Kevin Love will be back in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform in 2015-16.
Love made the declaration during a break in his rehabilitation on May 31. It was his first time to face reporters since he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in late April, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
Simply put, this means good news for the Cavs and bad news for the rest of the NBA.
“I truly haven’t even thought about it, but as I mentioned, I expect to be suiting up by Game 1 of next year,” Love told McMenamin and the media horde on Sunday.
A reporter asked Love a follow-up question if his return in 2015-16 will be with the Cavaliers.
“Yes, sir,” Love quickly responded, per McMenamin.
Kevin Love says he expects to be back for opening night of the 2015-16 season in a Cavaliers uniform. http://t.co/2nlLGPSGV0
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 31, 2015
According to ESPN, Love still has one year left on his contract with the Cavs. He is slated to earn $16.7 million next season. McMenamin says Love has two options regarding his contract status:
- Love can opt out of his contract by June 30 so he can possibly re-negotiate with the Cavaliers for a five-year deal.
- He can test the free-agent market where he could land a maximum four-year deal with another team, per the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
Apparently, Love’s statement on Monday was a mere formality. He told The Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Chris Haynes on Jan. 13 he planned to forgo his player option so he can still be a Cavalier in the fall.
Back then, Haynes stressed Love staying in Cleveland at least until 2016 will allow the All-Star forward to “tap into the expected spike in television revenue before the 2016-17 season.”
“I’ve said all along that I plan on being a Cavalier long-term,” Love told The Northeast Ohio Media Group in January. “As we continue to evolve, my role will continue to evolve. It’s still a process where I’m figuring it out.”
In his May 31 update, Haynes says Love is still being linked to teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics despite his declaration on Sunday. Love told Haynes he fully expected that because of the player option on his contract.
Love suffered a dislocated shoulder when he figured in a loose-ball scuffle with Boston Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk during Game 4 of their first-round playoff series in late April, per McMenamin.
The Cavaliers forward was initially upset with the incident, calling it a “bush-league play,” per ESPN. Love told McMenamin he has since mellowed down and even reached out to Olynyk via a text message saying, ‘It’s all good” a week after the game.
Since Love’s season ended, the Cavaliers have gone 8-2. After they swept Boston, they beat the Chicago Bulls in six games in the conference semis and then swept the No.1-seeded Atlanta Hawks in the conference finals, per ESPN.
Doctors gave Love the go signal to join his teammates on the bench during the series against the Hawks. During his absence, he revealed to McMenamin he frequently kept in touch with teammates Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova via Facetime.
He also told ESPN he’s excited about being by his teammates’ side when they square off against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals which begins this week.
Love told McMenamin he’s shed around 15 pounds since his surgery and has been staying in shape by riding the exercise bike, treadmill and elliptical.
Love concluded his media session on Sunday by saying he’s proud of how far his team has come and how his teammates have been there for him in his time of adversity:
I’ll continue to work and try to get healthy over the summer and come back ready to play Game 1 (of next season). But like I mentioned, I’m super happy for these guys, and there’s times where I’ve felt down because of my shoulder and they’ve been here to pick me back up, and that’s kind of how it’s been the whole year.
The Parting Shot
Kevin Love’s statement virtually closes the door on other teams’ chances of locking him up for next season.
Sorry, Los Angeles Lakers. Sorry, Houston Rockets and everyone else.
Who can blame him?
Love is making good money while playing for a title contender. Those are the two essentials big-name players like him thrive on.
— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) May 31, 2015
For Love, he will no longer be mired in mediocrity the way he was when he played for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has a chance make several more title runs with LeBron James and his teammates who he has become closer to.
Naturally, he would have loved to win his first NBA title by taking the court for Cleveland. Since he’s out of commission until the fall, the best he can do is cheer the Cavaliers on.
James and Co. have proved they are still a force to be reckoned with even without Love. Don’t forget All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving hasn’t been 100 percent, either, as he missed two games in the Eastern Conference Finals due to nagging tendinitis in his left knee.
Kevin Love expects to be with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015-16 and ready to play on opening night. http://t.co/zeU9r6N9vh
— ESPN (@espn) May 31, 2015
LBJ has made a resounding statement to his naysayers: He’s no choker. Even without Kevin Love around, he can still carry a team on his back. He has four MVP awards and two titles to prove it.
However, can James and the Cavaliers prove this when they face 2014-15 NBA MVP Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals? That remains to be seen.
For now, you have to be happy for Kevin Love—he’s going to play for a title contender next season, his team is making a strong run at the championship this year and he’s recovering nicely from season-ending shoulder surgery. Plus, he’s made amends with Kelly Olynyk.
An NBA title ring would make things even sweeter.