After the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar suffered a dislocated shoulder due to what he termed a “bush-league play” by Kelly Olynyk during his team’s series-clinching victory over the Boston Celtics yesterday, the hubbub surrounding Love had as much to do with his impending free agency decision as his timeline for recovery. Why? A report suggesting the 26 year-old’s now contentious relationship with the Celtics has soured him on the possibility of signing with the team this summer.
Throughout the year, league sources say, one destination grew in possibility as his exit strategy: The Boston Celtics.
Boston has been no sure thing to lure Love, but it had a better shot than most had believed. If Love left the Cavaliers, the Celtics had closed the gap on the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Love, you’ll remember, was wined and dined by Boston brass last summer as it became increasingly clear his days with the Minnesota Timberwolves were numbered. Though the parties appeared to have developed a strong rapport, Danny Ainge’s stable of assets was never going to be enough to trade for Love despite some momentum indicating otherwise.
Even after Love and the Cavaliers righted the ship over the regular season’s second half and he stressed a commitment to LeBron James and company, though, the basketball public never stopped wondering if Cleveland’s acquisition of him would ultimately amount to a rental. The three-time All-Star has a player option on the final season of his current contract, and the majority of league followers are proceeding as if he’ll choose to enter unrestricted free agency.
But the minutiae of player movement is never that simple. A massive spike to the salary cap in the summers of 2016 and 2017 means the players fortunate enough to hit the open market then will reap financial benefits others wonn’t. Might Love want to take advantage and spend another season getting acclimated to the Cavaliers before making a multi-year decision? Perhaps.
Either way, Wojnarowski added more fuel to the fire by reporting that competing teams are unconvinced the rebound-gobbing, sharp-shooting forward won’t at least consider leading Cleveland.
Nevertheless, Love’s commitment at an NBA-sanctioned July meeting in Las Vegas was non-binding. Around the NBA and within the Cavaliers, they understand: Love wouldn’t hesitate to bail on the franchise. Love can opt-out of his contract into free agency this summer, or stay one more year and hit the market in 2016. There isn’t a team in pursuit of Love who hasn’t done significant research and left unconvinced that Love won’t minimally explore the market this summer.
After all of that crowd sourcing, though, there’s one takeaway from Wojnarowski’s report that rings truest to those following every step of Love’s journey: None of this is actually news.
It’s been assumed for over a year that Love would seriously consider both the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Both teams are equipped with enough cap space to sign him to a max-level contract come July; he developed an affinity for Boston last summer and attended UCLA; and the notion that he might spurn Cleveland after a year or two in wine-and-gold is widespread despite his consistent insistence otherwise.
For all talk of Love losing respect for the Celtics as a result of his injury, too, we’re very confident he’s smart enough to not let a single incident mar seasons of potential happiness. If he wants to play in Bean Town, basically, his perception that Olynyk’s play was dirty won’t change his mind.
Just why, then, did this story need to be written?
Journalists have a certain obligation to report the news to which they’re exclusively privy, and Wojnarowski has proven himself ten times over as one of the league’s most well-connected analysts. Look no further than his domination of the Twittersphere during every draft and free agency as proof of that fact.
But reporters have an equal responsibility to sort through the fluff as opposed to throwing every source’s tidbit against the wall and making it stick. This story is a prime example of the latter – the NBA world should be focusing on the present impact of Love’s shoulder injury instead of the long-shot odds it will influence a choice that may not come until 15 months from now.
Kevin Love is a Cleveland Cavalier, and his loss for a game or more of the Eastern Conference Semifinals has sweeping implications on the league-wide chase for a title. That’s what matters here. Everything else is under-reported noise that should be reserved for the basketball-less doldrums from mid-June and onward.