When the Cavaliers shocked the world by landing LeBron James, followed by trading for Kevin Love, the world was quick to declare that the “Curse of Cleveland” had finally been lifted.
But with recent Tweets from LeBron directed towards Love about fitting in, is the curse still lingering?
Stop trying to find a way to FIT-OUT and just FIT-IN. Be apart of something special! Just my thoughts
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 8, 2015
After a blockbuster of an off season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Cavs went from a team looking to optimize talent around Kyrie Irving, to a team with three lethal, top-level basketball players.
When LeBron pointed out that it could be a long process to a championship for these Cavaliers, everyone thought that was reasonable. With Dion Waiters as the third-option behind Kyrie and LeBron, they were a quality playoff team in the East, but not a title contender. However, that all got blown out of the water the moment Kevin Love become a Cavalier.
With Love in full control of his own contract destiny, as well as the fact that there is no excuse for lack of talent, the quest for an immediate deep playoff run becomes Priority #1.
This is analogous to what Miami had to deal with last year with LeBron; if they had won the championship then, there is absolutely no chance that LeBron would be with the Cavs right now. Instead of the trio opting out of their contracts this summer like they did, in all likelihood the Big Three would’ve played their contracts out in quest of a three-peat, with LeBron heading back to Cleveland after the end of this season, whether or not they achieved it.
While the Cavs don’t even have to necessarily reach the Finals to ensure that Love stays, they do need to make a strong, competitive, and deep run in the playoffs if they want to make it a lock that he re-signs. If they for some reason have struggles and chemistry issues come April, they may have an issue on their hands.
For example, if the playoffs began today, the first round matchup would be Cavs (#5 Seed) vs. Bulls (#4 seed). It’s not crazy to imagine the Cavs being knocked out in the first round, as most people consider the Bulls to be more of a complete title contender. While Love hasn’t been to the playoffs yet, I doubt that would be the type of experience he envisioned when he teamed up with LeBron and Kyrie Irving.
Of course there are still financial logistics to consider. With the new TV deal money starting to flow in 2016, Love has an incentive to opt in on the last year of his contract in order to sign a max deal in 2016. The salary cap is projected to jump from about $66.3 million next year up to around $80 million, which to Love means the difference of making about $19 million per year, to making $28 million per year; that is a very significant reason to stick it out another year with Cleveland, regardless of how they perform.
Things seem to be on Cleveland’s side in terms of re-signing Love, but the curse may be lurking in the background, just waiting to strike. The thought of Love leaving and Andrew Wiggins becoming an All-Star is Cleveland’s worst nightmare, and there’s a real possibility that it could become reality.