Over the entirety of his career in Cleveland, Love has had difficulty connecting with staff and teammates, resulting in multiple confrontations. While Love’s frustration with the team’s poor performance over recent seasons is understandable, it is also relevant to point out that the big man had to know the franchise would require a rebuild, having signed his contract in the aftermath of LeBron James’ departure to the Lakers.
Regardless of initial expectations, however, it is now clear that Kevin Love’s situation in Cleveland is no longer tenable for either side.
While the Cavs may have been correct in refusing to give up assets to offload Love previously — instead gearing those assets toward the team’s on-court performance while hoping Love’s on-court production would increase enough to find a buyer — Cleveland must now realize that Love’s discontent can poison a young locker room finally brimming with talent.
With the trade deadline already behind them and the team still reticent toward attaching draft assets to Love in a potential trade, the Cavs would do well to engage the forward in buyout talks at some point. He does still have two years and around $60 million left on his deal after this season, but perhaps the two sides can come to an amicable agreement that works out best for both of them.
For a franchise on the cusp of competitiveness, ensuring a stable environment for their prospects to grow must be the top consideration for Cleveland. They can start building that atmosphere by offloading Kevin Love.