The Good, The Bad, And The Unsettling About Kevin Love's Role On The New-Look Cavs
Basketball isn't like sex -- you can't just add more people who are good at it to the equation and get a better result, at least not at first.
Over time and with practice, guys with different skill sets, egos and abilities adjust to playing with one another, and what was once a tangle of bodies and grunting and whispers of doubt becomes a championship contender, and sometimes winner. See the Miami Heat from 2011 to 2013.
The Cleveland Cavaliers of 2014 are the newest example of this. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are arguably the most talented Big Three -- at least on paper -- that we've seen. How successful these guys will be depends on how quickly they can adjust to one another. We've already seen a few examples throughout the preseason of how this season might play out, though things are bound to get better as the year goes on.
Here's the good -- we'll probably see plenty of this (via r/nba):
Not only can Love play down low and stretch the floor out to the three-point line, but he can run the break and finish at the rim off ridiculous passes. Irving, who in the first chapter of his career was forced to do everything for the Cavs, could have taken that himself -- instead, he rewards the big fella for his hustle.
Here's the bad, if you can consider a made field goal bad:
Here, Irving works a pick from Anderson Varajao to perfection, and in the confusion the Bulls leave Love wide open for the three. Instead of hitting the open man, Irving pulls up for a low-percentage shot... and, yes, hits it. James, meanwhile, hangs out in the corner.
These are three guys who are used to touching the ball on every position, if not finishing the play themselves. Chris Bosh has talked at length about how he had to change his game for James and Dwyane Wade in Miami, saying that this transition will be "very difficult" and "extremely frustrating" for Love. He even made a pretty perfect food analogy for it:
"You just get your entree and that's it. It's like, wait a minute, I need my appetizer and my dessert and my drink, what are you doing? And my bread basket. What is going on? I'm hungry! It’s a lot different. But if you can get through it, good things can happen. But it never gets easy. Even up until my last year of doing it, it never gets easier."
And here's the unsettling -- we're not even into the regular season yet, and already there are signs that Love is feeling a bit of the difficulty. Here's what he told Northeast Ohio Media Group after last night's game against Memphis (emphasis ours):
"My entire life I've played the game from inside-out," Love explained to NEOMG. "So the more touches I can get inside to get myself going, the better. I'm not accustomed to starting out a game shooting a three, so it's just something that I see.
"I'm 26-years-old and I've been playing basketball for quite a long time. Just finding ways to mix it up. If anything, keeping it around the basket a little bit more and the offense will allow me to get offensive rebounds...
Love says the offense calls for him to be out on the perimeter, but he says he has to make sure he remembers to go inside more.
"Yeah, the offense is built that way but I just have to make a conscious decision to get myself in there," Love said. "There are a lot of times where I just find myself fading to the three-point line. For me, it's a mentality and that's easy to fix."
For Irving and James to effectively drive to the bucket, they'll need room, which means Love can't be hogging up space inside with his fellow big men. That's a huge change for him, even though he's an excellent and willing three-point shooter. He's used to starting inside and going out, not vice versa. He's certainly not complaining here -- and he shouldn't be, based on the way he's shooting the ball so far -- but considering he's already discussing going against the offensive game plan to some extent, Cleveland fans definitely shouldn't be hoisting the 2015 championship banner just yet. This team has a lot of work to do.
Every team wants the problem that the Cavaliers have, but few could handle the weight of expectations. It'll take mental fortitude -- plus sacrifices from everybody, not just Love -- for this team to be successful. We wish them luck, if only because good basketball is more fun to watch than bad basketball.
Photo via Getty
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