It started at the 2012 Olympics. LeBron James routinely complimented the game of Kevin Love, though Love wasn’t sure if LeBron was being serious. It became clear later James was, and their relationship crescendoed this weekend, when Love was officially traded to the Cavaliers after more than a month of speculation. On Tuesday, the Cavs formally introduced Love in a press conference, and we heard about James’ communiqué with Love right after SI published LeBron’s essay announcing his decision to return to the Cavs this summer. That phone call was all Love needed to make up his mind.
“LeBron signed to come back, and a few hours later he called me and I said ‘I’m in,'” Love said at his press conference in Independence, Ohio today. “That had a lot to do with my decision. It means a lot to be a part of this organization.
“Everything in my entire life for the last six years had led me up to this opportunity.”
Love told LeBron at the time of the call, “I’m in.”
Love says LeBron called him the day he committed to returning to Cleveland. Love told him then, "I'm in."
— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) August 26, 2014
Love says LeBron called him the day he committed to Cleveland–early last month–to tell Love that he wanted him there.
— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) August 26, 2014
As the estimable Michael Lee of the Washington Post points out, there was in fact a reason Andrew Wiggins was left out of LeBron’s SI essay, as we alluded to at the time.
Kevin Love said LeBron James called him right after signing with CLE. So, yeah Andrew Wiggins, you were left out of The Letter for a reason
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) August 26, 2014
That being said, Love can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, as can LeBron if he opts out. The former Timberwolves power forward and 25-year-old three-time all-star made it clear in his press conference, he’s in Cleveland for the long haul, or at least until they can taste champagne from the Larry O’Brien trophy.
“[An extension] hasn’t been talked about,” Love said. “I’m committed to this team and committed long term to the end goal, which is to win a championship.”
Cavs GM David Griffin talked about how long the process took to finally bring Love in, with discussions between Cleveland and Minnesota going back more than a year in the past:
“This is culmination of a year and a half of conversations to trade for [Love]. This is a player that, quite frankly, fits us as well as any player could have. LeBron makes a great deal of these things possible by his presence alone. That piece had a great deal to do with Kevin’s comfort with joining us. Hopefully we’ll [have] him for a very long time.”
As for Love’s new No. 0, he wore No. 42 in Minnesota and reached out to Nate Thurmond, whose No. 42 Cavs jersey is retired. Nate gave Love his blessing, but former UCLA Bruin wanted to start fresh with a new team:
“I thought this was a chance to start fresh,” Love said, “to pick a new number that would suit me.”
Kevin Love explains new jersey No. 0 is throwback to youth basketball days in Oregon pic.twitter.com/cVrH2Z16kk
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) August 26, 2014
PIC: Cavaliers present Kevin Love with his No. 0 jersey. "I'm committed to this team, long term," he said. pic.twitter.com/db9Xmvkb1O
— NEOMG Cavs (@PDcavsinsider) August 26, 2014
It’s clear Love knows Cleveland is LeBron’s team, but his skill-set is so rare — a power forward who can shoot with range, rebound and pass — he knows that paired with LeBron we could see something special taking shape in Cleveland.
“We know LeBron is the focal point,” Love also added in his introductory remarks. “But we have a lot of damn good players.”
Love said his relationship with LeBron was really forged at 2012 Olympics.
— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) August 26, 2014
It’s interesting LeBron was already plotting the Love trade as he was making up his mind to head to Cleveland. What was supposed to be a learning 2014-15 season where LeBron showed Kyrie Irving and all the young Cavs how to win, has turned into a title-or-bust free-for-all next season.
It’s clear James thinks the addition of Love is his best opportunity to win for his hometown fans, even if the collusion between the two olympic teammates ties into LeBron’s original decision in 2010 to join Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami. LeBron made his Cleveland decision and then immediately called Love, who had already made it clear to ‘Wolves management he wanted out.
With Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett available, the year-long endeavor by the Cavs to bring Kevin Love aboard was finally sealed with that phone call between James and Love.
Regardless of how we got here, the Cavs are the early favorites to win the 2015 NBA title, and Kevin Love will likely be playing in his first postseason next spring. If you’re a Cavs fan, things look pretty good right now, after decades of futility and a wayward star very publicly electing to first leave, then come home.
What do you think?
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