On Tuesday afternoon, as Team USA took on Slovenia as a tuneup for the 2014 FIBA World Cup, the focus of the basketball world shifted away from Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose and the rest of that squad gearing up for international competition. Love was officially introduced by his new team, one that should finally get him to the postseason after years of failed seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
As general manager David Griffin said right off the bat, the Cavs had been trying to get Love for over a year:
#Cavs GM Griffin: We've been trying to get Kevin Love for over a year.— John Michael (@CavsJMike) August 26, 2014
#Cavs GM David Griffin says Kevin Love "fits us as well as anybody possibly could have."— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) August 26, 2014
Naturally, LeBron James played a key part in the pursuit. So too did David Blatt, the Cavs' new head coach. In fact, Blatt expressed his desire for a floor-spacing big long ago, per Griffin:
GM Griffin: Head Coach David Blatt [a few months ago] said it would be real nice to get a floor-spacing big....— John Michael (@CavsJMike) August 26, 2014
#Cavs Love: I know from David Griffin that David Blatt loves to space the floor, so that's just fine with me......— John Michael (@CavsJMike) August 26, 2014
And in Love's own words, it didn't take very long for him to figure out where he wanted to be during the 2014-15 season. As soon as James was on board, he was going to follow suit, assuming the T-Wolves and Cavs could come to a reasonable agreement:
Love would later reveal that he was James' first phone call, which had to make him feel quite coveted.
That said, it's impossible to forget that Love only has one year left on his contract. At the conclusion of the 2014-15 campaign, he can hit the open market and choose where he plays next, whether that sees him remain in Cleveland, go home to California with the Los Angeles Lakers or flee for a team that hasn't yet become a prominent destination.
Will he choose Cleveland?
On his first day holding a Cavs jersey, Love intimated that he's willing to commit to the franchise for more than one year, though the power forward curiously indicated he and the front office hadn't discussed any long-term deals:
Love on how long he'll play for #Cavs: "I’m committed to this team, committed long term to the end goal and that’s to win championships."— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) August 26, 2014
Kevin Love says a long term contract "has not been talked about" but says he is committed to Cleveland long term.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) August 26, 2014
That stands in contrast to the lack of harmony that had been evident as part of the Cleveland narrative in recent years. The culture is quickly changing, as indicated by the Kyrie Irving contract extension, the James homecoming and the Love acquisition:
#Cavs GM: The Cavs culture is going to allow us to work together...it's been a whirlwind for me and I'm looking forward to get rolling.— John Michael (@CavsJMike) August 26, 2014
Love was also particularly happy about the potential for on-court chemistry.
Revealing that he believes the NBA is transitioning to more of a court-spacing game, he appeared quite excited to be filling that role—and so much more, of course—for the Cavaliers:
Love: "There are going to be a lot of opportunities for me. There are so many guys who can space the floor. It's a fun way to play."— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) August 26, 2014
Rebounding will be more of a challenge next to Anderson Varejao, but it's not as though he's going to struggle on the boards. He thrived next to Nikola Pekovic while he was still with the Timberwolves and should continue to assert himself as a dominant force after a missed shot:
#Cavs Love: I take a lot of pride in rebounding..Being out there with Andy Varejao fighting for rebounds is going to be fun.— John Michael (@CavsJMike) August 26, 2014
Chances are, Love will remain one of the best glass-eaters in the NBA, regardless of which team he plays for. I suppose his jersey number won't affect that skill either, though it was the subject of much discussion during his presser:
Love: went back to my grass roots, 0 was the right fit for me. O for Oregon and Ohio.— Andre Knott (@DreKnott) August 26, 2014
Love says he chose No. 0 because it was a chance for him to start fresh. Says he thought of 11, his Oly number, but that was retired by Z.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) August 26, 2014
Another popular topic was his relationship with James.
Not only did he not see this move coming, but Love revealed that he started building up a relationship with the four-time MVP during the 2012 Olympics in London. He was a floor-spacing big under Mike Krzyzewski back then while working toward a gold medal, and now he'll be hoping to win another title alongside James.
Love on playing with LeBron: "I didn't believe it a couple months ago. It's pretty surreal."— Bob Finnan (@BobCavsinsider) August 26, 2014
Love said his relationship with LeBron was really forged at 2012 Olympics.— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) August 26, 2014
But, as the two-time champion told him, that's going to take some mental preparation. After all, Love has never played in so much as a playoff game, much less a deep postseason run that requires immense physical and mental readiness:
#Cavs Kevin Love: I need to mentally prepare myself to play into June....and I'm excited and optimistic about the opportunity.— John Michael (@CavsJMike) August 26, 2014
Thus begins a new era in Cleveland.
Gone are the days in which Irving and Dion Waiters attempted to generate offense during one loss after another. Departed are the seasons that resulted in lottery finishes and led to multiple No. 1 picks. No longer will the Cavaliers serve as a punching bag for the rest of the NBA.
With James and Love teaming up, there's finally reason for optimism.
And lots of it.
You could see that plastered across Love's face as he sat on the stage next to Griffin, grinning from ear to ear for the first time in a while—at least in a public, basketball-related setting. Part of the reason has to be that the Cavaliers, unlike the 2010-11 Miami Heat, now appear to be, as Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick writes, "the darlings of the NBA's myth-making media establishment."
Whatever the reason, if there was one biggest takeaway from his first appearance as a member of the Cavs, it was how happy Love looked, an emotion that stands in stark contrast to the one at the end of his tenure in Minnesota.