Kevin Love has never shied away from his justification for forcing the Minnesota Timberwolves to trade him. There’s been much conjecture about his rocky relationship with Flip Saunders and the native West coaster’s reluctance to embrace Minneapolis, too.
But whenever he had the chance to explain his rationale for leaving the ‘Wolves, Love always came back to one thing: winning. After watching his Cleveland Cavaliers scratch and claw their way to near victory in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the injured three-time All-Star has never been more confident in his ultimate desire – and seems to understand this is the team to help him achieve it.
Here’s ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne:
“I had so much fun watching it because I want to be in a moment like that,” Love told ESPN after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 108-100 overtime to the Golden State Warriors. “I’d rather be out there helping those guys, and I saw a lot of places where I could help.
“I’ve never wanted to be in a game more than that one,” said Love, who had never been on a playoff team in his six prior NBA seasons.
Asked specifically whether that meant he wanted to be back in Cleveland next season, Love said, “Yes. I want to win.”
Love suffered a dislocated shoulder in Game 4 of the Cavaliers’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics and has been sidelined ever since. The 26-year-old has a player option for the final year of his current contract, one it’s been long assumed he’d elect against exercising to become a free agent.
Though Love has consistently maintained a plan to remain in Cleveland for the present and immediate future, whispers of his discontent dominated headlines throughout the 2014-2015 season. Tristan Thompson’s emergence as a dominant rebounder and defender throughout the Cavaliers’ playoff run lent a different credence to the notion that the franchise’s marriage with Love would be short-lived: Did player or team really need each other?
Game 1 answered that ridiculous question with aplomb.
Only six players scored for Cleveland, Thompson managed just two points in an otherwise stellar effort, and the floor was consistently cramped for LeBron James due to two non-shooters manning the frontcourt. James Jones played 17 minutes of small-ball power forward on Thursday to provide much-needed spacing, but took only one shot en route to zero points while compromising the Cavaliers’ defensive and rebounding integrity.
Love is tailor-made to make a sizable impact against a team like Golden State. And as the days go by and free agency approaches, it still seems more likely than not it will eventually come with Cleveland.