Kevin Love was a surprise addition to Team USA. After an injury-riddled couple of years and his worth statistical season ever in 2020-21, Love was not seen as a top candidate for the gold-mining roster. But he wanted to play, the Cavaliers wanted him to play, no doubt hoping a solid performance in Tokyo would help his trade value, and Gregg Popovich and other vets on Team USA welcomed.
So, he packed his bags and headed out of his Tribeca apartment for Las Vegas and USA Basketball’s training camp. From the moment, he committed, rumors began to fly: Kevin Durant would try to recruit him to the Nets. There was even an report the two Kevins would room together. (That’s not how it works in the Olympics.)
Love, at 32 years old, would seem to fit the Nets strategy of waiting on declining stars who play on rebuilding teams, like Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, both of whom joined the Nets after big buyouts from the Pistons and Spurs, respectively. Aldridge didn’t work out having to step aside following a cardiac issue, but Griffin, six months older than Love, was the Nets starting center in the post-season.
There was no talk about Love taking the Brooklyn Bridge to HSS Training Center when he met with the media Tuesday in Vegas. He spoke instead about his individual situation and immediate future with Team USA.
“Yeah, I understand going into my 14th season that being that No. 1 guy, playing 35 minutes, getting 20 touches a game is probably in my rearview,” Love said Tuesday. “But how I can affect the team, and feeling how I’m feeling now, I know that I can do it at a very high level. I don’t try to put a ceiling or limit on myself at all. So long as I’m feeling good, I know I’m going to play good.
“If it’s asked for me to have to pivot in my career for a team to win, I’m more than willing to do that. … But I do feel like on that [Cavaliers] team, or whichever team I end up on, USA Team, this is definitely something that I can continue to progress in the right way for really anybody. It doesn’t matter who I’m out there with, or who I’m playing with out there on the floor.” (Emphasis added.)
Love in many ways reminds pundits and fans of Griffin before he gave up $13.3 million on his remaining $75 million deal to join the Nets. Love is owed $60.2 million over the next two years. The two 32-year-olds had almost identical numbers last year. Griffin averaged 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20 games while in Detroit. Love averaged 12.2 points and 7.4 rebounds in 25 games in Cleveland.
One thing to look for even while The Games are underway is what the Cavs do in the Draft and free agency. With the 3rd pick in the Draft, they could wind up with Evan Mobley, the 7-footer from USC, or Jonathan Kuminga, the 6’8” forward who played for G League Ignite. Then, in free agency, the Cavs top priority will be re-signing Jarrett Allen to multi-year deal approaching $100 million. Where does Love fit in that mix of young bigs?
A number of teams other than the Nets might be interested in Love if he becomes available. In fact, just Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Warriors are planning a “full court press” to sign Love if he’s bought out.
The Nets reportedly expressed interest in the UCLA product back in January. He’s been a five-time NBA All-Star, two-time All-NBA player and has been an NBA championship ring (with Kyrie Irving) and an Olympics gold medal.
For the moment, Love is talking only about Tokyo and what he wants to prove.
“Yeah, just that I can still be the player that I was before I had a couple tough injuries,” Love told the media. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time.
“In a way I understand it, because I came off a season where I didn’t play that many games and wasn’t at the top of my game. I was very vocal about that, saying I wasn’t where I wanted to be mostly for my team, for my coaching staff and for the Cavs in general.… So for me to come here, I just feel like I have a lot to prove.”
- Kevin Love could be next veteran on Nets’ radar - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Gregg Popovich would have ‘begged, cried’ to get Kevin Durant to Olympics - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Kevin Love to the Nets both makes sense and doesn’t at all - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Could Warriors convince Kevin Love to join them on veteran-minimum contract? - Rusty Simmons - San Francisco Chronicle
- Kevin Durant arrives in Las Vegas as Team USA begins training camp - Ajayi Browne - USA Today
- Why is Kevin Love on Team USA’s roster? There’s one very specific reason - Joe Vardon - The Athletic NBA