One of the questions I received recently during my live chat on The Athletic caught me by surprise. One reader was upset that Kevin Love was playing in the Olympics and wondered why he didn’t give this type of effort during the season when the Cavs could’ve used his help. It’s a thought that apparently is shared by many fans, so let’s clear this up.
Aside from the fact Love was legitimately hurt last season and couldn’t play, his placement on Team USA this summer is a good thing. A really good thing. There is an injury risk, sure, but the NBA season doesn’t begin for two months after the Olympics conclude. More importantly, Love needs the game reps. Between injuries and the pandemic, he hasn’t played much basketball in the last few years. This is a terrific way to get into game shape and perhaps rebuild some trade value — provided he gets on the court.
I’m skeptical of how much Love will play in Tokyo, although Team USA coach Gregg Popovich identified Love as a matchup problem for countries like France and Rudy Gobert. And as my colleague Joe Vardon pointed out to me, three players on the Americans’ roster — Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker — are competing in the NBA Finals, which won’t end before July 14 and could extend to as late as July 22. That should leave plenty of minutes available at least through the exhibition games.
Love has mentioned playing in these Olympics to me periodically over the last couple of years. I know it’s something he wants to do and he’s certainly appreciative of the opportunity.
How much longer he’ll be playing for the Cavs remains to be seen. It’s no secret that both sides would prefer to move on at this point, but that remains complicated. It’s also troubling Love acknowledged this week that his days as a No. 1 option are over.
“I think I understand, going into my 14th season, that probably being that No. 1 guy, playing 35 minutes a night and getting 20 touches a game is probably in my rearview,” Love said when Team USA assembled in Las Vegas. “But in how I can affect a team at my level and feeling how I’m feeling now, I know that I can do it at a very high level.”
Love turns 33 in September, and while I absolutely believe he can still be an important piece on a contender, teams around the league probably don’t want to hear Love say he’s on the downside (although I give him credit for his honesty).
The troubling part, of course, is that he’s being paid like a No. 1 for the next two seasons. And this is where the problems begin with trying to trade him.