Love lost in Cleveland?


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The East-leading Cleveland Cavaliers just fired their head coach, and now could be looking to trade one of their Big 3. While the latter will be hard to do, changes are definitely coming in Cleveland. 

Trying to read between the lines, especially in sports, may be a good way to get views or start rumors, but rarely is assuming things ever a good idea. The situation surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers is no different.

The Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers (30-12) are now being coached by Tyronn Lue, after management fired David Blatt after a season and a half in which Blatt’s team appeared in the 2015 Finals with a depleted roster. If you are wondering why that Lue guy sounds familiar, here’s why:

In all seriousness, Lue was the highest paid assistant coach in the league prior to be hired as the lead man. Lue has been around the league for a long time, both a player and assistant, and has been coached by some of the best to ever do it.

It became clear as early as last season that Lue connected better with the players, but was cautious to not overstep Blatt. Lue even said it himself in his first press conference since being named head coach, and it was known Lue used to “bark at players” behind the scenes, something the players responded well to.

“Now I think I can really use my voice because like I said, I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries with Blatt,” Lue said. “[Blatt] did a phenomenal job and I didn’t want to make it look like I was doing more than I was supposed to, but now I think I got to be harder on these guys.”

Basically, that means everyone in the locker room knew who they wanted to be the head coach and it was only a matter of time before it happened. There were also reports that came out talking about a divide among the team as recent as earlier this month, which the General Manager shot down at the time.

LeBron James is also sticking to the story that he did not know about Blatt’s firing beforehand. To address that, here is a tweet that pretty much sums up that situation:

Anyone who believes anything from General Manager David Griffin or James saying that LeBron did not influence that decision is simply naive. Sports Illustrated actually just put out a great piece on the history of players disagreeing with their coaches, ultimately getting them fired, and then focus in on this exact situation between LeBron and Blatt.

The players have a say, always have and always will, in personnel and coaching decisions when you’re an all-time great like LeBron James. It is better for LeBron to pretend and plead that he had nothing to do with Blatt’s firing?

I just wish LeBron, in a day and age where nothing is a secret thanks to the current type of media coverage as well as social media, would own it and say how he and Blatt did not see eye to eye. There is nothing wrong with that. Blast and LeBron can be on good terms, but if LeBron wants someone else coaching the team he now plays for and controls, then so be it.

I am actually not sure which is more alarming, the fact that LeBron feels the need to hide what is really going on in Cleveland, or that he thinks he can actually hide it. LeBron is smart enough to know the truth is going to eventually come out, so why not just be up front about it?

Wow, this was supposed to be an article about how hard it would be for the Cavaliers to actually trade Kevin Love, and look what happened. It’s better this way anyway, because to keep is short, it is going to be very hard for Cleveland to find a team to take on Love’s newly-signed five-year, $110 million contract.

First, Love is no longer playing as someone who deserves to be paid as a max guy, so trying to find a team that will take on that kind of contract is going to be tough. Sure, his play could improve on a new team where he is the focal point of the offense, but that still has to be seen.

Second, the Cavs really handcuffed themselves when they resigned Love to that enormous contract this offseason, basically locking in a Big 3 of James, Love and Irving for at least the next 4-5 years.

Even with the cap expected to jump this upcoming summer, the Cavs will still be limited in what they can do as long as James, Love, Irving and Tristan Thompson (5yr, $82m contract) are on the books.

The problem, in short, with Love on the Cavs, besides being the third scoring option, is that Love is not a center and cannot play center next to LeBron and three wing players. This limits how lineup-creative anyone who is coaching the Cavs can be, especially when playing elite small-ball teams like the Warriors and the always adapting San Antonio Spurs in May and June.

Before writing this, I tried to see how teams who might be interested in acquiring Love would be able to do it by using ESPN’s coolest toy, their NBA Trade Machine. Let me just say it was not an easy trade to pull off without bringing in a third team to take on some of the money. Of course, the Sixers come to mind as a team that could happily be the third party included in a trade for Love, but not without being compensated, and no one really knows if the Sixers are still in “draft pick hoarder” mode.

Love is probably not going anywhere, and I expect him to be on the team for the rest of this season. Anything can happen in the offseason, and that is when I would give the Cavs their best chance to move Love, if they even want to.

All of this Kevin Love trade conversation brings me back to the summer of 2014, when the Cavs acquired Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s fun to imagine how different things would be if the Cavs never traded for Love, kept rookie Andrew Wiggins (and Anthony Bennett), and still faced off against the Golden State Warriors in the last year’s NBA Finals.

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