Kevin Love continues to be a force off the bench for the Cavaliers this season. He is coming off one of his best performances of the season this past Wednesday in Cleveland's 115-99 win over the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. Love came off the bench to score 25 points on 9/16 shooting (5/9 from three) and grabbed 9 rebounds.
Not only is his on the court performance helping the 30-19 Cavaliers, but his leadership off the court has been invaluable to this young Cleveland squad.
"I almost don't want to acknowledge it because I just want to bottle up what we have right now," said Love. "I want to keep us super hungry. We have 30 wins. People did not expect us to be here."
Things were not always so rosy with Love and the Cavaliers. He was visibly unhappy on more than one occasion over the past two seasons. In January 2020 during a home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Love became visibly frustrated with guard Collin Sexton right before the end of the first half.
Shortly after this incident rumors started swirling that Love wanted to be traded from the Cavaliers and had expressed his displeasure and disgust about the state of the organization.
Then came an incident in April of 2021 against the Toronto Raptors where Love purposely tapped the ball in bounds to the Raptors after some frustration over a non foul call.
After the game Love apologized during his post game interview.
"That wasn't me," Love said. "I fucked up, everybody knows that. I love this team. I know that I fucked up. I didn't go out there meaning to upset anybody, to embarrass myself, to embarrass the organization because I feel like I'm part of something bigger than myself here."
This season things have changed in a big way. No more on court temper tantrums. No more rumors of him wanting out of the organization. It all started in training camp when Love was informed by coach J.B. Bickerstaff that he would come off the bench this season to make room for #3 overall pick Evan Mobley.
Coach Bickerstaff was able to convince Love to buy into his new role and he has done nothing but flourish. Love is averaging 14.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 41% from three point range in 21.6 minutes per game. He has had scoring games of 35, 25, 24 (twice), 23, & 22 (three times) this season off the bench. In a recent interview with J.J Reddick, Love expressed that this is the most fun he has had in the NBA since the 2015/16 Championship season.
"Outside of 15/16 I was talking to Cedi about this, I don't know that I've had more fun in the NBA than now," said Love. "Watching these guys grow and getting to be a leader in that sense as well."
Love accepting and excelling in his new role are a big reason why the Cavaliers sit tied for 3rd in the Eastern Conference only 1.5 games behind 1st place Miami. Cavaliers President Koby Altman has received trade calls on Love but he is going nowhere. Quite the turnaround from the past two seasons when Love wanted out and fans were calling for him to be traded or bought out.
Love is sure to receive consideration for the NBA 6th Man of the Year Award and may even get to participate in the 3-point shootout at All-Star weekend in Cleveland. One thing is for sure, Love is back in the air in Cleveland this season!
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